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Meaningful work

As a child, I dreaded Labor Day. It marked the end of summer — the end of daily swims, of neighborhood baseball games and tennis tournaments, the end of playing outdoors until dusk.

Sister Shawn Marie McDermott teaches 5th grade students at St. Agnes School, Arlington, Mass.

School opened on the day after Labor Day, and for a long time I thought the holiday was given its name because it marked the beginning of what I thought of as labor — days spent in a classroom, evenings spent with homework. Early to bed and early to rise. Ugh.

Only later did I realize that Labor Day was established to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers and to acknowledge the efforts to attain workers’ rights. Beyond the picnics and parades and speeches — and certainly more significant than Labor Day sales — the holiday provides us an opportunity to consider the value of meaningful work.

Sisters of Providence have in recent weeks been engaged in reflection on and conversation about their “ministry stories” as together we move forward with our 2011 Chapter commitment to “engage in a Congregation-wide assessment of all of our ministries to determine their sustainability and effectiveness as lived expressions of love, mercy and justice.“

The process has encouraged us to question ourselves about our individual and corporate ministries and to consider the impact of our past, present and future ministries on advancing the mission of love, mercy and justice.

Sister Beth Wright ministers at Saint Ann Clinic in Terre Haute, Indiana, which provides health services to persons in need of affordable health care.

In the process, many of us have been able to say “Looking back, I can see the hand of Providence in every ministry I’ve had” or “I’ve always been happy in my ministry.”

At a time when researchers estimate that fewer than 50 percent of Americans are satisfied with the jobs they hold and millions of Americans wish they had a job to be dissatisfied with, the opportunity to engage in meaningful work is indeed a gift.

Perhaps Labor Day can provide each of us an occasion to reflect on the meaning of the work we do, whether compensated or not. And perhaps each of us can find the time to unite in prayer with those who continue the search for meaningful work and with those who continue the effort to bring justice to the workplace.

Happy Labor Day.

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Sister Lisa Stallings

Sister Lisa serves as vicar of the Sisters of Providence leadership team. After teaching junior high and high school, she spent twenty years ministering in music and worship in parishes in Chicago, Kentucky and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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