January/Februay 2006

Cahill Grant Recipients Share Sabbatical Experiences


The recipients of the first two Patricia A. Cahill Leadership Initiative grants awarded by Catholic Health Initiatives found that their grant activities reinvigorated them for their leadership roles within the system. The grants, named for the first president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives, provide the opportunity for leaders within the organization to take time away from their jobs for intensive educational study, research and writing or community service projects. The paths followed by Allen Montgomery, vice president and senior counsel, and Diane Traffas, OP, vice president of mission, were very different. However, both say their grant experiences provided new energy and fresh perspectives that benefit their daily work. Study of Servant Leadership Sister Diane used her grant to attend the Foundations for Servant Leadership Program at Viterbo University, LaCrosse, Wis., the first college in the U.S. to offer a master’s degree in servant leadership. “Servant leadership is an age-old concept,” she said. “I heard about the degree at the same time Catholic Health Initiatives announced the Cahill grants, and I saw some congruence in that.” Sister Diane had been studying servant leadership for years. “In defining servant leadership, I draw from Robert Greenleaf, founder of the Center for Servant Leadership in Indianapolis: servant leadership begins with the feeling that one wants first to serve, which is a conscious choice that brings one to aspire to lead,” she said. Sister Diane was surprised to learn how widely the concept of servant leadership is used. “It’s used by corporations, nonprofits, churches, universities and government as well as health care organizations,” she continued. “For example, I met the chief executive officer of a hospital in Wisconsin that has adopted the servant leadership approach. He credits his hospital’s increased market share and financial results to the servant leadership model.” Sister Diane’s grant experience culminated in her attendance at a week-long conference attended by servant leadership practitioners from 37 states and eight countries. “We all grew in the transformational attitude that servant leadership brings to life and work,” she said. As Sister Diane continues to learn about servant leadership, she is teaching others through presentations and workshops. She is also designing training modules for the use of Catholic Health Initiatives’ mission leaders and others who want to know more about servant leadership. Experiential Learning Allen Montgomery’s multi-faceted sabbatical encompassed the Baptist World Congress in Birmingham, England; work with Habitat for Humanity in Poland and Kentucky; and a stint at Oxford University as a visiting scholar. “I like to learn by doing, and this grant gave me the opportunity to have a variety of learning experiences,” he said. “It was a life-changing experience that challenged me and helped me to grow.” At the Baptist World Congress, Montgomery was one of 14,000 representatives from Baptist congregations around the world. “It was an incredible experience to meet Baptists from around the globe and work with others on disaster relief and community development initiatives,” he said. Montgomery then traveled through Poland, stopping in the cities of Krakow and Warsaw and at World War II concentration camp sites before arriving in Gdansk to work with Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat for Humanity is just getting started in Poland, and I worked with 12 other volunteers from North America on a building that will house six families,” he said. Montgomery then returned to his home base of Louisville to help set up a retail store that sells donated building materials to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Finally, Montgomery revisited England as a visiting scholar at Oxford University. Montgomery studied the lives of two admired authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as British history and architecture. He was also able to examine documents written in 1612 to establish the first Baptist church in England. “One of the 39 colleges at Oxford, Regent’s Park College, has Baptist roots,” he said. Wholehearted Recommendations Montgomery and Sister Diane highly recommend the Cahill grant experience to other leaders within Catholic Health Initiatives. “The Cahill grants provide the rare opportunity to learn for the sake of learning and personal growth,” said Montgomery. “I was able to pursue charitable and civic interests that for me, have a spiritual foundation. I had the unwavering support of my colleagues, which I deeply appreciate. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity Catholic Health Initiatives provides, which I think is quite unique among large employers.” “When leaders can step back from the daily pace to reflect, renew and refocus, we all benefit from the value that brings to the organization,” said Sister Diane. “I encourage others to take advantage of the grants offered in the name of Patricia Cahill.”