Daughters of St. Paul Are ‘On the Move’
With their redesign, ‘Media Nuns’ aim to revitalize their community and outreach.
As part of a plan to revitalize and expand their communications outreach and presence while strengthening their community, the Daughters of St. Paul will close four of their U.S. locations during the next year.
The redesign will enable the community to reach more people through a range of online platforms while better providing opportunities for spiritual growth at its remaining nine centers.
“The Holy Spirit takes us in paths that we don’t always expect, and so [we ask] for that openness,” Sister Donald Maria Lynch, superior of the U.S. and Canada province, told the Register in an interview on Wednesday.
“We want to be able to expand online because we realize that allows us to reach people who would never come in contact with us physically can still come in contact with us and with the Gospel through those means,” she said.
The community will close its Honolulu books and media center this summer. Its Chicago center will close this fall, and its Charleston, South Carolina, center will close in early 2023. A fourth location in San Antonio is not currently in use. The community owns the locations but hasn’t yet determined what they will do with them, Sister Donald said.
The 11 sisters serving at these locations will move to other existing communities. While a membership decline played some role in the community’s redesign, the pandemic was not a motivation, though it has underscored people’s need for God, Sister Donald said.
As Sister Tracey Dugas, the director of Pauline mission advancement, explained to the Register, “This process is prompting our sisters to renew their commitment to be apostolic and revitalize how we reach out to people.”
The Daughters of St. Paul congregation was founded in 1915 in Italy. As writers, artists, speakers, teachers, musicians, editors, administrators, audio and video producers, and in other roles, the sisters creatively present the Gospel through personal interaction, digital and printed word, podcasts, social media and music.
The congregation operates Pauline Books and Media centers worldwide, along with media education centers, radio and internet channels and other institutions. Of its 1,900 members throughout the world, 120 serve in the U.S. and Canada.
The international congregation began considering a reconfiguration several years ago, as they looked at how they were following their call to evangelize with modern communication means. Noting their advances in that mission, they also recognized a need to examine whether they were moving forward enough in their outreach, Sister Donald said.
Some of the other communities in the more than 50 countries where the congregation is present are also going through revitalization to different degrees, she said.
‘Presence of the Gospel’
Though the U.S. and Canada province’s membership has declined in recent years, young women continue to enter, Sister Donald said. With the redesign, leaders seek to bolster individual communities, increase the sisters’ presence in their physical locations and facilitate collaboration in their digital communications work.
With the consolidation, the sisters are rededicating themselves to offering the best presentation of the word of God and other materials in their publishing and all other types of communication. While in-person presence remains vital, the sisters also recognize digital communication makes it possible to reach many more people — especially younger generations, Sister Donald said.
They seek to bring together all their communication to amplify messages and “really let all the different aspects of our mission begin to blend into a whole,” she explained.
As part of this hybrid approach, the sisters are creating presentation spaces in their existing centers where events can be shared with digital audiences, along with continuing to offer books and media, Sister Donald said.
“We always have in mind to be reaching people far beyond where our physical presence is,” she said. “So those spaces, I think, will be physically transformed, as well as their purpose will, in a sense, bring in again different ways we can be reaching out to people.”
The redesign also will provide resources for communication projects, Sister Donald said. “There are all these different areas that we want to expand on social media as well, that we want to make the presence of the Gospel even more vital in the work that we’re doing. We hope for that to really be amplified beyond what we’re doing right now.”
Where centers are closing, the sisters will continue developing existing connections for collaboration locally, including through their digital presence, lay Pauline Cooperators and in-person ministry.
“We have opened and closed locations before,” Sister Donald said. “It’s very much a part of who we are as missionary sisters, but with the needs we have now with technology, we feel we can do even more to keep connections going with the communities.”
The U.S. and Canada province has 101 Pauline Cooperators who engage in a variety of evangelization initiatives with the different Institutes of the Pauline Family, according to Sister Jackie Gitonga, national director of Pauline Cooperators.
As the sisters expand their digital presence, Sister Donald acknowledged there are negative aspects to social media, which the community has studied. It hopes to transform and counteract the negative aspect.
“We want to counter it with education, but also to be able to use it for the good,” she said. “It can be a stepping-stone, too, for further integration and also collaboration.”
As the Daughters of St. Paul carry out their redesign campaign, they invite their spiritual family, friends and others to follow and connect with them via the #OnTheMove hashtag on social media or through their website.
In one sense, all Catholics are called to be “on the move,” Sister Tracey said. “Our Catholic faith challenges us to move out of the comfort zones of this world that we tend to settle in because we’re made for more — we’re made for God,” she said.
“With Christ, we can resist whatever is holding us back in our faith and so that we can actively move toward him and his way of discipleship.”
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