CWR Executive Director Nick Schafer with members of Talitha Kum Southeast Asia after a workshop on “Communication for Ministry” in Manila, Philippines, May 2017.

“It is the lives we encounter that make life worth living.” — Guy de Maupassant

There is a wonderful energy that comes from meeting new people. In my time at CWR I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful individuals and hear their stories. It’s the part of this job that I love the most. Such encounters have helped me to see our work in a completely new light. Somewhere along the way I stopped seeing communication as a field of study, or even simply as a profession, and started to view communication as ministry.

Since coming to CWR there have been many invitations to lead workshops, present at meetings, and represent the organization at a number of conferences and assemblies. Each event is unique, but over time patterns emerge as I talk about our field and this association.

Our work to promote the mission of Catholic Sisters is a ministry. It’s not enough to simply know the business side of our operations, be it communication, development, or management. As CWR members we must conduct our work within the context of the Catholic Church and through the lens of our congregations’ charism. To communicate the mission of Catholic Sisters, is to preach the Gospel. To share Sisters’ stories, to help a discerning heart hear the whisper of a vocation, to provide opportunities for donors to support good works, becomes an invitation to join in the Good News. In that way those of us engaged in the ministry of communication become modern evangelists.

And while that might answer some of the philosophical questions about who we are and what we do, there is another very practical side to our existence. There are still plenty of folks who don’t know anything about CWR. From staff at the Vatican Secretariat for Communication to colleagues at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, the question inevitably comes up, “So what exactly is CWR?” As a good communication officer, I have my prepared elevator speech about what CWR is, who we serve, and where our members are located around the world. But CWR is so much more than anything that can be covered in a 30 second elevator ride.

Over the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to speak about our association in the US, Canada, Italy, the Philippines and around the globe through online presentations. Some of the audiences are communication professionals, some audiences are new to the field, and some are just beginning to see the need for top notch communication operations in their congregations. No matter the audience, the core message includes these highlights.

Nick with his morning prayer group at the UISG Delegates Assembly, Manila, Philippines. From left: Sister Illumina Katsukunya, LCBL; Sister Winifred Ojo, SSL; Sister Monica Cavanagh, RSJ; Sister Veronica Openibo, SHCJ.

I am in awe of the CWR association and the dynamic professionals who make it up. The spirit of comradery and willingness to share resources to support one another continues to amaze me. This is not to say that other professional associations don’t support their members, they do. I have simply never experienced such a real-world example of an association full of people who live the abundance model mentality.

I speak of the great sharing that takes place during our annual conferences, online via our listserv, and the interactions between individual members that are born out of our shared mission. We inevitably speak about the common challenges facing religious life, such as vocations, new political realities around the world, emerging technology, and sharing the story of our Sisters in an increasingly busy and loud public sphere. And we speak of the opportunities that lay ahead. We talk about the collaborations between Sisters and lay groups partnering to address societal needs (i.e. an end to human trafficking, care of the earth, bringing and end to hate and violence). We talk about the positive uses of technology to bring the Good News into the digital sphere. And we talk about the ways in which our traditional charisms can find new life in a modern era.

As I have said before, we live in exciting times. A world in which we can hear news of great tragedy followed immediately by messages of hope. It is in these times that make the mission and ministry of Catholic Sisters all the more important. We are not a single voice crying out in the desert, rather a choir of voices bringing a song of hope and peace to the world. And if CWR can play some part in bringing such music into the world, then our work is indeed blessed.

May the blessings of the Lenten season be with you all.

Nicholas T. Schafer, CFRE