The nun reshapes the role of women in the Vatican
What were your experiences as a woman in what were once all-male gatherings?
I was the first woman to be Director of the National Office for Youth and Vocations at the Conference of Catholic Bishops of France; before he was always a priest. During a gathering in Lourdes, I remember that a very old bishop asked me: “So, whose secretary are you? I said, “No, not secretary, I’m the director of a national office. He was a bit surprised because someone of his generation—they were usually educated in minor seminaries from the age of 12—didn’t have much experience with women.
The younger generation is different; many have had work experience. I work with young priests, and for many of them, working in teams with women who can be their patroness, this is no longer an issue.
You have degrees in business administration, philosophy, sociology and theology; you worked as a volunteer in Lebanon; studied in Boston and Chicago; and worked as a consultant in a marketing agency for non-governmental and religious organizations. What parts of that experience led you to this critical – perhaps historic – role at the heart of the Catholic Church?
When I was young, I was a girl scout and later a scout leader. It was a kind of leadership school.
Student at HEC Paris (the prestigious business school), I specialized in entrepreneurship, how to take risks, set up a business plan. I learned a lot about how to work in a team, about project management, how to develop an entrepreneurial spirit, how to take risks.
I became a nun in 1995, at the age of 26, so there is also my experience of religious life. I would highlight my spiritual journey of transformation, conversion, community life. Throughout life, you face difficulties, crises, storms. But if you are truly rooted in the faith and sure that Christ is with you, the main message of the gospels and the church is that darkness is not the end. There is always this message of hope and resurrection. It helped me, even in difficult times.
You are also a great sailor.
I am a skipper! And yes, sailing has been a great school of life and leadership. When you’re a skipper, you have to listen to your crew. For many years I have had the gift of sailing and leading retreats for young adults. It was a way of sharing my sailing experience and my call to youth ministry. Truly, the sea is my place.