Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Discover Hope

Even if you’ve never come up with one, you know what a tagline is. Recognize these? “Just Do It.” “That Was Easy.” “It’s All Inside.” Taglines synthesize values, express company commitment, and ensure brand recognition. Memorable ones resonate on a level deeper than commerce or sentiment and drive markets into their companies’ corner. For this reason corporations pour millions into clinching the mother of all catchphrases.

In crafting its new tagline, Pauline Books & Media meditated instead. As individuals and as small groups of sisters and co-workers, Pauline Cooperators and friends, we began a year ago to ask ourselves what makes us who we are: What are people looking for when they turn to us? What do we value and how do we communicate that? What message do we want to convey that says “Gospel” to the people of today?

Thus was born “Discover Hope.” We believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate reason for our hope, and our mission exists to bring people into conversation and relationship with him by entering into conversation with them, building community with them. It may be through one of our media products or services or through our own witness as his disciples. No small task, but that gives us reason to live in hope too! In fact, one of the first steps in deciding upon this tagline was the realization that “we are meant to be the first encounter with Christ that each person experiences when coming into contact with us; we are meant to be the communication of Christ" (Sr. Margaret Timothy Sato). We may stammer or blur the image in the process, as everyone does, but we can’t stop communicating. “When they see our logo, they will feel like they’ve just pulled up in the driveway of their best friend” (Sr. Leonora Wilson, superior of the US/ESC province).

Whom are we trying to reach in this way? Sr. Margaret Timothy, the provincial superior at the time of the internal launch, named them clearly: “a much wider audience than we presently reach—the broader, and for the most part, unchurched audience that is the vast majority of our population.”

How does the tagline do this? What are we saying by the process? Again Sr. Timothy points out: “we are revitalizing ‘Pauline’ as a name that identifies all of who we are and what we do in mission…. In reflecting on ‘Discover Hope,’ four key attributes emerged that articulate this well, elements that we have long recognized as characteristic of our mission, and therefore of Pauline.” They are elements that “describe our values [and] express how people have benefitted from us over the years. The four attributes of our branding statement—PASSIONATE, TRUSTED, JOYFUL, and SANCTUARY—are promises we can make to the people we are called to minister to…. what we are known for.  These qualities are found in our community’s Constitutions and they express what we strive to be for the people we serve.

Sr. Margaret Timothy plays and
directs at the Jubilee Mass last

“We are PASSIONATE – “We invest our whole lives to bring the Gospel of hope to people yearning for God’s love.” This is the gift and privilege of our total belonging to Christ! ‘We will use any form of technology to proclaim God’s message in the best way possible.’”

The second key element is that for generations we have been TRUSTED by others in the area of life they most wonder about or that is most precious to them—their faith. Fidelity to our mission, like fidelity to our consecration, means we can communicate to the people of our society, “You can trust us to be your authentic resource for books and media solidly rooted in our Catholic identity.”

Sr. Fay and Sr. Nazarene
A third element which describes us as Paulines, “We are JOYFUL—In whatever venue you find us, we will welcome you with joyful hearts.” Both our founder and co-foundress point out to us the joy that should characterize our lives, a joy that was often captured in photos of them. It was the joy of the sisters that drew many of us to our community and that still invites young women today.

Sr. Tracey and Sr. Anne Joan
cantor the responsorial psalm.
Sr. Margaret Timothy concluded, “The fourth element descriptive of our Pauline mission is that wherever we meet people, and in whatever context, we know that the encounter is sacred. We are a SANCTUARY. The communication—of our words, actions, gestures, and silences—because we are sincerely striving to live Christ, provides a sanctuary for others. We communicate to the people we meet, ‘in encountering me, you can ‘encounter God.’ And it is God ‘who gives [to all of] us wholeness and meaning.’

At first glance, it would seem we’re still addressing those we have addressed for years. To some extent we are; we don’t want to abandon them either! But if these, if you, can capture some of what we’re promising, if you can be “passionate, trusted, joyful and a sanctuary” for many we may not reach directly, Jesus Christ can be proclaimed to those many, as well. We are inviting you to be ambassadors of Christ like Paul. It can sound strange, but in a very real sense, together with you we need to “be” the brand—because by our Christian vocation we are all meant to be Christ who is our hope. So whether you access our new Web site, walk into a PBM Center, share your story of hope on the Discover Hope Facebook page, give a PBM media gift to someone, donate to a Pauline project (see the “Donate” button on the right sidebar), or pray for this mission, you can be a Pauline ambassador of hope!

But even directly, the unchurched can discover hope through Pauline media. These four characteristics are primarily our commitment to proclaim “peace to those far off [from faith] and peace to those nearby” (Eph. 2:17). “Today’s digital media give us the best opportunity we have ever had to give the Gospel to every person. As the number of cell phones in our nation approaches the number of teenagers & adults in our nation, we genuinely have the possibility of reaching our GOAL—to place the Gospel in everyone’s hands, and even more importantly, in their hearts” (Sr. Margaret Timothy).

We had our own internal tagline launch in the spring and planned the public launch to coincide with the anniversary date of our founding as a Pauline Family—August 20. It just so happens that the launch also coincides with the start of the triennium—or three years of preparation—leading up to the centenary of our founding in 2014. In addition it coincided with seven other anniversaries—those of four sister silver jubilarians, one golden, and two diamond. Sisters Marie James Hunt, Marie Bernard Tran, Jane Raphael Livingston, Sean Marie David, Mary Mark Wickenhiser, Mary Paula Kolar, and Mary Louise Oddi celebrated and reaffirmed their commitment to incarnate Christian hope and to be hope for the culture of communication.

It was a wonderful day! Of course families and friends joined the community in pulling out all the stops: Liturgy, flower arrangements, music, preaching, food, décor, and more tell something of our love for these sisters and of the sign they are for us all.

Decades of fidelity are impressive. So I asked some of them to share the “secret” of their fidelity. “I know,” I said, “the grace of God. So now that we’ve established that, what is it—an attitude, a practice, whatever—that is yours personally, that has made the grace of God fruitful in your perseverance?”

Sr. Jane responds, “God is full of surprises. Expect the unexpected. When the reality that ‘Nothing is impossible for God’ meets with our willingness to trust, the recipe for miracles is present, and the rest is history.”

Then I ask Sr. Mary Mark. Her laugh tells much…and has you guessing at the rest! Sincerely, though, she answers with a memory that stretches back to her earliest years of formation. “Since I was a postulant, I have prayed the Pact* every day of my life. You know, when you’re young, you’re not sure about [your vocation], and you go day by day trusting those who tell you what God’s will is. I reached a certain point, though, when I had a heartfelt conviction that this Pauline life—its consecration and apostolate—is God’s will for me.”

Sisters Louise, Mary Paula, and Mary Mark
 Sr. Louise understands that. She says, “I used to ask: Is it really God’s will [that I stay]? Yes. I had signs that it was. When I was a postulant, I went to Confession to the Founder, and he didn’t say I wasn’t meant for this life. So I took it as God’s will. Everything wasn’t very easy for me, but when things crossed me, I kept thinking, ‘Let go of it, don’t dwell on it. Five years from now it won’t matter. I won’t even remember what it was.’ So much of our life is like that.”

Each in her own way singled out peace, humor, and trust. They’ve been at it for years and show every indication of staying at it for as long as God gives them breath. None of them says that now they can coast along or stop altogether. Fidelity in love is ongoing and calls for a commitment renewed every day.

In her comments about the tagline, Sr. Leonora says the same: “St. Paul posed the question, ‘How are they to hear if no one preaches?’ We…need to insure that the Word is heard. If nobody calls the 800 line or goes to the website, if no one walks into our Pauline Book & Media Centers, if no one turns to the PCMS for media literacy, if nobody wants our evangelization teams to touch their parishioners …what then? Thus the importance of launching out again and again.” This ongoing fidelity becomes “a hallmark of our one, apostolic vocation of giving Jesus to the world.”

* The “Pact,” or “Secret of Success” is a prayer—a prescription for a way of life, really—given by the founder, Fr. Alberione, to the Pauline Family only a few years after it began. It will be the topic of next week’s blog. See you then!

1 comment:

  1. Discover Hope! It's pithy, it's upbeat - I like it! Of the three theological virtues, hope is the one that I've been most confused about over the years. I have a friend who just wrote to me that so much tragedy has happened to her in the past 10 years that she now has the feeling that every endeavor will end badly. Everything she does will turn to tragedy. "Hope" seems to me to be the element for which she pines -- and how she can acquire it, or whether it will be showered on her, or how I can help bring it into her life (prayer?) is my challenge. Let me meditate on this - how can I help her discover hope? - Rae


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