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Sister Monica Kostielney, RSM

First female CEO of Michigan Catholic Conference and first female president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors

Q: How was your faith the foundation of your role as director of a Catholic Charities agency?

A: As a baptized Christian and a Religious Sister of Mercy with a vow to serve the poor, sick and uneducated, and blessed with a Catholic education, my faith foundation as a CEO was to serve with justice and compassion, with a compelling belief that each person is an image and likeness of God.

Q: Is there a person who inspired you along the way?

A: Many have inspired me: women religious, lay men and women, my sibling sister – all who were fully alive to the best and worst of the human condition and committed to the work of justice. They loved the world and lived at its core. Ed Farhat, Helen Casey, Maureen Mulcrone, RSM, Maurita Sengelaub, RSM, Frank Monahan, and Mary Matthews continue to inspire me today.

Q: Tell us a defining moment in your ministry.

A: There are many tipping points, but one defining moment awakened me to the transcendent nature of life. My introduction to the Michigan Catholic Conference was by a panel for life, explaining a statewide ballot proposal B. Father Charles Dautremont, addressing a query regarding the likelihood of its passage responded, "If one life is saved, our work will be worth it." In a moment of clarity, I recognized these words as a personal call. That evening a visit by Sister Mary Generose Kubesh, a Mercy community leader, approved my request to move to the public square and work in public policy.

Q: What would you tell your younger self about not giving up on achieving your goals?

A: It is not in my nature to give up. Truth, beauty, and goodness are not divisible and control my fidelity to a task at hand. Furthermore, as public discourse generally leads to moral questions, resolution is served best when these attributes guide our search for solutions with respect and civility.

When we honor the values of truth, beauty and goodness, it is not necessary to bind ourselves with many rules. Our due diligence and public response from the MCC was guided by two rules:

1) Never lie (under any circumstances) and

2) Never promise anything you cannot deliver.

These precepts were supported by a clear understanding that Church and politics are not generally a satisfactory way to good public policy. Rather it is an understanding and fidelity to the highest ideals of government and religion that society is served and the energy of love realized is a new creation.