The African proverb, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together, was meaningful last week as I watched ASEC staff from ten African nations interact with each other, Board Directors and facilitators during a week-long staff development training held at Giraffe Ocean View Hotel, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. An important goal of this staff training was to review and provide feedback on ASEC’s 2020 draft strategic plan.
The plan’s development began in February 2016 when the ASEC Board Directors constituted a standing committee to oversee the ASEC 2020 strategic planning process. The committee, chaired by Board Directors Dr. Marie McCormick and Ms. Brighid Blake, and with members Sr. Kathryn Miller, SSJ, Chestnut Hill College, Dr. Terri Peters, Marywood University, Sr. Kathryn Dougherty, OSF, President, Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia and Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Executive Director, has been actively meeting, planning and deliberating since then. Members have engaged in intensive conversations, interviewed ASEC stakeholders, including staff, funders, and partners across USA and Africa, and drafted relevant documents.
Further, the ASEC Board Directors, together with key staff from the USA, held a one-day retreat in July 2016 to review the process and deliberate on the next steps. They have continued to work tirelessly to map out the next steps for ASEC in support of women religious in Africa, and regardless of the intensive work involved, the process has been very positive.
At the staff development meeting in Tanzania, ASEC staff engaged in studying, discussing and reviewing each of the six strategic directions presented in the draft plan, provided relevant input and affirmed the related strategies. The exercise provided the staff with a unique opportunity for a practical experience and skills practice in strategic planning. They were challenged to think through of their role in implementing the ASEC 2020 plan, which they diligently did. At the shores of Indian Ocean, ASEC staff engaged in envisioning their role not only in supporting the plan but also nurturing and ensuring that it comes to fruition for it is rooted in the support and advancement of women religious in Africa, and addresses the core areas that will continue to strengthen and cultivate religious life, conferences of major superiors and the people served by sisters in all their various ministries in Africa.
The week long engagement activities were an awakening moment. Staff members identified team spirit as a key element in the realization of the strategic directions articulated in the ASEC 2020 strategic plan. Together they discussed their job responsibilities, developed performance goals, engaged in practicing performance appraisal, crafting procedures, program report writing, and articulating a way forward for ASEC alumnae association.
That understanding set a new path, where staff committed to work as a team despite the borders superimposed through political and geographical boundaries. It was a spirit filled time recognizing that, although each staff member represents a unique congregation, our call to bring goodness to the poor is rooted in the Gospel values. ASEC programs provide skills building and higher education credentials to the sisters so they can provide effective services and help transform Africa as they build a path to attain United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). As the staff left the venue of the meeting, there were hugs and good wishes for the implementation of the 2017 programs. I am filled with hope for the staff knows and understand our vision and they are taking part in making it real. Indeed, we are going together! I am so grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for continuing the legacy of the founding father, Mr. Hilton, to support Catholic sisters globally. For sure catholic sisters continue to impact human development in significant ways.