DENVER, COLO. — Communication directors from six U.S. OFM provinces gathered here last week to exchange ideas. They shared publications and methods used to communicate to and about the friars and proposed organizing a formal group affiliated with the English-Speaking Conference (ESC).
The following provinces were represented:
- Assumption BVM Province, based in Wisconsin; Patrick McCormack, OFM
- Holy Name Province; Jocelyn Thomas
- Immaculate Conception Province (USA), based in lower Manhattan; Thomas Washburn, OFM
- Sacred Heart Province, based in Missouri; Benet Fonck, OFM
- St. Barbara Province, based in California; Alexis Packard and John Summers, OFM
- St. John the Baptist Province, based in Ohio; Toni Cashnelli
The gathering was held as a follow-up to the last meeting of the English-speaking Conference, where provincial ministers suggested that the communication directors convene to discuss establishing an official ESC committee of experts.
This was the first gathering of ESC communication directors in nearly 10 years, said Cashnelli, who has served her province for 12 years.
Program Objectives Discussed
Participants agreed that their communication programs have four goals:
- Strengthening bonds among friars and increasing morale in the province
- Increasing vocations
- Assisting the development needs of the province
Participants discussed how they achieve the goals of their offices. Communication directors work out of different locations and provide varied functions. Some work in offices, while others work in friaries. Some also direct fundraising efforts, while others are focused solely on communications. In all cases, the communications directors manage their province’s Web site, produce newsletters, design advertisements, attend and cover special events, write and distribute press releases, and manage special projects.Before concluding their meeting, the communicators voted to recommend to the ESC executive board that the group be formally incorporated in the ESC as a committee of experts. The recommendation will be put on the agenda for the fall conference meeting, being held in Chicago in October.
- The gathering was organized by Jocelyn Thomas and Tom, the executive secretary of the ESC.
Several participants commented on the value of the meeting. “I appreciated coming together very much,” said Benet.
“I’m a great advocate of connecting and interacting because we experience every time a kind of unity through diversity. We’re all traveling toward the same end, but along different paths. With that comes much support and affirmation, which is so important if we’re to carry on our work as communicators effectively.”
“We also experience in this context the kind of challenges we need for bettering our mission of communicating,” Benet added. “For me, it was two things. First of all, keeping in front of us the four-fold objective of bonding, evangelization, development, and vocations. Secondly, it was improving and facilitating collaborative interaction among the JPIC, vocations, development, and communications offices of the province. The more we come together, the more we form one heart, one mind, one voice, and the better we’ll be able to communicate the who, what, why, where, when, and how of being Franciscan — and, of course, to proclaim the Good News
Patrick said: “It was a good opportunity to put faces on names, to share best practices, creative ideas, frustrations and possible joint ventures. It was a wonderful opportunity to step out of our provincial mode and explore the needs and the possibilities of being of service to the wider Franciscan family.”
“One of the discussion items that was most helpful,” he said, “was each member’s experiences with technology and web sites. As is the case of most gatherings, another set of eyes, and other voices are most helpful in creative ventures. I am most appreciative for this opportunity and look forward to future collaboration with this group of talented and dedicated individuals.”
Among the committees and commissions that the ESC has in place are development, vocation, formation and studies, ongoing formation directors, Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Missionary Evangelization, and Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
Advocate for Establishing a Committee
Attendees of the meeting said they believe an established committee will provide an effective vehicle through which they can exchange ideas about communicating the Franciscan message. Several recommended that they serve as resources to each other. They will collaborate when appropriate, and offer solutions to questions related to topics such as technology, design and public relations.
The communicators plan to meet annually, according to Thomas who said she believes that the collaboration will be helpful from two main perspectives.
“First, as individuals, the interaction provides us connections to people who do basically the same job that we do for the same audience, and second, the collaboration will provide us with an efficient way to way to spread news about the Franciscans.”
The ESC comprises provinces from the United States and Canada, was well as Australia, England, Ireland, Lithuania and Malta. Several provinces, because of their small size, do not have communication directors.
The ESC communicators met in a hotel located less than one mile from St. Elizabeth’s Church, which was once staffed by the Franciscans of Holy Name Province. A member of the Province, Leo Heinrichs, OFM, was assassinated there in 1908.
Shown in the photo above are, from left,Toni Cashnelli, John Summers, Alexis Packard, Thomas Washburn, Patrick McCormack, Jocelyn Thomas, and Benet Fonck.