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Report: Foundations help sustain sister-affiliated ministries

A recently released study documents and assesses a 10-year initiative undertaken by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina to sustain the ministries of Catholic sisters in Northeast Ohio and South Carolina. The study is: Support for Sister-Affiliated Ministries During Challenging Times: Understanding a Foundation Initiative in Two Regions.

The Collaboration for Ministry Initiative (CMI) comprises two parallel initiatives undertaken by the foundations. The assessment study was undertaken to offer lessons learned from CMI to help others with similar ambitions strengthen and sustain sister-affiliated ministries and grassroots programming.

CMI has drawn on multiple strategies, including convening, grantmaking, communicating and research, in partnership with sisters themselves to sustain a diverse set of ministries. The goal of CMI is to build collaborative capacity within and among ministries by providing grants, training and technical assistance, and opportunities for networking.

The study included a review of all existing records created as part of the initiative, as well as consultation with foundation staff and program officers in South Carolina and Ohio.

The study’s authors found that CMI has produced both expected and unexpected outcomes, reporting that all outcomes “contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of how best to strengthen and sustain ministries.”

The study identified seven principal achievements of CMI, which include:

  • Creating and enhancing the collective identity of sisters
  • Raising the profile of sister-affiliated ministries
  • Building and enriching the capacity of sisters in ministry
  • Building organizational support for ministries
  • Creating ministries
  • Transforming ministries
  • The eventual perception of CMI itself as a ministry

The study concludes that even with the multiple achievements of the CMI in Northeast Ohio and South Carolina, one primary concern remains—the ministry-related work done by Catholic sisters is destined to change as fewer and fewer sisters remain to carry out the work. However, the study’s authors offer hope for the future, writing: “Only through conscious efforts to sustain the underlying mission through whatever services are needed will disadvantaged communities continue to be served by sisters’ legacies. Though the challenge remains and grows ever more urgent, efforts to extend the impact of sisters’ work through new structures and approaches hold great promise.”

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