Monday, December 9, 2013

Leadership Development: Striving for Spiritual Intellegence

Musicians provided music that added
 to the prayer and theme of each day
We began Sunday morning singing, "There is a longing in our hearts, O God, for you to reveal yourself to us, there is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God."  This longing for that deep knowing echoed throughout the day as we continued to identify those barriers to effective relating and leading.

Sr. Lynn Levo
There was time to renew old friendships
 and make new friends
Throughout the day there was
time for sharing at our tables.
It was obvious that as we were
getting to know one another better,
the depth of sharing was deepening
Sr. Lynn Levo led us through a day of input and reflection on Spiritually Intelligent Leadership, helping us recognize some of the habits that may be hindering our ability to work effectively  with others and manage our workload so that we do not burn out.  She offered 3 ways to think about flexibility and collaboration and concluding with a reminder that hope matters. Throughout the day you could see the nods as she shared on each topic indicating that she was speaking about issues with which many could identify.

Evening offered a great time to get
to know each other better in an
informal setting.

Sr. Lynn Levo (right) engaged
 in conversation during a break
One of the great joys of this program has been the ability to engage the presenters informally during meals and breaks.  All the presenters are very approachable and available.

And in the evening, the sisters enjoyed playing cards.
Hand and Foot remains the card game
 of choice for Federation gatherings

Sr. Dolores Clerico (left) chats with
 one of the participants

There were many light moments,
such as when during a break, two sisters
got up to entertain us

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Day of Challenge

On this second full day at the Leadership Development Program, Sr. Joan Sobala spoke with us about the positive implications of being steadfast.  Using the Isaiah 11:1-10 reading, she pointed out to us that this reading challenges us to do impossible things; wolves lying down with lambs for example. She reminded us that being steadfast is not easy, it requires work and desire.  We only learn to be
Sr. Joan Sobala
steadfast by practice and watching others who can inspire us.  In many situations the task is bigger than our lifetime and we won't live to see the outcome. She reminded us that John the Baptist had a big vision and he knew it was going to get him into trouble, but he stayed the course, even to his death.

Peggy McAlister
We spent the day working with Peggy McAlister who had been the coach for most of the sisters as we sorted through our Leadership Circle profile, the tool we used to assess our leadership strengths and areas for growth.  Peggy began by asking

We used a relational circle which
 helped us understand our test results better

us to recognize what isn't working anymore in hierarchical ways that leadership is often practiced.  She shared that there are 3 practices which are emerging as essential tools for an effective leader, 1) have a clear purpose, 2) be a compassionate presence, and 3) engage in partnerships- the day of the hero and the lone wolf are over.

Working in pairs, we jumped in to
facing  our worst  fears about
 ourselves  and our abilities
This exercise brought us closer together
 as a group committed to the mission
 of the program
We spent some time focusing on our purpose and then dealing with messages that we give ourselves that restrict our abilities to be effective.  She used a skill-based learning approach that through some slight exaggerations enabled us to actually experience the triggers in our bodies that warn us of the barriers we are erecting that inhibit effective connections with others.  While we were working with these exercises, there was a noticeable change in the energy and intensity in the room.  I can't even find words to explain it but it was obvious that people were experiencing major insights and break-throughs that were freeing them up. This became more obvious when we processed the experience together as a large group.
Sr. Mary Quinn is my mentor

The day ended with a meeting with our mentors
followed by more card playing and line dancing.  We are definitely connecting with each other at many levels, emotionally and socially.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Leadership Development Program for Sisters of St Joseph begins in Racine, Wisconsin

Sr. Herlinda provides a dance to accompany the prayer
Sr. Barbara Bozak, Program Director
Sr. Mary Dacey challenged the group
Twenty-eight sisters under 62 year of age gathered to begin a year of further honing and developing their leadership skills at the first Leaders as Leaven program sponsored by the US Federation for its sisters.  I am one of the 28 sisters so I will try to give a first-hand account of what is happening here.
An opening ritual and a symbolic use of scarfs as part of the ambience and the prayer set the stage for what looks to be a powerful five days together.  Sr. Barbara Bozak welcomed the group and set the tone on Thursday evening.  Sisters from Los Angeles and New York joined us late due to fogged in flights. 
In the opening prayer, the readings helped us reflect on leadership.  Sr. Mary Dacey, as part of the prayer, helped us to see the importance of leadership at this moment in history in religious life and the world.  She challenged us to use this opportunity to further develop our skills as leaders.
Sr. Dolores Clerico presented some
 old material with a new twist

On Friday, Sr. Dolores Clerico focused her talk on the core values of the Sisters of St Joseph by providing a brief overview of how evolving consciousness has impacted our view of leadership, where the church has evolved to at this time and then a new look at the core values of the Sisters of St Joseph.

Sr. Ginny Maitland
serves as facilitator
One of the highlights of this gathering is to meet sisters that I do not know and catch up with friends.  I had a very stimulating lunch discussion with Sr. Susan Wilcox and others at our table as we discussed the powerful energy connections that can heal the world.  Of course, it wouldn't be a US Federation event if we didn't play "Hand and Foot," a card game in the evening.  Last night six of us joined together.  Sr. Rosanne Oberleitner reminded us of the rules and Sr. Ginny Maitland served as coach for the three novice players.  Lots of fun and promises from others to join us tonight.

We have been joined at this event by 28 wisdom sisters who will serve as our mentor for this year period of growth in leadership.  I was extremely happy to have a meeting with my mentor, Sr. Mary Quinn.  As seems to be the sense among those of us participating, the matching of the sister with a mentor seems to have gone very well. 

Today we meet with two staff from the Leadership Circle who will continue the process of helping us learn how to use the Leadership Circle Profile, a tool that we and those we work with filled out.  It is compared with a vast database of the results of many thousands of leaders who have also taken this profile.  It provides helpful feedback on areas of strength and areas that could be further developed. 

I'll keep you posted on how the days go.

Sr. Donna Del Santo led us in song

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Dear Neighbor from Whom We Do Not Separate...

Gray House
Casserly House

During my recent trip to Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to visit two sites where sisters welcome the dear neighbor into their home, truly divide the city and respond to the needs that present themselves. Gray House in Springfield and Casserly House in Boston are homes that were bought specifically for the purpose of living and ministering among neighbors in economically stressed areas where there are great needs.

Gray House was purchased in 1982.  This house damaged by fire was restored over two years through the generous donations of labor and supplies.  Opening in 1984, the unmet needs have determined the services that are offered.  English as a second language is a big need for the local immigrant community.  35 volunteer tutors work with up to 100 students one on one and in small groups where they can get the individual attention and encouragement that is often lacking in larger classroom settings. 
Deirdre in the food pantry

Gray House also offers a food pantry and small used item shop. Volunteers assist staff in providing these needed services, sorting clothes, greeting clients, bagging food and many other tasks.  Agrégée Deirdre Griffin spoke about an annual gift that comes from a local Jewish temple which donates 100 pairs of new shoes every year for children in the neighborhood.

The after school program provides 15 youth in the 2nd to 5th grade with homework assistance, relationship building skills, structure and a family style dinner nightly.  The small number of children served allows for individual attention which shows in the progress that the children make.

One staff person shared that the people who come to Gray House are members of our community, not clients.  This sense of being of the neighborhood permeates everything they do.

Many of the programs at Casserly House are similar to those at Gray House.  In fact, they consulted with the staff at Jubilee House (Hartford- Nov 19, 2011 blog) and Gray House as they set up their home.  In January 2006, in response to a challenge the Boston CSJs set for themselves, they purchased this home near the site of their first ministry in Boston.  There was no preconceived notion of what Casserly House would do.  After living in the neighborhood for six months and talking with the neighbors, they began their first program. 

A class on grocery shopping as a tool to practice English
The first request came for help learning English.  This is now a core part of their program with neighbors coming by from 9 to noon, Monday through Friday to learn English. The children said they needed help with their homework and so the After School Program was developed where children receive help with homework, computer training and art classes.

On the morning I visited, there was an unexpected school bus strike.  Anxious parents came to Casserly House to try to understand what was happening and problem solve how to get their children to and from school.  When there was an increase in domestic violence in the neighborhood, the neighbors came together at Casserly with government officials to try to figure out what could be done- and they came up with a workable plan.  Police officers and city council members often stop by Casserly House where they can learn from the people what their needs and hopes for the neighborhood are.

The program helped this woman with English,
citizenship  and bringing her children to the US
Again, while I was at Casserly House, a woman came in to talk with Sr. Nancy.  She shared that she came to the US with no English.  In her country in West Africa, women were not educated so she could not read or write in her native language.  Over time, she has learned to speak English very well, has become a citizen and been able to bring three of her children to the United States.  “I am so happy and grateful to Sr. Nancy,” she shared.  I asked her how she had persevered through such challenging times.  She looked at Sr. Nancy and spoke about the program’s support making it possible for her to have hope for her future and her families future.

For Sisters of St Joseph, our earliest documents and our consensus statement remind us that our relationships with our neighbor are fundamental to our reason for existing.  At these two houses, it is evident that our charism is alive and healthy.

Reflection by Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, Sister of St Joseph of Orange at the Leadership Assembly

Below is the reflection from the Leadership Assembly shared with Sr. Mary Beth with the rest of us. Her reflections were based on the following biblical readings:  1 Kings 17:10-16 and Mark 12:41-44.

Sr. Mary Beth Ingham

As we come to the end of our assembly this year, two women join us. Together, they witness for us the power of ‘a life of most pure and perfect charity.’ They each model for us what self-gift can look like, and how in an abundance of generosity life enters the world.
As I reflected on these readings, a memory came to mind. Shortly after the disaster of hurricaine Katrina, I was at a gathering where we shared our experience of some responses to this tragic event. One of our sisters who ministers in Tijuana, Alicia, spoke of the generosity of the people in her parish, who gave willingly and abundantly, even in the midst of their poverty. As I listened to her, I reflected on the link between poverty and generosity, and on the way the very poor can teach me about what it means to give my life away, for the life of the world.

 Prior to this gathering, I had not thought of these two women as images of God, or even images of Jesus, but today I am struck by their actions as an ‘incarnation’ and an invitation – love made flesh, love poured out, a genuine kenosis – self-emptying love. Sr. Benedicte de Vaublanc, a sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, believes that Fr. Medaille wrote the Eucharistic Letter after he was asked to step back from the foundation in Le Puy and elsewhere, after he had to ‘divest’ of his deepest dream, after he knew what it meant to give everything away. It was only then that he could meditate on the Eucharist as the sacrament of absolute self-gift, the sacrament of God’s abundant love, the sacrament of love poured out for the sake of the world.

We see a similar insight coming from our readings today. These two women are both widows, they have no status in their society, and they live in a world very like our own: where hunger stalks many cultures, where ecological disaster seriously threatens whole populations, where the nameless and the powerless have so little. And despite all this, like the people of Tijuana, in the midst of their scarcity, they find the courage to be generous. They recognize that someone needs their help, someone whose needs are greater than their own. Today these women challenge me and perhaps all of us toward greater and greater faith-filled generosity.

The widow who helps Elijah is not afraid to speak her truth to someone more powerful than she. He is the one, after all, who called down the drought upon the land… he is responsible for her suffering. And yet, she is gracious and generous in her willingness to share her bread, handing over all she has. For at this moment, in her eyes, he is more needy than she. And, as we know, her generosity is repaid with the hundredfold, her jar never goes empty. She has enough to live on.

The widow of Mark’s gospel is even less known to us. We don’t even know where she comes from or why she puts her two coins into the basket. Yet she, like Jesus, is seized by love and hands over everything, even the little she has to live on. As she does this, she relies completely on God’s abundant love to sustain her into the future. She relies, as the psalmist says, on the Lord and has nothing to fear.
These women are models for us today: models of divine love, models of self-gift, models of generosity in the face of scarcity. How am I, how are we called to imitate them? Where are the needy around us? Where are the needs in our world? How can we follow their example of abundant love and be sacraments of divine generosity in a world so driven by competition and consumption? As we continue our liturgy, may we pray that we might be so transformed as to become Eucharist for one another and for the world. May we continue to encourage one another and be strengthened by God’s love in our words and in our deeds. May we never forget that our faithful God is a God of abundant love who will not allow our jars to go empty, so long as we remember who we are and who we are called to be for those who suffer, for the outcast, for the stranger, for the poor. And may our actions be bread and life for the world. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 3 on the "Way" to St Flour

On our third day we were most grateful to Peter, our innkeeper who drove us to St Flour for a small fee.  We arrived to find that the tourism office was closed.  We bought our train tickets for the trip back to Le Puy for the mid-afternoon and then set off to find information about our sisters.  What better place to ask than at the building with the sign, Institute St Joseph.  This is a school that was founded by our sisters.  One sister volunteers there now.  The lay principal was very happy to connect us with the sisters and provide guidance on how to get around and what to see in St Flour.  So happily we set off to meet with Sr. Therese.  She kept our backpacks for the morning, provided wonderful welcome and all the additional advice we needed.  She insisted that we come back around 1pm to meet the other two Sisters of St Joseph in St Flour.

The hike up to the old city was steep.  Interestingly, this was the only day that we three were sore from the hiking- perhaps it’s that we didn’t have our hiking poles with us.  Along the way up the hill, there are stations of the cross.  We were mindful of the people that we had carried in our hearts as we ascended to our final destination.  As we entered the Cathedral where we knew the first community of St Joseph had worshipped, we were overwhelmed.  The time spent there was very powerful.

As we descended into the modern city, we were pensive.  Little did we know what lay ahead.  As we stopped by to visit with our three St Flour sisters, we were overwhelmed when they pulled out a piece that I had written about Sr. Griselda, translated into French.  With our limited communications skills, we learned about these sisters.  One had a relationship with one of the sisters who had worked at the United Nations.  As we tried to guess who it was, Sr. Raymond revealed that this sister, while working in the archives in France, had written a poem which she had given to Sr. Raymond.  With tears in her eyes, Sr. Griselda shared that Sr. Mary Alban had given the same poem to her.  We then shared memories of Sr. Mary Alban of Canada who had died during the previous week.

There were so many ways that we felt the international connections and the power of our history as Sisters of St Joseph which all started here in St Flour.  We were glad to have found our way to St Flour.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 2 on the "Way" to St Flour

We set off from St Privat-Allier through a woods
We knew that this beauty has been viewed by our sisters for centuries

We came to a small chapel
The next day we set out for Monistrol D'Allier.  We planned to get there and take the train a little further on.  Again, the walk was spectacular- just strenuous enough to be challenging but not killing.

The companionship was wonderful
At the cafe, Peter came to our rescue
Many hills and valleys stretched our muscles
We got to Monistrol around noon.  We went to the train station to check out our options.  The sad news was that the train was out of commission for a two-month repair.  Bus service had also been severely cut back.  We looked around for information but options there were also limited.  It is a really small village with most shops closed. We headed to an open cafe, Le Pain Sucre.  There we learned from Patrick that our options were not good.  After struggling with our French, he went and got the owner who was from England.  He really encouraged us to walk on to Saugues, which he said was the most beautiful part we would walk.  We knew it was 14 more kilometers but once he said the first four were straight up, we knew we were too tired.  As we explored our options, Peter, the owner became rather intrigued by our walk to our roots.  After several minutes of trying to help us generate a solution, he suggested that he would drive us to St Flour the following morning for a very modest fee.  Again, he mentioned his disappointment that we would not see the beautiful countryside.  I said we could probably comfortably do 5 more kilometers but not 14.  Peter said that he had to go water his horses which were about 4.5 kilometers away at the top of the hill.  He suggested that we ride up with him and walk down.  As you will see from the pictures, it was a wonderful idea.

That evening, we stayed at Peter's bed and breakfast. It is called the "Le Repos du Pelerin."  We went to dinner in the attached restaurant and had the pilgrim's special which ended up being a gourmet three course meal for 16 euros.  It was among the best meals I have ever eaten.

That evening we talked about our journey so far, our walk and our lives.  We were filled with the beauty we had seen, the significance of walking where our sisters and pilgrims had walked for centuries, the moments we had shared, and all that brought us to be sitting together as three sisters of St Joseph.  We do not know each other well or long but we share a special bond.  We especially acknowledged the power of our committing to being flexible and letting this journey take us where it might.  Along the way, we received good advice and needed assistance from people who were total strangers to us.

Our desert that evening was an apple tart served in the shape of a shell, the symbol of the pilgrims on the way to Santiago.  As we prepared to leave the "Way to Santiago" and take our particular path to St Flour we were filled with excitement about what lay ahead.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "Way" to St Flour- Day 1

Srs. Patty, Mary Lou, and Griselda begin from the International Center

Sisters Griselda Martinez Morales from Lyon Mexico, Mary Lou Mitchell from Rochester New York and I (Patty Johnson) from St Louis set out on a pilgrimage from our International Center in Le Puy, France to St Flour, France where the first community of sisters came together in 1648 (before we became officially recognized as a congregation.)  We didn't think we had enough time to walk the whole way so we always knew that we might use public transportation for part of the trip.  We decided we would be flexible along the way and decide our options each day.

The Bishop chats with pilgrims
We began at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Le Puy.  The mass for pilgrims on the "Path to St James Compostelle" in Santiago, Spain, where the apostle St James is buried, is celebrated by the Bishop who presented us with a medal and the invitation to carry some of the prayers left by other pilgrims with us.  We set off out of Le Puy, uphill most of the way and in the rain.  As we left Le Puy, we encountered another pilgrim who we ran into several times throughout our next few days.

When you watch the movie, "The Way," it is somewhat deceiving in that so much of their walking is flat.  Much of our walking was up and down hills.  The scenary was beautiful.  Although a portion of the first day paralleled roads, by the afternoon, we were very much out in the French countryside.

There was a wonderful balance of quiet walking and opportunity for the three of us to talk.  The energy expended going up the hills, the natural beauty, the meaningfulness of where we were hiking, all provided an occasional burst of euphoria similar to that which long distance runners experience.  We knew that we were walking through the homeland where many of our French sisters had walked.  Surely, many had grown up and served in the small villages through which we passed.

Our lunch break in St Christopher
By lunchtime we had hiked 8.5 kilometers to Saint-Christophe-Sur-Dolaizon, a small village with a lovely church and a few stores.  It was obvious that they often welcomed pilgrims and we met up with many of the small groups we had set out with that morning.  At the cathedral in Le Puy, we had shared where we were from and many people remembered Griselda and called out "Mexique" to her as they passed by.
Srs. Mary Lou and Griselda

After lunch the rain stopped, the paths became narrower, and we were more in the country-side.  There were more ups and downs.  By the time we got to Montbonnet, we were pretty tired, it was four in the afternoon and we still had 6.5 kilometers to hike to get to where we were supposed to stop for the night.

We thought we might take a bus to St. Privat-D'Allier.  Although it looked like one might be coming within an hour, a gentleman told us that in fact the sign was wrong.  We were also told it would be hard to get a cab.  We tried several other places and eventually found an internet cafe where we were able to get help.  The owner contacted "Patty" who agreed to transport us to St Privat.  We were so happy to ride the last part of our day.

We arrived at our "Gite d'etape.  We had anticipated sharing a room with three others and a bathroom down the hall but were pleasantly surprised to have the space for only us with our own bathroom and shower.  We had dinner in a common dining room where we met some lovely people.  An English speaking woman from Belgium only seemed to know about contemplative sisters and was quite surprised to learn about us, especially Griselda's work at the United Nations.  A man was walking with his teenage son.  It was quite touching to hear him talk about how the walk was helping him realize that he wanted to develop more of a global perspective.  Another pilgrim in his 20's encouraged him to complete his education, to allow him more possibilities to experience the world by being able to work and travel.  The conversations were quite stimulating- yet we were sound asleep quite quickly that night.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Walk with Me - Update from LCWR

This morning the LCWR Assembly walked together with undocumented immigrants who had come to share their story.  We sang Sr. Kathy Sherman, CSJ,'s song, with the words, "Walk with me, will you walk with me, where together and forever we will live in peace." Young activists from the Hope Community Center, most of whom are "Dreamers" shared with us their struggles of integrating into this culture where they are often ridiculed and humiliated.  One shared the pain of seeing her mother handcuffed in front of her and the years of separation that followed.

We were inspired and challenged to take bolder steps and greater risks to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform will pass in the House.  Speaker Boehner has said that he will not bring any bill to the floor unless more than half of the Republicans will support it. That is a high bar to reach.  We, the constitutents of these people who are there representing us, need to make our voices heard so that either enough Republicans will support immigration reform or Speaker Bohner will be willing to bring a bill to the floor for a vote without significant Republican support.  It is believed that there are enough Republican Representatives willing to support this bill that it could pass.

Ellie Garcia, a dreamer who graduated from high school while here in the US, shared the challenges she faced from the struggles of adapting to US culture and being bullied by peers in school because she was an undocumented immigrant.  At Hope Community Center she gained the courage and perspective to not lose hope at the many obstacles she faces and to become an activist dreamer, calling for the basic human rights of all people and especially humane treatment for immigrants. Ellie was quite moving when she shared how much she appreciated the sacrifices her parents made for her by working in backbreaking manual labor that had so prematurely aged them, so that she and her siblings could hope for a better life.  Ellie asked all of us to stand up for immigrants saying, "We cannot ignore what is happening right in front of our faces."

Evelyn Ricker came to the US from Columbia as a three year old.  Her parents brought her here in the height of unrest in her country when car bombs were indiscriminately exploding on the streets.  When she was 13, she learned that she was undocumented.  Rather than lose hope or live in fear, her faith inspired by her family led her to believe, "God had a plan for my life and my future." Like Ellie, Evelyn was prevented from applying for college since she did not have a social security number.  She continued to have faith and pray that her life path would unfold.  In 2007, she faced the greatest challenge of her life when her mother was arrested in a routine traffic stop.  It appears that there was no violation that lead to the stop. Eventually her mother was deported.  This separation caused such pain that Evelyn went through a period when she rejected God. A turning point occured when she joined a youth group at Hope Community Center and joined the United We Dream movement. Through this she feels empowered to advocate for all the dreamers and the undocumented.  Through her tears, she told us that now her relationship with God is restored and strengthened.  Last year she had the opportunity to meet her mother at the border in Arizona and share time with her with a wire fence separating them.  She shared, "I hold on to a feeling of what it meant to touch my mom again."

LCWR urges us to contact our Representatives and urge them to bring to the House floor an immigration reform bill that ensures family unity; protects the rights of immigrant workers; speeds the processing of already approved immigrants; acknowledges that our borders are already secure, with only minor changes needed; enhances the present diversity visa program; and provides a clear, direct path to citizenship.  We are urged to submit leaders to the editor and show up at town hall meetings with our legislators to bring this important message forward.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 2 at LCWR

I will wait to share the content of today's input for the lead story on the US Federation website on Friday morning.  However, there were a few fun things I wanted to share tonight.  Marcia Allen of Concordia gave her presentation at the candidate's forum for the position of LCWR President Elect tonight.  She gave a wonderful speech about the hopes for the church that women religious have, how the laity have spoken about our prophetic role during this time of the doctrinal assessment and the apostolic visitation. She spoke about reading letters from laity that had inspired her and how women religious needed to speak about the role of laity, especially women, as vital to the church.  She said that this is the moment when we must speak our truth with Pope Frances- we are in concert with him about moving to the edge to serve the marginalized.  Our lives have given us the "fierce discipline of adaptation" which prepares us for this moment in time.  Marcia was asked a question from the audience about her understanding of evolving consciousness .  She spoke of the times that she had taught it in their Manna House Center and how it has influenced the importance of relationships, how the openness to the message that the laity has shared with us, has helped us to understand who we are becoming as we act out out our integrity in our interactions with the church.  In her calm and clear way, Marcia really shared how she has read the signs of the times and has been open to change.  It was a wonderful response that inspired many. As we gathered as a Federation after the meeting, Nancy Conway welcomed Marcia to the room with a rousing cheer.
We had a wonderful celebration of our togetherness after the speeches at our Federation gathering. As Mary Dacey, Co-Chair of the Leadership Council addressed the group, she noted all the significant contributions we as Sisters of St Joseph had made- Marcia's speech, Carol Zinn as President-Elect, Pat Bergin presenting a resolution of ending violence, and Janet Mock as Executive Director.  We all noted that whenever we are together we really have fun.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The First Standing Ovation at LCWR

Carrie and Kim being congratulated by Mercy Sister Mary Washkoviak
On the first night of the LCWR, the only standing ovation went to Nix Conference and Meeting Management as they announced their exciting and innovative new plans to combat human sex trafficking.  Kimberly Ritter, Senior Account Manager recounted for the group the journey that Nix has been on since they were first made aware of the size of the problem in the US and the world.  Nix worked with the Sisters of St Joseph to encourage the Millennium Hotel to sign the ECPAT code of conduct, then Nix worked with ECPAT to develop a code for meeting planners.

Tonight, Molly Hackett, the owner of Nix  announced the launch of Exchange Initiative, Real Resources to End Sex Trafficking.  This newly formed organization by Nix Conference and Meeting Management will empower real resources to help end sex trafficking. They will promote awareness and global understanding of the trafficking problem, while facilitating cooperation and initiating action at the local level.

Molly Hackett, one of the owners of Nix
 after delivering the announcement of the Exchange Initiative.
Their new brochure states it well. " Given our passion about this critical social issue and experience within the travel and tourism industry, we believe formalizing an organization to address the topic to be a natural fit for Nix.... We stand firm in our commitment to protect all children and join forces with other stakeholders to put an end to sexual exploitation."

One of the first activities will be a major conference in St Louis in the Spring of 2014, entitled "IGNITE, Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking which will bring together a broad spectrum of people to engage, educate and empower supporters and stakeholders in the common cause of combating sex trafficking.  You will hear more about this in the coming months.

As you can see, the standing ovation was well deserved.