If you’ve heard the words nature, purpose, structure and function at a parish council, school board or curriculum committee meeting, chances are very good that Sister Barbara Dannhausen, OP (Order of Preachers), was involved in defining their organizational structures. All over Wisconsin and beyond, schools, churches, boards and religious communities have benefited greatly from the strategic planning skills of this Sinsinawa Dominican, but none perhaps as much or as long as Benedictine Women of Madison (BWM).
During the early 1980s, Barbara worked with our sisters to assist in defining the focus of the retreat and conference center. Later in the 1990s, during a time of considerable discernment about the future of the sisters’ community, Barbara helped articulate the community’s charism (presence) and define an organizational structure that grew to become the Board of Directors of Benedictine Women of Madison. Since 1997, Sr. Barbara has been an active member of this board. Members of Sunday Assembly have come to know Sr. Barbara through her facilitating discussions about the change of the sisters’ community to a noncanonical status, the role of the Sunday Assembly Council and the process toward envisioning and creating a new green monastery. Not surprisingly, she served on the building committee for this latest project.
Sr. Barbara notes that one of the unique characteristics of BWM is that it has have been deliberate in its planning and follow through. Because of this it has experienced smooth and peaceful transitions through significant changes. “That has made for a fascinating ride with the sisters,” she reflects.
Sr. Barbara points out that as a Dominican sister, her community’s charism places strong emphasis on studying and teaching. Her studies at Edgewood College, Northern Illinois University and Loyola University may have provided her with an excellent understanding of effective organizational development, but it is that knowledge combined with a common understanding of community, prayer and contemplation that has bonded her with the women,work and vision of BWM.
We count Sr. Barbara Dannhausen among our many blessings.