Meet the Board: Janet Stephenson

Q: What is your name, occupation and how long have you volunteered to serve on the St. Joe Foundation Board?

My name is Janet Stephenson, I’m a retired attorney, and I’m in my fourth year as a Board member.

Q: What inspires you about the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ and their Foundress Saint Katharina? Are there particular values or works that you find especially important?

I am deeply inspired by the mission and work of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ to stand with the poor and the powerless, especially the most needy and underserved. Their founder Saint Katharina Kasper was concerned with helping the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. This type of compassion integrating concern for the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbor embodies the ultimate commandment posed by Jesus to love our neighbor.

Q: Please share a memorable interaction you have had with a grantee and their staff/clients. 

I have worked with a number of grantees in assisting with identifying values of wellbeing for their clients. My predominant takeaway is gratitude that our community is home to so many capable and caring people who seek to partner in the transformative mission of helping the whole person. Recently, I worked with a start-up program from Associated Churches called Journey Beside Mothers. They match trained volunteer mentors with new mothers to come alongside during and post-pregnancy. I was inspired by their willingness and courage to step into this space of critical need in our community and work collaboratively to be accessible to the most vulnerable and draw upon the experience of other communities who have successfully helped young mothers. They have successfully launched, and their leadership is open to where the Holy Spirit will direct this ministry in transforming lives – both that of the young mothers and the mentors who accompany them in their motherhood journeys.  

Q: What do you enjoy most about serving on the St. Joe Foundation Board?

I have found the mission of the St. Joe Foundation to be central to every aspect of the Foundation’s function and Board governance. This is a mission that is rooted in solidarity with the poor and the powerless. This filter of the mission drives all activities and I appreciate this keen focus. In addition, I treasure the common value of compassionate listening that is practiced by the Board and staff and creates an inviting environment for conversation, debate, and ultimately progress. No doubt this culture of compassionate listening is a key attribute of the leadership of the Executive Director, Meg Distler, and the sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

Q: Tell us about an accomplishment in your professional or private life that you are proud of.

Over the years I have had the privilege of participating in several non-profit start-ups both in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. It is very rewarding to be involved with a group of concerned citizens who identify a critical basic need within a community and mobilize the resources to address the need. However, my greatest reward is personal to my role as a daughter where our family was blessed to help care for my parents, as well as, the parents of my husband, Todd. You look back at that time and you wonder how you managed to live through it, let alone thrive in the moments of great suffering and joy. I suspect it is testament, in part, to the enduring power of love and the simplicity of presence.