Communicators for Women Religious

"Our mission is to be a network of professional support and education for members who promote understanding of women religious, enhance their image and advance their mission."

Report from the Board

May 31, 2017

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Dear CWR Friends,

In the interest of keeping you informed, the Communicators for Women Religious Board of Directors shares highlights of our monthly meetings. The Board met in person at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, May 15–19.

Sister Beth Kress, PBVM prepared morning and afternoon prayers for the meeting.

Minutes from the April 24 board videoconference were approved.

New board members Jennifer Brandlon, Cecilia Rupell, and Philippa Turney were welcomed to their first in-person board meeting.

Sister Angela Szczawinska, CSFN, Board Chair, and Kathy Gatliff, Vice Chair, shared the Executive Committee report.

  • Executive Director Nick Schafer’s one-year anniversary with CWR is June 1. The Executive Team will be doing a performance evaluation with board input. Nick will be doing a performance evaluation of the CWR coordinator.
  • 2018 Conference Site Selection: After a site visit to Fort Worth, Texas, in April, the committee recommended that the board approve the Sheraton Fort Worth for the 2018 conference. There was brief discussion regarding recent legislation passed in Texas affecting immigrant communities and people of color. The board acknowledged this concern. An effort will be made to include a service project and/or social justice component as part of or in conjunction with the conference, to help raise awareness of Catholic sisters’ commitment to helping refugees, immigrants, and others on the margins of society. The board voted to approve the Sheraton Fort Worth as the 2018 conference hotel.
  • Conference Scholarship Committee: Two scholarships have been awarded this year. The recipients will be notified by June 1.

Executive Director Nick Schafer shared highlights from his written report.

  • His upcoming trip to Rome, Italy, will include a meeting with the Secretariat of Communications at the Vatican Press Office. He will present a workshop on communication to UISG members.
  • Nick has also connected with the Catholic Press Association, which is in the process of re-branding itself as a Catholic communication association. Nick noted that this is a “radical transition” time for Catholic organizations, and he sees a lot of opportunity for collaboration. CWR Board Member and Development Committee Chair Kate Martin will attend the National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC) conference in San Diego in September on behalf of CWR.
  • Strategic Plan Update: Nick led the board through a review of a comprehensive progress report on the Strategic Plan 2016–2019.
  • CWR received the second disbursement of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation grant. CWR has also contracted with American City Bureau (ACB) for grant writing over the next four months.
  • Finance Assistant: CWR is in the process of hiring a part time finance assistant. First and second interviews have been conducted, and a candidate has been selected. The finance assistant will work out of the Chicago office.

Sister Beth Kress, PBVM, CWR treasurer, presented a written report on CWR finances for January–April.

Carol Scheiber, NRVC liaison to the CWR board, introduced herself to the new CWR board members, and explained her role as publications editor for NRVC. NRVC’s new executive director, Sister Sharon Dillon, SSJ-TOSF, will start June 1. The NRVC board will begin a strategic planning process with Sister Sharon.

Kathy Gatliff, CWR vice chair, gave a report on Policies and Procedures. The document was revised, and board members each received a copy May 1 for review prior to the in-person meeting. CWR’s lawyer, Sister Amy Hereford, CSJ, also reviewed the document and provided input. The board approved Policies and Procedures with the understanding that this is a working document, and changes and tweaks will continue to be made as needed.

Nick Schafer and Membership Committee Chair Jennifer Brandlon presented a proposal regarding CWR’s membership structure. Any changes to membership structure and dues would require a vote of CWR membership and a change to the CWR bylaws.

  • The definition of an Individual member would be broadened to include all current CWR members. The board approved the following new definition:
    • “Individual membership is limited to persons who advance the mission of women religious through their work as communicators for women’s congregations and/or for organizations affiliated with congregations and to persons who are communicators for federations of congregations of women religious. Eligibility for Individual membership is determined by CWR.”
  • The Associate member definition would also be expanded. The board approved the following new definition:
    • “Associate membership is available to individuals who are partners in the mission of CWR to promote Catholic sisters. Eligibility for Associate membership is determined by CWR. These may include, but are not limited to:
      • Congregational leadership, development, vocation, formation, business staff who do not serve a formal role within the congregational communication team and therefore do not qualify as Individual members
      • Diocesan communication offices, communication officers for congregations of men’s religious communities, etc.
      • Others working with an organization or institution that is engaged in directly or indirectly supporting religious life, but does not fulfill the requirements for individual CWR membership.”
  • Other forms of membership would include Friends of CWR and a type of membership for media. Nick and Jennifer will revise the proposed definitions for these categories and present to the board at a future meeting.

Eileen Dickerson presented a report on CWR board service from the Nominating Committee. The committee recommended that the CWR board hold off on inviting non-members to serve on the board. The board discussed the possibility that associate members could be appointed to the board as non-voting board members. The board also discussed officer succession, length of terms, and candidates for future board service. A staff proposal to waive the conference fee for CWR board members was approved.

Nancy Gonsiorek, CPA, presented an overview of financial reporting requirements for CWR. Nancy is working on a full audit of CWR finances for 2016. She reviewed with the board a draft of the audited financial statements, management letter, and a copy of the 2015 Form 990. Nancy also offered suggestions for financial best practices for CWR.

The board welcomed Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM. Sister Ann explained her role as the national coordinator for the National Catholic Sisters Project (NCSP). The mission of the NCSP is to “recognize and celebrate the profound impact Catholic sisters have had, and continue to have, on the U.S. Church and the communities where sisters are present. As young women become acquainted with sisters and their lives of prayer, community and service, we hope they will be inspired to consider religious life as a compelling choice for themselves, and for the good of the world.” There are four components to the project:

  • National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) — national and local events in the month of March;
  • Development of online curriculum materials in English and Spanish for middle school, high school and campus ministry settings;
  • Encouraging young Latina women to consider religious life by promoting vocations in Spanish-speaking Catholic communities;
  • Diocesan outreach program.

Before and after listening to Sister Ann, Nick Schafer led the board in a discussion of an Awareness Campaign/image project for CWR.

The board set dates for its 2018 meetings: Jan. 23–26 in Grand Prairie, Texas, and May 15–18 in Racine, Wisconsin.

Stephanie Hall, co-chair of the 2017 Conference Committee, reported on event planning for the conference Oct. 3–6 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Kate Martin shared an update on sponsors and exhibitors. A draft of the conference registration brochure was presented. In response to the feedback from the survey regarding optional evenings out, CWR will coordinate a Thursday night outing to see “Saint Joan” at the Shaw Festival, in addition to the Wednesday outing. There will not be a Friday night event. Stephanie Manseau is looking into options for English/French interpretation at the conference.

Next Board Meeting: Videoconference Tuesday, June 27 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

CWR Board of Directors
Sister Angela Szczawinska, CSFN, Chair
Kathy Gatliff, Vice Chair
Sister Beth Kress, PBVM, Treasurer
Jennifer Brandlon
Eileen Dickerson
Stephanie Hall
Spalding Hurst
Kate Martin
Jean Merry
Cecilia Rupell
Philippa Turney
Annmarie Sanders, IHM, LCWR Liaison
Carol Schuck Scheiber, NRVC Liaison

CWR Staff
Nick Schafer, Executive Director
Susan Oxley, Coordinator



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