Wednesday, 31 October 2018 15:16

On the Way from the Forum

Written by Rich Lessard
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Rich Lessard – Affiliate Board Chair

Denise and Rich

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum!  Not the Broadway musical; this Forum is a room in the Maryknoll Sisters’ Center House in Maryknoll, NY—where our Board gathered in October, and I was elected Chairperson of the Affiliate Board!  I would never have imagined myself as chairperson when I began as a Maryknoll Affiliate 11 years ago.

On my way home that day, I reflected on my life as an Affiliate, and about how best to positively impact the Affiliates.  So, by way of introduction, I am sharing some thoughts as I begin this new endeavor with you.

Our Roles and Responsibilities documents say:

In a spirit of collaboration, the Board discerns, in dialogue with the Regional Coordinators and Executive Coordinator, how to best guide the Affiliate movement.  It seeks to foster an ever deepening commitment to mission and to Maryknoll; to develop its collective skills as a learning community and to inspire a culture of engagement and growth.  Seeking to be faithful to servant leadership, the Board commits to engage in deep listening with the wider Affiliate movement, to bring the voices at the margins to the center and to always seek the greater good, both within and beyond our global movement. 

This is not an easy task!  As Chair, I will strive to work in the spirit of servant-leader with all Board members, Regional Coordinators, and the Executive Coordinator to ensure all we do is on behalf of and in support of the Affiliates worldwide.

You may have noticed that the word “movement” above is not capitalized. I wish to change this— I want people to recognize us as the Maryknoll Affiliate Movement. A successful movement has: clarity of purpose, shared values, emphasis on training, participants who believe strongly enough to volunteer their advocacy, synchronized actions through networks, and leadership effectively influencing and persuading by inspiring and empowering, not by coercion. I don’t feel confident saying these define the Affiliate movement now, but I think they can provide us a guide as we make our path forward.

The challenge to put the “M” in movement is daunting, but it is possible and worthy of the effort.  The response to this challenge is up to us all, Board and Affiliates.

In our Board retreat, we affirmed all four pillars of the Affiliates, but Community was mentioned most frequently. We Affiliates experience community in our Chapters, at regional and international Affiliate conferences (MACs), in our relationships with members of the other expressions of Maryknoll, in our own local faith communities, and in other local, national or international organizations.  During the retreat we talked about what binds us to our Affiliate community, i.e., to other Affiliates within our Chapter, between Chapters and between Affiliates and Chapters, with Affiliate leadership. Two key elements necessary for community are connection and communication.  Just as nails and screws are necessary to keep our homes secure and strong, communication and connection are necessary to make our Affiliate movement strong and secure.  I am pleased that some of the initial actions the Board and Regional Coordinators have committed to will focus on ways to improve and strengthen both.

A movement must have connection, without which there can be no Movement. I hope Affiliates will seek ways to connect to more Affiliates and to other Maryknollers, including: be aware of what other Affiliates are doing by reading the NSFA, NTLH and/or the Monday morning e-mail updates; actively reach out to other Affiliates, individually and chapter-to-chapter; attend regional or international conferences; and be in dialogue with Affiliate leadership.

Communication is also integral to community.  We must use all available means. In addition to e-mail and telephone calls, let’s utilize current technology: Skype, Zoom, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.  Let’s be bold!

Another aspect of communication is dialogue. May we enhance the way we dialogue with each other by making an active effort.  We must listen, really listen.  And we must respond.  Dialogue means two-way.  I ask Chapters to respond and dialogue with their Regional Coordinator or the Executive Coordinator.  Regional Coordinators have the responsibility to be in contact with each Chapter within their region. Dialogue will improve our sense of inclusiveness and belonging. It is primarily through the Regional Coordinators that the leadership can “discover and embrace the wisdom and ever emerging life of the Affiliate movement.” I urge the Affiliate leadership and all Affiliates worldwide to find new and creative ways to be in dialogue.

In closing, I ask that you keep the Affiliate leadership in your prayers as we work on behalf of all Affiliates worldwide. God bless!

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