Sister Judith Ann Duvall
A servant leader, healing through faithful service in healthcare
I entered religious life the fall after my high school graduation. I received my Bachelor of Science nursing degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois; my master’s degree in Catholic doctrine from St. John’s University in New York City; and my Bachelor of Science in business management and administration from Bradley University in Peoria. I entered each of these academic experiences and assumed various leadership roles within OSF over the years at the request of my community. God is so good, providing all I needed to accomplish what He asked of me, and honestly, I dearly love what He asks of me. This brings me joy on a daily basis.
How have you been able to contribute to the Peoria community through your role at OSF Healthcare?
I thank God for blessing our religious community, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, with so many competent, compassionate individuals who come together as one OSF family in the service of human life. My contribution as chairperson is not distinct from theirs, but in concert with them. Our Sisters set the vision, share the stories of our rich heritage, and inspire the passion, and our people take it from there. Our greatest contribution to the community—and our greatest privilege—is to serve all persons with the “greatest care and love” in the spirit of Christ, as God would want human life cared for. With that kind of focus, the sky’s the limit as to what we can bring to this community to help restore, sustain, enhance and coordinate their healthcare needs, with deep respect for their personal dignity.
How did family influence your commitment to faith and service to others?
I grew up the middle child in a family with three brothers and one sister in a small rural community, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, about 60 miles south of St. Louis. My mother was a homemaker, and my father served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a car parts salesman and then an insurance salesman. I attended Catholic grade and high school in my hometown. My parents sacrificed and saved money so I could take piano lessons in second grade. They purchased a used piano from an elderly woman for $30, and so my love for music was nurtured. To this day, I love classical music, especially the works of Bach and Chopin. I can recall very clearly when I first began thinking about becoming a religious Sister. It was in first grade, and the desire never left me, but only grew stronger over time. I couldn’t imagine a life without God at the very center.
My parents had deep faith and were very supportive of my desire. However, two of my brothers, watching me so active in sports and school activities, thought I’d be locked up and never have opportunities for higher education, travel or social interaction; all of which never happened—just the opposite. My father often told me that I work for the best boss in the world, and indeed that is true. My parents were very service-oriented in our church and community. From early on, I was drawn to make my love for God visible through a life of service.
Please reflect upon your major accomplishments in recent years.
When I reflect on the major accomplishments of OSF in recent years, it makes me smile because of all God has done in our midst and the joy I experience being part of it all. There were so many, but I want to share with you a few that meant the most to me.
In early 2013, we opened our OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home on the north side of Peoria. Hospice is about cherishing the gift of life to the full until God transforms that gift into eternal life. It is about supporting individuals with competent, compassionate caregivers so they can make that journey well with their family and loved ones in the face of chronic, progressive or life-threatening illness.
Our Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center on the campus of Saint Francis Medical Center opened in April of 2013. In collaboration with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, we launched more deeply into ongoing education of healthcare professionals in an environment that stimulates creativity, innovation and research to transform how care can be delivered to improve the health of our communities.
One of my greatest joys has been the wonderful progress in building a sustaining partnership and collaboration between our Children’s Hospital of Illinois and Easter Seals in the care of children. My dream is for us to realize together a world-class center to care for children with autism to transform their disabilities into possibilities that continue to bless our world.
In 2014, we conducted nine community health needs assessments in order to better understand the communities God called our Sisters and our OSF family to serve. Out of those assessments came strategies we will implement to better serve the healthcare needs of the poor and vulnerable in our communities.
What is your secret to maintaining a balance between your work and personal life?
Simply stated, I see them as two expressions of one reality. In the midst of the most intense activities of governing such a large healthcare system in today’s challenging environment, I can never lose sight of those fundamental relationships that sustain my passion for service, my relationship with God, and with my Sisters in community. And in the midst of my daily life of prayer, meals and shared life with my Sisters, I can never lose sight of the reason God called our religious community into existence: to be a living extension of His presence in our world today through the service of healthcare.
What is your leadership philosophy?
Jesus said, “I have come to serve and not to be served.” What better philosophy could I have? I’ll give you some essential links to my philosophy that I shared as part of my commencement address to the graduating class of Eureka College this past spring. There is an essential link between faith, service and leadership. Faith orientates us to service and nothing else, for faith is the recognition of the sacredness of the human person as created by God. A spirit of service empowers us to be strong, credible leaders others will follow because servant leaders invest in others and enable them to flourish, and not just invest in self.
What do you consider to have been the most pivotal point in your career?
It would definitely be in 1988 when I was entrusted with the responsibility to develop and implement a formal, ongoing program to help assure our sacred mission and values entrusted to our Sisters by God are internalized by our OSF employees, beginning with our leaders. Our Ministry Development Program was launched in 1989, and we are now in our 25th year.
Lives have definitely been touched, personally as well as professionally. A sense of family has grown; a sense of mutual cooperation in our mission has deepened and literally defines our internal culture. Greater networking between parts of our OSF family is occurring because lives became linked through this program. Our OSF family is much more connected to our roots and knows why God called OSF into existence: to be a living extension of His love and care for His people. This culture influences all that we do in the service of human life. I am humbled and so grateful that God wanted me to be part of this good work, and I can’t hide my love for and commitment to this program.
Did you have a mentor in the early stages of your career? How did he or she help you along the way?
It would definitely be my parents, whose personal examples and words of wisdom continue to guide and direct me today. I will never forget my mother’s words to me when she found out her left leg would have to be amputated because an incurable cancer had invaded her body. She told me she had to decide either to make our family’s life miserable by her unwillingness to deal with this life-changing event, or leave us an example of faith that would guide us when we experience hard times in our own lives. She chose the latter. After my father died, I had a dream that he came to me and said he wanted me to remember four very important words: live in the truth. These words express so beautifully the father that I knew all my life. These truths I will always hold close to my heart.
What’s the hardest life lesson you’ve had to learn?
To trust God, seek His guidance and wait for His answers because they are always the best!
What advice would you give to a young, up-and-coming female professional?
Never compromise your fundamental values and beliefs, but rather, enrich the lives of others with those gifts wherever you go. People follow leaders with personal integrity because they stand on rock, not sand. iBi