By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
It’s been a great Centennial year for the Sylvania Franciscans. No, make that a wonderful year, to be exact. Imagine, we today are the ones selected from all eternity to be around when the Sylvania Franciscans reached their 100-year milestone yesterday on December 8, 2016. All the pioneer Sisters who started our Congregation did so because they felt the call of God. All the members and associates over these past 100 years have done the same.
But now here WE are, stepping into day number one of the order’s second 100 years.
Based on US census data, Prof. Vicki TenHaken at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, calculated that in 2006 there were 6,022,000 United States firms but only 540 of them made it to 100 years. That’s just .00897%. That’s miniscule.
Several well-known US companies are more than 100 years old, so what was their secret in successfully stepping into their second century of existence? For Procter & Gamble, founded in 1837, it’s been constant innovation and acquisition of like product companies. Think Pringles and Cover Girl makeup. For GE, founded in 1892, it’s been constant innovation and excellence. Think computers, healthcare technology, and aircraft engines.
For Crayola (Binney & Smith), founded in 1903, it’s been constant innovation and evolving of products. Think new crayon colors, washable crayons, and Silly Putty. For Ford, founded in 1907, it’s been sustainability and re-engineering. Think competitive labor costs, reliable performance, and new car and truck designs. For IBM, founded in 1911, it’s been products becoming services. Think like-business consulting, IT technical support, and cloud computing. (Cited from the research of Kelly K. Spors in Entrepreneur 2/14/14)
In the book Creative Destruction, author Richard Foster found that the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company in 2010 was only 18 years, down from 61 years back in the 1950’s. Business is in a more precarious and challenging world today.
Of course, religious congregations are not Fortune 500 companies, but there is one important similarity: faithfulness to mission.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, is on its own path toward fortune. It’s not earthly fortune. It’s not earthly chance or luck. I think of the “O Fortuna” song from Carmina Burana in which “fortuna” is more about destiny and providence. The next century of our congregation will be what God destines it to be…and how we seek that faithfully.