US women religious leaders are navigating tumultuous waters these days as they respond to numerous challenges before them – whether those challenges are within their own institutes, their ministries, the church, or in the local and global realities that surround them. These are days that can be ridden with anxiety as leaders hold on to a vision for their institutes while dealing with daily realities that can cause them to question if the vision is still worth its cost.

If leaders choose to move toward a vision while at the same time honestly acknowledging the realities of these times, they generate what is called “creative tension.”

Mary Whited, CPPS describes creative tension as “a motivating force that arises from the gap between the real and the ideal, between current reality and a hoped-for future.” Recognizing and acknowledging this gap creates a tension within us. Since we normally desire to reduce tension, we face the temptation to diminish the vision, rather than forge ahead.

The writers in this edition of Occasional Papers, challenge us to hold fast to the vision and enter fully into the transformative potential of creative tension. Their insights draw upon the wisdom of scripture, the natural world, leadership studies, and the extensive experience of women religious as innovative, imaginative creators.

As you read this issue, we invite you to reflect on the vision that drives your own life, on your ability to honestly articulate the reality that surrounds you, and on your openness to allowing that creative tension to unleash its potential for transformation in you.


  • 'Jesus Set His Face Toward Jerusalem'
    Mary Whited, CPPS explores what Jesus' resolve might say to women religious today about living in creative tension
  • Save the Fire
    Biologist Mary Bilderback, RSM illuminates what the natural world can teach us about change and new life
  • Sustained by Holy Mystery
    In an interview shortly before her death, author Judy Cannato offers insights on the significance of religious life in light of the Universe Story
  • Musing on Mergers
    LCWR treasurer Sheila Megley, RSM shares observations on the leadership required following a merger
  • When a Religious Institute Creates Something New
    Women religious leaders pass on what they have learned from initiating a new effort in their religious institutes
  • Adaptive Leadership
    In an interview author Marty Linsky speaks on adaptive leadership and its implications for institutes of women religious today


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