The Everyday Example of Mary – Especially for Women Who Work

 "Pentecost" (Detail of Mary) by Jean Restout

“Pentecost” (Detail of Mary) by Jean Restout

As women who work, we reflect on our leadership in the workforce. In the work world, we are taught that the leadership equation includes winning, managing, competition, with “me” at the center of it all:  my next promotion; my next acquisition; my next big step.

For women striving to do God’s Holy Will, the work world can be tricky and lonely. As a working Catholic woman, I have been blessed throughout my career to work with amazing women leaders who have shown me that leadership can be counter-cultural, and that we as women have much to teach in terms of effective leadership approaches.

Mary Devlin Capizzi, in Helen Alvare’s book, breaking through:  Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, articulates her perspective succinctly:

“Faith, not my work, is the root that defines my life, and my work reflects and reveals my faith.” (p. 86)

Now, this is a woman that has got the right equation!

This is the exact sentiment that all of the women in my research affirm. Women who lead with faith at the foundation of their work lives reveal much about who they are, and who women leaders are in general!

Women who lead in this way demonstrate the very nature of women’s leadership, eloquently spoken about by the Vatican II fathers:

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect, and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.” (Closing speeches Vatican Council II, 12/8/65).

Where better to aid humanity in not falling? When you spend 8+ hours per day in the work world, opportunities are unlimited!

We can certainly turn to both Sacred Scripture and Church tradition for our pathways.

I’d like to offer a look at Our Lady, Mother Mary, as a perfect role model for all women, of course, but for women who work in particular.

According to St. Louis de Montfort, Mary has 10 principle virtues, which when practiced help to lead us to her Son. You can find some of these virtues in other women in the Bible, but you can find all 10 in Our Lady. I am going to present 5 that I believe to be super important at work, and help us to increase our confidence in our feminine leadership approaches. When reading through this list, think of your workday, and the everyday, ordinary ways you can practice these in your leadership.

  • Ardent Charity:  How can you demonstrate great love at work? This is not the same love as a spousal love, of course. How do you approach your employees? Your supervisors? Your clients? Your customers? Is your approach focused on valuing a relationship more than a material good? Are you able to articulate information and ideas in a mutually respectful way?
  • Heroic Patience:  Do you really listen at work? Are you able to rise above a situation in order to assist others as they learn new tasks? Do you hold your temper or judgment about your supervisor when you disagree with them? Are you willing in your attitude to seek understanding of others, even when it is difficult?
  • Divine Wisdom:  Recalling your baptism, and especially your confirmation, do you recall and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your work decisions? Do you pray for guidance? Do you seek Biblical and Church tradition answers and solutions? Do you show gratitude to God when you recognize divine wisdom at work?
  • Angelic Sweetness:  Is your approach nurturing and relational? Do you avoid calumniation of fellow co-workers and supervisors? Even when difficult, do you respond to others at work by extending grace and mercy?
  • Profound Humility:  Are you focused on others more than yourself? Do you recognize the work of the team, or are you taking credit for the work? Do you care who gets the credit? Does this impact the way you treat others? 

Mary’s virtues bring us to a very feminine leadership style: one steeped in relationship building, not shying away from truth or faith, but approaching others in grace. When practiced at work, these virtues of Our Lady can lead us to Holiness and a fulfilled leadership at work.

Further, when we pray the Rosary, we can reflect on these virtues as we contemplate the Mysteries of Christ. This morning, as I was praying the Glorious Mysteries on the way to work, I was able to reflect on the virtue of Divine Wisdom as I contemplated the Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, I prayed about a decision I had to make at work. I arrived at work, at peace with the decision I had to make. I was able to recall the gifts of the Holy Spirit, seeking wisdom for decisions at work. This everyday example of Mary helps me in my work life, as I journey to Christ each day.

This is the second in a series on The Mary Journey by Mary Wallace.

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About the Author

Mary Wallace, PhD, is a devout Catholic wife of 20 years, mother of 4 daughters, and college administrator for 19 years. Mary obtained her doctorate in Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, and has a particular research interest in faith and work issues. Her dissertation contains research insight from women working in the public sector who bring their faith to work, and using it to inform their leadership. It is through this research that Mary was able to start the blog, The Working Catholic Mom (

Mary is also the co-host of a Catholic radio show: Faith and Good Counsel, on Baton Rouge Catholic Community Radio. The radio show is focused on women living full lives of faith.

As a college administrator for over 19 years, Mary has worked with a wide range of young adults. Spending the first 14 years in the college housing industry, she has a knowledge and experience of working with complex environment, large staffs, and multi-million dollar budgets. Using this knowledge, she has led numerous staffs through strategic planning processes, performance management, training and development, and developing human capital. Her current role focuses on student leadership development, service/volunteerism, and general involvement on a college campus. Mary approaches her leadership with faith as a foundation, though her employment has been mainly with public institutions of higher education.

In 2002, Mary became the main wage earner in her family, when her husband, Steven, became disabled as a result of a traumatic brain injury after a ruptured colon left him sceptic and in the hospital for an entire summer, followed by a year of neuro-rehabilitation. The Wallace’s focused on their faith, and discerned each step of a new journey, full of Christian suffering and joy. During this time, Mary was thankful for her education, and God-given skills and talents to work, and to earn an income to support her family. This is also a time Mary learned to bring her faith to work, in a way that integrated her faith and leadership approach.

Mary’s work brings her great joy, but the greatest joy she has is through her faith and her family. She is a devoted wife, and mother of 4 daughters. It is this role that Mary feels her best leadership shines. She spends lots of time in service with her church, and volunteering for different youth events with her children. Mary is an avid reader and writer, and focuses her reading attention on women’s interest in the Catholic Church, with particular interest in Blessed John Paul II writings and philosophies about women. Mary also enjoys dancing with her girls in her living room (when no one is looking), and cooking simple satisfying meals for the entire family and all of their friends.

Mary is available to speak to your group. Check out ICL's speaker pages for her topics and to book Mary.

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