After word spread that Sister Christine Stephens had passed away, I tried explaining who she was to a friend who had never met her. Words tumbled out - “formidable, smart, compassionate, thoughtful, a towering figure, someone who had to be reckoned with by friend and foe, impossible to ignore, zeroed in on what mattered".
“She was all that,” I said, “and more.” “She relished a fight, and even picked some, but never with the intent of humiliating an adversary much less punching down to weakness.”
Of course it’s impossible to convey the impact of a person much less the meaning of a life in a few words. Those were the best I could come up with on the spot.
I recall a special moment from a training session Christine led a few years ago in Las Vegas: She was pushing the aspiring leaders group to challenge their imaginations about what makes other people tick. There she was rising to her full (substantial) height asking a middle aged Latino man to stand up and answer a question.
“Can you imagine yourself as me, a 71 year old nun?”
Dead silence followed. Then his thoughtful nod. Then nodding all around.
He got it and so did the group. Me, again, along with the rest.
I think of Christine as a practitioner of the radical ask - posing the right question, in the right place, at the right time. She had a way of setting aside tasky talk and getting to much deeper realms of grief, anger and hope. I believe that’s where she lived, challenging others to join her there.
One of Christine’s favored compliments when her high standards were met was, “You nailed it.” In work as in her life, God bless her, I believe Sister Christine Stephens almost always did.
Frank C. Pierson, Jr.