NACAR Board Messages

NACAR Board Messages

Each month, the NACAR Board President or another member of the NACAR Board of Directors sends a brief message to all members of NACAR. You may read those messages here.

Pope FrancisPope Francis’ Prayer Summit – A Meeting Before God

“In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace,” Pope Francis said during his Sunday homily. “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer. “All of us—especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples—have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers,” he continued. “Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment.” (NCR, May 24, 2014)

I am constantly amazed at the faith, courage and astute boldness of Pope Francis. While visiting the Holy Land, he offered this invitation to Presidents Peres and Abbas to pray together. Pope Francis wants to make “space for God” in the difficult and complicated peace negotiations. Pope Francis wants to make “space for God.”

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St. Catherine of Sienna"St. Catherine of Siena combined contemplation and the active ministry of a Dominican vocation to become a prophet who did not hesitate to speak the truthful word. She spoke with conviction and acted with dignity, conscious of her power, its source, and her own responsibility to use it for the common good.” (Catherine M. Meade, My Nature Is Fire, 1991)

I read these words as I was celebrating the feast day of Catherine on April 29 and I was aware of the fact that this first woman Doctor of the Church, surrounded by the turmoil of the 14th century world and Church, has a prophetic presence for us today. Essential to the significance of Catherine is the fact that she was a lay third order Dominican living at home initially in silence and solitude. But following Christ’s call to both prayer and service, she changed to a public life dedicated to direct service to the poor. Like Catherine, as members of NACAR, Associates and Religious, there is the opportunity to speak with conviction, conscious of the Source of our power, for the common good. NACAR provides the community and the forum to articulate God’s presence to our 21st century world and Church. And, we have the benefit of ‘The Francis Effect’ urging us forward in this prophetic mission!

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We wish to impart with sadness that Jean Sonnenberg recently passed away.  Jean was very active in the associate movement.  She was one of the founding members of NACAR, and she served many years as the director of associates for the sisters of the Congregation of Bon Secours.  Jean is remembered as a deeply spiritual woman who inspired the associates she coordinated and the sisters with whom she teamed up in their associate leadership.  For more of a remembrance of Jean, please read more here.  She is missed....

csm logo blueOn behalf of NACAR, I warmly welcome the Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish as NACAR's newest congregational member!  The religious (aka The Marthas) and their associates minister in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Alberta.  Their mission-commitment is “... hearing, embracing and responding to the cry for Gospel hospitality.”  Currently, there are approximately 100 Martha Associates and across Canada, and they are members of the Atlantic Regional Congregations Associate Network (ARCAN).  WELCOME!

I invite you to logon to and look for the Associate Population Trends Survey Results (you must be registered and logged in to download the document).  The document thoughtfully and thoroughly exhibits the compiled results of a survey generated by the Membership Services Committee last fall.  Remarkably, 72 representatives of NACAR-member congregations participated in the survey.  The data in the report speaks for itself, and the survey's participants’ comments contribute valuable insights as well.  Understanding that others participated in compilation of data and publishing the document, I would like to acknowledge the leadership of the Membership Services Committee for bringing this project to fruition for our members’ benefit.

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Greetings Edgewalkers, 

Yes, I’m speaking to you, NACAR members and friends of NACAR. 

Edgewalkers book coverAuthor Judi Neal defined Edgewalkers as “people and organizations that take risks, build bridges, and break new ground.”   And she continued: “Organizations are communities of people and the culture and the effectiveness of the organization is based on the shared values and collective consciousness of the members of the organization.  An ‘edgewalker culture’ is one that values innovation, creativity, risk-taking, the unleashing of the human spirit, and living in alignment with values of sustainability, justice, compassion and joy.”  (Neal, Edgewalkers, 2006, Praeger, p. 129)

It was evident to me at the March NACAR Board meeting as we discussed our strategic plan, the ideas and priorities of the various Board Committees and the optimistic brainstorming for future growth/development that indeed our organization was “edgewalking.”  We just had not given a name to our collaborative innovative work!  

As I listened to Board members speak, it was a fact that all of our NACAR activities involve the collaboration with you as Associates and Religious throughout the country who are writing, speaking and making present the living God.  Our content in the online magazine, THE ASSOCIATE; the insights in the Leadership Manual LEAD WITH SPIRIT; your participation in our professional development webinar Rookies Rock; and your feedback in the NACAR membership surveys promote the ‘edgewalker culture’.

I begin this leadership position surrounded with skilled experienced Board officers (Jeanne Connolly, Cathi Duffy, and Kathy Herrington) Board members (Sr. Elizabeth Avalos, Fr. Arthur Carrillo, Peg Madigan, Sr. Catherine McNamee and Jill Poehlman) and administrative staff members (Mary Jo Mersmann, Fred Goddard, Lisa Olson, Tim O’Brien and Sr. Ellen O’Connell).   With them I invite each person to join us in our ‘edgewalker culture’ with your articles, announcements, ideas, feedback and welcomed collaboration.  Board Member Peg Madigan summarized this invitation to you when she quoted Guillaume Apollinaire:  “Come to the edge.’  ‘ We can’t.  We’re afraid.’  ‘Come to the edge.’  ‘We can’t. We will fall!’  ‘ Come to the edge.’  And they came. And he pushed them.  And they flew.”  (Neal, p. 144)

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Have you ever stopped in the middle of something and puzzled over what you are doing and asked why?  I can get so caught up in daily projects and a narrow mentality just robotically doing things.  I lose a sense of direction on what is becoming in the grander scheme of things—the big-picture perspectives of purposes and whys.   

Organizations, no matter what their size, customarily ponder similar questions.  You see them discussed at retreats, workshops, meetings and other occasions when people come together to take a deep breath, refocus and reenergize.  Amid these structured activities, leaders urge their groups to keep in mind the fundamentals of their organization like core values, mission and vision as easy ways of keeping centered on purposes and whys.  Take NACAR’s dedicated activities, for example:


The North American Conference of Associates and Religious is a membership organization that acts as a catalyst to serve, empower and promote the Associate-Religious relationship.


Becoming a vibrant, viable organization that collaborates with regional partners to promote association in all its forms.

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