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Published on December 28, 2021

Sr. Debra Kolecka and Sr. Penny Bingham

Start 2022 Out Right With Advice From the Benedictine Sisters

Nothing much changes when the calendar page turns from Dec. 31, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022. Yet the new year still feels like a “blank slate” – a time for new beginnings, new strategies, new plans and yes, resolutions of ways we’d like to change.

The Benedictine and Presentation Sisters, founders of Avera, lend their expertise and also a heart of care and compassion in setting the course for 20,000 employees.

We asked them for their best advice for success – both at work and in life. Sr. Debra Kolecka and Sr. Penny Bingham are both Avera System Members and members of the Benedictine Sisters of Yankton, S.D.

Put out the Welcome Mat

Hospitality is one of three Avera values, along with compassion and stewardship. “When I think of hospitality, I think of being open to other people, even if they have a different background or perspective,” Sr. Kolecka said.

“There’s a certain humility to being welcoming. Not that I have all the answers and know it all. I need to hear from you because you bring part of the wisdom, too,” Sr. Bingham added.

Along with being open to others, demonstrate respect, empathy and compassion. “That’s being able to feel with the other person and connect with concern and care. Try to enter into their experience and imagine how they might be thinking or feeling,” Sr. Bingham said.

Use Your Gifts to Benefit Others

“As God has gifted you, in turn you can use those gifts to be a gift to others,” Sr. Kolecka said. That’s something people in any profession can do.

When you use your skills, think about how it makes someone else’s life better. If you have wisdom to share through your own training, experience or conversations – share it. If you have a question that might cause others to think or be more aware – ask it.

“It’s not just about me. It’s about others and my community,” Sr. Bingham said.

Learn to Roll with Change and Look for the Positive

“Sometimes we can’t change what’s happening – we can only change our response to it and our attitude,” said Sr. Kolecka, who suggested surrounding yourself with as much positivity as possible. “I’m not talking about wearing rose-colored glasses, but looking for the good that is still out there.”

Take the time to just be mindful, and grateful for even the tiniest thing, and all the gifts and graces that are around us that we may not be seeing.

- Sr. Debra Kolecka

Maintain Balance

“In our days at the monastery, we have a cycle of prayer, work, meals, mass, work, prayer… Not everybody is called to live that lifestyle. But we can each find balance and take time to rejuvenate and replenish our spirits,” Sr. Kolecka said.

It seems counterintuitive to take time for yourself when you’re at your busiest. But that’s the perfect time. “Seek out those times of refreshment. Take a quick walk and enjoy the beauty around you,” Sr. Bingham said.

Embrace times of quiet. “Just sitting in silence allows you to listen to your thoughts and listen to God,” Sr. Kolecka said. “We can’t do that if we’re listening to a video or audiobook – if we always have sound blaring.”

Consider How You Measure Success

Success doesn’t have to equate to money or a coveted position. “Have I been able to share the gifts God has given me, and put them to good use in the care of other people? It comes down to loving our neighbor. Not that I can always do that perfectly – but have I been able to reflect a little bit of God’s love to others today?” said Sr. Bingham.

There’s nothing bad about earning a salary. “Success is not how much but what I do with it,” Sr. Kolecka said. Success can be providing well for your family and sharing some of your extra to help build your community or help others in need.

Discover Meaning in What You Do – Both Now and in the Future

You might not have landed your dream job – yet. “I think it’s important to honor the dream and not just put it on the shelf,” Sr. Bingham said. But in the meantime, look for the opportunities to be of service – right where you are. “How can I grow in this situation? What am I learning from the people who are around me? Maybe it’s not being so focused on the destination that you’re not enjoying the journey.”

Get advice from the Presentation Sisters for the New Year.

Consider a career in health care – it’s a great way to give back to others.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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