The Call to Servant Leadership in the 21st Century

Sister Mary Elizabeth O’Brien Featured Speaker at 8th Annual Chiodini/Fontana Lecture Series on Ethics Feb. 3

One of the leading authorities in identifying the spirituality in nursing is the featured speaker at the 8th annual Chiodini/Fontana Lecture Series on Ethics, scheduled for Feb. 3, 2009, at Siena Heights University.


Sister Mary Elizabeth O’Brien, SFCC, PhD, RN, FAAN, will speak on the topic: “The Call to Servant Leadership in the 21st Century,” at 7:30 p.m. in Francoeur Theatre on the SHU campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. obrienm.jpg


According to O'Brien, her speech will address the contemporary meaning of the concept and philosophy of servant leadership. It will include a description of who is a leader and the ethics of leadership in general and of servant leadership specifically.

She will also look back at the spiritual history and spirituality of servant leadership, exploring the lives of some key servant leaders of the past, such as Catherine of Siena. O'Brien will also explore the biblical roots of servant leadership, as well as a model of servant leadership for the 21st century, with examples of experiences of contemporary servant leaders.


Siena Heights University’s Director of Nursing Dr. Sue Idczak calls O’Brien a mentor.


“I am a firm believer in sacred space, which is what she believes in as well,” Dr. Idczak said. “There is a very special nurse/patient relationship that exists. That’s what draws nurses into being nurses.”


O’Brien is a professor at The Catholic University of America’s School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. The noted author completed her RN training in 1958, then went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Benedictine College, her master of social work degree from Howard University and her doctorate in sociology from Catholic University. She also has a master’s degree in theology from The Washington Theological Union.


O’Brien has authored more than 10 books on spirituality in nursing, including A Sacred Covenant: The Spiritual Ministry of Nursing, Spirituality in Nursing: Standing on Holy Ground, Nurse’s Calling: A Christian Spirituality for Caring for the Sick and Prayer in Nursing: The Spirituality of Compassionate Caregiving. She also sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Christian Nursing and was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 1990.


Named in memory of Emilio Chiodini and Mildred Fontana, parents of Siena Heights friend Catherine Reuther, the lecture series was established to give students and the community an opportunity to reflect on matters of moral significance affecting today’s society. The series explores theoretical issues in ethics, current issues of moral importance and the nature and meaning of Catholic identity.

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