Convinced that Catholic sisters make valuable spiritual and social contributions to society, GHR’s board of directors launched the Sister Support Initiative in 2012.
- Its vision: a landscape populated with congregations of women religious—well led, well resourced, powerful in their spiritual witness and effective in service to those in need.
- Its goal: strengthening congregations during a period of profound change.
- Its strategy: making capacity-building investments in the areas of leadership, vocations and resource development in the United States and Africa.
GHR is indebted to sisters and other partners who generously contributed their thoughts and time to this evaluation. Responses to surveys, answers to interview questions, and extended conversations helped Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry prepare a report which has already proven useful as we chart a course for 2016 and beyond.
In short, GHR will stay the course strategically in its U.S. Sister Support funding, with continued capacity-building investments in the areas of leadership development, member recruitment and resource development. We will continue to prioritize investments in younger sisters. But we will make some early-course adjustments by encouraging innovation and investing more in diversity and communications.
What follows is a high-level summary of what we learned from the evaluation and its implications for our work in years to come. You can also learn more about the results of the evaluation through an interactive overview.
- Our partners value our approach, reporting that long-term partnering fosters learning and helps organizations and projects scale up
- Three hundred sisters and associates have benefited from leadership development training, although some struggle to find outlets for newly accrued leadership skills
- Younger sisters find inspiration and critical support in peer networks
- Congregations are becoming far more diverse in terms of the age, race, ethnicity and life experiences of members; diversity is a blessing and a challenge
- There is a very significant number of sisters from other countries in the United States who come to serve, study or work
- There is a steady stream of women entering religious life, but a paucity of new members remains the most critical challenge for many congregations
- Equipping congregations with a spiritually-grounded approach to fundraising has produced some promising early results
- Sisters feel a need to build capacity in the area of communications
GHR will sharpen its focus by leaning into diversity with regards to vocation ministry. We will be more attentive to the presence of sisters from other countries who are in the United States. We will begin to explore how congregations might build capacity in the areas of communications.
We will continue to partner with women religious with gratitude, confident that women religious will continue to enrich both church and society, through their spiritual gifts and service to those in need.
Thank you for your dedication to helping congregations of Catholic sisters realize strong futures. To learn more about GHR’s Sister Support Initiative or ask about our evolving approach to funding, feel free to contact me directly.