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May 11, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and Angie Kessler, Director of Communications, were part of a six-member panel of leaders and communicators of congregations of U.S. Sisters who spoke on successful collaboration between practitioners of the two disciplines. Angie succeeded Sister Elise, who was Director of Communications before she was elected to the General Council in 2016.
The webinar, Successful Collaboration between Communicators and Leadership, was offered May 3, 2021, and sponsored by Communicators of Women Religious (CWR) and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).
Other panelists were Sister Eileen McKenzie, FSPA, President, and Jane Comeau, Communications Director of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Sisters Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, Prioress General, and Beth Murphy, OP, Communications Director of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.
The webinar focused on best practices, success stories, and challenges in collaboration. Sister Elise noted one success story for the Adrian Dominican Sisters is the ability of the General Council to issue statements on a broad range of issues. Once the General Council has agreed on a statement, she said, it relies on the Communications team to prepare it for release and to get it out to media outlets and on social media.
Occasionally, Sister Elise added, Angie suggests a topic or issue on which the General Council might want to issue a statement. “That’s a huge help because it means we’re all attuned and have our ears to the ground to issues of importance to our world and to our congregation,” Sister Elise said.
Angie noted that one component to successful collaboration is respect, specifically the General Council’s treatment of the Communications team as partners. “I know many times communication can be seen as a tool, but we are really seen as a partner in the mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters,” Angie said. “That means being at the table, being part of the planning process, which gives us a broad understanding of the issue that we’re trying to create a message for.”
In discussing the challenges they face, Sister Elise noted the “incredible pace at which we’re working across the board.” Both she and Angie spoke of the importance of taking the time to study new forms of communication and to plan the best way to reach each audience with the various means of communication, from bulletin boards to electronic media and new forms of social media. The best practice to face that challenge, Angie said, is to “think through everything very carefully … making sure we’re doing the communicating as we need to, in a timely way, but also making sure that everything is communicated well.”
The panelists also discussed the role of trust and confidentiality in their successful collaboration and shared stories on challenging efforts, such as sharing a difficult message about the Congregation’s past in a way that was transparent and honest.
Watch the recording of Successful Collaboration between Communicators and Leadership.