GSR celebrates six-month milestone

Screenshot of homepage from May 21, 2014.

Last spring, a few hours into the launch of our website, I got a telling lesson in global reach: People in 57 countries were already reading us.

I smiled, and then it struck me for the first time (!) that the word catholic is a synonym for global.  Global Sisters Report was the perfect name!

I don’t remember exactly how we got to it, except to say it was a process, a coming together over time of staffers at National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company. And I freely admit my denseness. I bet everyone else in the room had internalized the connection long before.

But it was a moment for me. And today, six months to the day after we launched, I’m celebrating the name, the staff, the Catholic sisters and the catholic values that drive our work.

Here’s hoping a cork or two gets popped but, whatever, we’re toasting this list of staff favorites from our first months. Read them – and by all means, share them. Several times, please.

There’s a story to tell behind most of the stories – maybe a quirky source, an inspiring subject or a not-so-inspiring deadline – but what stands out to me is how close to the ground they feel. In a Zambian farming community for resettled slum families. In a Texas border city with residents helping unaccompanied minors. In Vietnam’s Central Highlands with isolated ethnic minorities.

Sr. Joyce Meyer blogged about the Zambian farm, where a Nigerian sister helped 26 families build a community. She was amazed by what she saw growing in August, without an irrigation system: acres of grapes and fruit trees and an experimental section with fig, kiwi, macadamia and mulberry trees.

Here are other favorites, suggested by GSR staffers:

In an essay that that launched GSR in April, Chris Herlinger described the challenges people faced in Juba, South Sudan, and the burden that women bear in war. It became the first of four articles he reported there.

In July, amid controversy over undocumented minors, Dan Stockman described how Catholics stepped up to help. Staffer Sara Wiercinski thinks the story deserves attention. “Though the news cycle has left this issue behind, these sisters and their ministries continue to help vulnerable people.” In a well-read column Sr. Janet Gildea wrote about the faith-based response to the humanitarian crisis when immigration officials asked for help in El Paso and Tracy Abeln answered this question from readers: How can I help the children coming across the border?

Dawn Cherie Araujo helped cover the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Nashville and spoke with two backers of a renewable energy resolution who famously protested plans for the now suspended Bluegrass Pipeline.

In a startling piece, Melanie Lidman recounted how Boko Haram terrorists overran a Catholic clinic compound in northern Nigeria and shared photos of the sisters’ burned-out building. Earlier this month, Lidman spoke with a Franciscan sister in Monrovia, Liberia, about how Catholic organizations have used their network there to fight Ebola.

Sr. Jan Cebula, in a deceptively simple blog, wondered what would happen if we focused our problem-solving on the people most affected by violence and inequality. How would life change for those on the margins?

Columnist Tracy Kemme, a novice with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, wrote in July about celibacy and the search for intimacy as a young Millennial woman.

Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans detailed how a model for sustaining Catholic schools in the urban core is changing lives in Camden, N.J.

Joachim Pham joined three Vietnamese sisters in May as they took food and medicine to one of the families in 20 isolated villages that they visit by motor scooter. 

Retta Blaney profiled an Ursuline sister who leads a standing-room-only Bible class at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

Finally, Three Stats and a Map (also by Dawn) is a favorite feature at GSR. This piece highlights findings of a Pew Research poll about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and a map showing how news of it spread across Twitter. Read more of them at

[Mary Lou Nolan is managing editor of Global Sisters Report.]