Communicators for Women Religious

CWR provides professional networking and education to members who communicate and advance the mission and ministries of women religious.


General Sessions

The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB
In a world in flux we have many choices. One of those choices demands great courage. It is more committed to the Word of God than to false claims of such; it is more committed to new questions than to old answers; it is more committed to faith in God than to a system and it is full of hope in the future rather than in fear of the present. Sister Joan Chittister finds, in the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, a new way of living for God that will enflame our hearts to change the world.

Sister Joan is an articulate social analyst and influential religious leader of this age. For over 40 years she has dedicated herself to advocating for universal recognition of the critical questions impacting the global community. Courageous, passionate and charged with energy, she is a much-sought after speaker, commentator and clear voice across all religions. She is the author of more than 60 books and has received national recognition, Including 16 Catholic Press Association awards, for her work for justice, peace, and equality, especially for women in church and in society. Sister Joan received her Doctorate from Penn State University in Speech Communications Theory and was an Elected Fellow and Von Hugel lecturer of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University. Learn more about Sister Joan at

Conversations at the World Café
Collaborative Discussion
We are wiser together than we are alone. This session features guided conversations that engage attendees with each other on topics that matter most to them. Adapted from the World Café process, participants gather informally in small groups, like at a street café. A host poses a question for conversation. Through three mini-sessions, participants move to new tables for new topical conversations. A creative process that includes doodling, drawing and written notes is used to record key insights and share collective discoveries with the whole Café group.

Social Media Beyond the Social
Jessica Bahr
How to harness the power of analytics and A/B testing (without a statistics degree) to reach the right audience at the right time with the right messaging. This session will cover must-know metrics and easy-to-implement techniques to ensure the time you’re spending on social media will have the greatest impact. Come and learn the tactics leveraged by some of the world’s largest brands but still applicable to your community.

Jess Bahr is an award-winning marketer who leads growth for NS1. She takes a data-driven and process-focused approach in all the work she does, building sustainable and scalable marketing practices for organizations of all sizes. In previous positions, Jess has worked with some of the world’s largest media companies and publishers to drive revenue and meet business goals using paid and organic social tactics.

Crisis Communication: Navigating the Abuse Crisis (Panel)
Alice Black/Sister Anne Lythgoe, OP/Anne-Marie Welsh
In the face of increased awareness and attention focused on allegations of abuse involving women religious, communicators have a vital need for strategies, information and resources of value in navigating abuse crisis communication. Alice Black (Director of Mission Advancement & Communications, Dominican Sisters of Peace), Sister Anne Lythgoe, OP (Leadership Team, Dominican Sisters of Peace), and Anne-Marie Welsh (Communications Director, Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania) will share their experiences in communicating during such crises and address key issues including preparing and carrying out a crisis communication plan, the importance of transparency and the need for effective collaboration between leadership and communicators. Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM (Co-Founder & Executive Director, A Nun’s Life) will facilitate this panel.

Nuns & Nones
Katie Gordon
This session will explore Nuns & Nones, a growing national movement of Catholic Sisters and spiritually diverse millennials. Since December 2016, these two groups have gathered, centered in their stories and questions for one another, across the United States. Now, the movement is exploring what deeper collaboration can look like – going beyond conversations, and asking how we can steward each other’s sacred spaces, and sacred stories, for the future. As one of the leaders of this organization, Katie Gordon will share what they’ve learned so far, and how this spirit-led initiative is unfolding.

Katie is a national organizer with Nuns & Nones, a growing movement of Catholic Sisters and spiritually diverse millennials coming together to explore what new forms of prophetic community can look like. As an outgrowth of her relationship with and inspiration from Catholic Sisters, Katie is currently developing and producing an audio-storytelling project on the stories of Foundresses (female founders) of women religious orders, meant to lift up stories of early feminist leadership in the church while distilling lessons for religious and spiritual life in the twenty-first century. Additionally, Katie is interning with the On Being Impact Lab and Civil Conversations Project, helping imagine ways that the radio show and podcast live beyond the media space and in our shared public life. Katie has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, a Master of Interfaith Action from Claremont Lincoln University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Political Science from Alma College. Originally from Michigan, Katie just spent her summer in Erie, PA with the Erie Benedictine Sisters as the Joan Chittister Intern.

The Unique Role of Communicators for Women Religious in Response to the Abuse Crisis
Patrick O’Brien
Women religious congregations are not immune from the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. They face the same questions as dioceses regarding transparency. This presentation explores FAITH Catholic research on how U.S. Catholic dioceses are communicating about the crisis to assist victims and restore trust. Leaders of women religious congregations and their communicators are asking themselves what the current moment in the Church calls for. The goal of this presentation is to help congregations develop their own communications response that can best meet the moment.

The role of communicator for women religious is a pressure cooker. Congregations expect a lot from their communicators. From mastering crisis communications to mastering the revolution and evolution of the media landscape, today’s director of communications has to know it all and do it all. The presentation will also explore the six characteristics of successful directors of communications for religious congregations.

Patrick M. O’Brien is the founding president and CEO of FAITH Catholic, America’s largest publisher
of Catholic magazines and one of America’s largest Catholic media and marketing services companies.
FAITH Catholic serves religious congregations, dioceses and Catholic organizations with the
following services: custom publishing, marketing, parish products, digital publishing, communications
consulting, and web design. FAITH Catholic is home to and the MassTimes app.
FAITH Catholic is a nonprofit corporation sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Unique Communications Strategies
Lee Morrow/NETWORK
Lee Morrow will present how NETWORK developed the concept of nationwide bus tours, how the communications strategy for the bus has changed over the last six trips, and how this type of strategy can be used to break through the media noise.

Lee Morrow is the Press Secretary for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and Nuns on the Bus. Prior to NETWORK, Lee was Communications Manager at Families for Excellent Schools, Campaign Manager for Massachusetts State Senator Eric Lesser, and an Associate on John Connolly’s 2013 Boston Mayoral campaign. Lee attended Harvard University, where he was active at the Harvard Institute of Politics and Kirkland House.

Spirituality of Communications
Gary Loncki
Gary Loncki’s talk is titled “Communications: The Gift of God for the People of God.” Gary will encourage others to live their truth as placed in their hearts by God to become more of their authentic selves. In doing so, their lives and communication skills can come from a more inspired place.

Gary has been a communications professional in Erie, Pa., for more than 40 years and an award-winning journalist and editor. His career includes television, radio and working as a communications director and editor for the Catholic Diocese of Erie. He has taught homiletics and public speaking. For the past 13 years, he has been regional communications director for the Sisters of Mercy Community of New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West, which includes Erie, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Rochester. Gary is a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal church and a certified spiritual director. He facilitates spiritual groups and guided meditations aimed at helping people heal and become their authentic selves.

Breakout Sessions

Amplifying Powerful Storytelling with SEO
Charish Badzinski
All great marketing is rooted in powerful storytelling, and there’s no question about it, Catholic women religious have powerful stories to tell. But if the audiences we want to reach can’t find those stories, it’s a lost opportunity. That’s why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a necessary implement in your content strategy toolbox. Charish Badzinski is here to help you amplify the powerful stories of Catholic women religious through simple, but effective SEO strategies.

In this session, you will:
• Gain understanding of the importance of long-tail keywords
• Learn how to find the SEO sweet spot in keyword selection
• Get specifics on where and how often to use your keywords in online copy

Whether you are new to SEO, or looking to brush up on the basics, this SEO breakout session will give you tips you can put into practice immediately to optimize your content and reach key audiences more effectively.

Charish Badzinski helps clients scale communications mountains, including content strategy and creation, SEO, speechwriting, and crisis communications. She believes powerful storytelling is the beating heart of all great marketing. Charish has 25 years of experience in journalism, public relations, marketing and writing, including working with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Charish’s twin passions are writing and world travel, and she has a goal of visiting 100 countries in her lifetime. She blogs about travel, and the deeper lessons gleaned from the travel experience, on her website:

Podcasting Workshop
Katie Gordon
In this session, Katie will share insights from her media experience. From radio to podcasting, Katie has always used audio storytelling as a tool in her interfaith work, in her interest in spirituality and conversation,
and in collaboration with Catholic Sisters. From public radio to community radio, and start-up podcasts like Ministry of Ideas to well-established programs like On Being with Krista Tippett, Katie has gotten to work with various aspects of this new media landscape. After showing the variety of ways in which podcasts can be utilized in ministry contexts, there will then be interactive time of trying out some interview tools and techniques.

Blogging: A Communication Ministry
Sister Susan Wolf, SND
In this workshop Sister Susan Wolf, SND, will offer insights on using the tool of blogging to advance the mission and ministries of a religious community. She will offer practical tips on how communication professionals can promote and support blogs for and/or by the religious women they serve.

Sister Susan is a Sister of Notre Dame (Chardon, OH) and founder of Catholic Web Solutions, where she provides community-building, faith-based content for parish and ministry websites, Facebook pages and blogs. She launched her Catholic Web Solutions blog in 2010 to equip parishes and religious communities to do the same. She has recruited and trained members of her own religious community to launch blogs as a means of sharing their charism and expertise with the larger digital audience. Sr. Susan has an MA in Religious Education from John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH, and an MBA with a specialization in Organizational Development from Marymount University in Arlington, VA.

Analytics for All
Jessica Bahr
Analytics for all is a hands-on session covering how to set up, track, and optimize your social media efforts across a range of platforms. We’ll walk through how to benchmark performance, surface top performing practices to elevate, and identify opportunities for improvement. Attendees will leave with an actionable plan (and templates) to apply what they have learned in their own practice.