“Networking” is a tired cliché that describes an essential though often-avoided part of organizational life. Among those involved in nonprofit or ministerial work, networking may result in stretching already scarce resources wider to serve a cause. Not to mention the personal toll on time and energy that such gatherings can take.
We may find refuge behind our screens — avoiding traffic, bad weather, and people we’d rather not talk to. Online social networking has changed forever how groups interact in our culture. For example, the concept of “community” has taken on new meanings. According to the Random House dictionary, community is: “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.” Online communities, however, gather around hobbies, interests, or opinions, with membership open to people from a wide variety of cultural and geographic backgrounds. All that’s necessary to join is internet access. What online interaction lacks is a fundamental aspect of true community; that is, the physical contact that comes with proximity and interaction.
Community is, in part, what the Catholic Leadership Collaborative offers. As Pope Francis encouraged the Church at World Youth Day 2013:
Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. . . . . Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community.
Jesus’s teachings are relevant today as we gather to share experiences, best practices and yes, network, on behalf of the Kingdom – yet to come, and in our midst. Our gatherings create a forum for Catholic Leaders to come together and experience the graces of community, friendship, and shared mission. In this setting, we bring ourselves to the counter-intuitive work of the servant. Described by Charles Winters of Loyola University, New Orleans:
There is a kind of passivity at the heart of every ministerial encounter. We might express this passive aspect of ministry by saying that it’s not so much what we say as what we do, and it’s not so much what we do as who we are that matters.
As ministry leaders, may we create that space, together, where our most impactful work can be done:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20