Mercywords: an E-Journal is published online four (4) times per year: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.
Past Issues   2010   2011   2012   2013
From the Editor

Recently, one of my friends sent me a short essay written by Polly LaBarre, editorial director of the Management Innovation eXchange. Here’s what caught my eye: “A good question beats a good answer.” I thought to myself, “Wow, do I agree with that pithy bit of wisdom!” Why? Because I think inquiry is more important than certainty. I’ll let LaBarre say why because I couldn’t express it better if I tried.

1. Questions are a powerful antidote to hubris. “Genuine questions unleash humility, curiosity, even vulnerability. That turns out to be a powerful approach to leadership in a world of expanding complexity, immense challenges and intense change.”
2. The best questions are the bedrock of all change and creativity. “Why? Why not? What if? – invite possibility rather than doubt. They… switch people into the mode required to invent anything new… You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question, and the people with the most powerful questions stand to make the most impact.”
3. Asking good questions trades control for contribution. “Questions create conversations – and those conversations are how thriving groups think up their future together and stay true to their core.”
This issue of Mercywords is about education, a ministry that many, many Sisters of Mercy around the world have been – and still are – involved in. LaBarre’s essay caused me to think again about my own ministry as a teacher, an educator. Why? Because I like to ask questions. In fact, I would say that raising questions is how I try to help students learn: by encouraging them to stop and think about the questions I ask them.
These days one of the questions I try to get students to think about is this one: “What is the role of ‘good’ people in difficult times?”
We live in difficult times. We live in a time of wars, and rumors of wars, earthquakes and nuclear disasters, not to mention genocide and the threat of genocide in places like Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When I walk into class, I try to remember what an elementary school Principal, who also was a Holocaust survivor, used to write to his teachers at the beginning of every school year:

Dear Teacher,
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no one should witness:
•	Gas chambers built by learned engineers
•	Children poisoned by educated physicians
•	Infants killed by trained nurses
•	Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. 
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.
(Haim Ginott, Teacher and Child)

“What is the role of ‘good’ people in difficult times?” To be human beings; to remember that we are all part of one human family, no matter what our color, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, or disability. We are all human beings, and we must unendingly try to do our best to treat everyone as we would like to be treated. That is the role of ‘good’ people at all times, but most especially in difficult times.

As we move through this season of Advent, perhaps you could think about questions that are important to you, whether or not you are a teacher. Raise them with others, at house meetings and at community meetings. Doing so just might get some good discussion going, which could help to encourage us to be “doers of the Word, and not just hearers only.”

As always, I would be happy to hear from you about this issue of Mercywords, and to learn from you the questions you think are important for the Sisters of Mercy worldwide to ask and discuss.

Carol Rittner RSM
View Acrobat PDF File
or download MS Word File