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NACAR Tenth Anniversary

Dominican Associate Director Receives
Partners In Mission Award

Mary Kay Gilbert

CINCINNATI, OHIO – Close to 500 vowed Religious and Associates of religious communities in the United States and Canada celebrated the tenth anniversary of the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) at the biennial conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 2-4, 2006.

The first Partners in Mission Award was presented to Barbara Sharp, former Associate Coordinator for the Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI. Barbara was nominated for this award by Carla Mae Streeter, OP

Winner of the first NACAR Partners in Mission Award was Barbara Sharp, former Associate director for the Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI. Presenting the award to Barbara (center) were NACAR board members Barbara McMullen, CDP (left) and Marci Madary (right).

In receiving the award Babara said, “ Association gives each of us the opportunity to share our strengths, support each other in mission, and challenges each of us to live fully the charism we share. Anything I may have done was made possible because of this. As grateful as I am for this recognition, I am even more indebted to the associates and religious who have been a support and encouragement to me and enabled me to reach out to others.”

According to NACAR Executive Director, Ellen O’Connell, SC, the tenth anniversary of NACAR celebrates the development of a grassroots network that has accomplished great things in a short amount of time. This includes production of The Associate, a grassroots publication that reports on the growing Associate Movement in the United States and Canada, and the publication of a landmark study on the Associate Movement in the U.S. titled Partners in Mission: A Study of Associates and Religious in the U.S. NACAR has grown along with Associate communities. “In 2002 we counted 27,400 Associates in the U.S. alone. Canadian Associates add an additional 12,000+,” said O’Connell.

“This national conference gave each person attending a new perspective on the Associate movement and how it is growing and positively affecting the persons, the religious communities, and the church,” reported conference co-chair Mary Jo Mersmann, director of Associate program for the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, award-winning author and lecturer, gave the keynote address: Religious Charisms and the Spiritual Journey. Rolheiser is currently president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, and the author of The Holy Longing and The Shattered Lantern.

In recommending Barbara Sharp, Sister Carla stated, “Barbara was one of the first Associates to become Director of Associates for a religious congregation. With the formation director of the congregation, she created a set of modules for those seeking association. Even more significant was her pastoral presence to Associates. She was there for them, often going the extra mile just to be present in grief and struggle. She worked to create days of retreat and reflection shared by both vowed and Associates. In addition to her ministry for the congregation, Barbara has also served the Dominican Federation and NACAR. Partnership between vowed Religious and Associates is central to her vision and ministry. Barbara is an outstanding Associate, a woman who lives out the relational bond that is at the heart of Association.”

Executive Director Ellen O’Connell, SC-New York (right), presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Grace Mannion, RSM,

Receiving the first Lifetime Achievement Award was Grace Mannion, RSM, NACAR’s founding board president. The nominations noted “Sister Grace’s long-standing and outstanding contribution to the Associate Movement in North America on the local, regional and national levels. As director of Connecticut’s Extended Mercy Program since 1987, Sister Grace, in collaboration with a committee of Associates and Sisters, has established a formalized program for admission to and continuation in Mercy Association. In 1996, at the national meeting of Associates and Religious, Sister Grace volunteered her assistance and experience. She became the first NACAR Board President, serving in that capacity for nine years. Her wisdom, experience and graciousness led the organization through its difficult early days. Always fully informed, always supportive, always consultative, always pleasantly and subtly directive, Grace has worked diligently and well to play her part in the developing world of Associate relationship.”

Anita Davidson, Coordinator of Associates for the Dominican Sisters of Akron and Columbus preached at the vigil Eucharist for Pentecost. Saturday evening also celebrated the transition of leadership from founding Executive Director, Ellen O'Connell, SC, to new Executive Director, Catherine Schwemer, PHJC.

Attendees from 33 states, four Canadian provinces, and Puerto Rico chose from a variety of break-out sessions from local presenters that included such topics as Praying With the Labyrinth, The Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking, Writing As a Means of Personal Growth, Spirituality in the Workplace, Peering Into the Future of Associate Relationship, and more.

They explored the theme “The Rivers of Living Water Flow From Within” during the conference, which was hosted by local members of the organization at the Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University, Cincinnati.


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