Welcome to Global Sisters Report!

Welcome to Day One

My first day at National Catholic Reporter was a cold, cold January day in the cold, cold winter of 2014. An arctic blast kept the temperature below zero as I headed to the repurposed house in midtown Kansas City that NCR calls home. A gust of wind blew over me in the parking lot.

Well anyway, I remember a breath-catching gust of wind. Maybe it was really the cold uncertainty that everyone feels starting a new job.

Inside, light poured through the windows in the airy third-floor space where Global Sisters Report would take shape. But wait, we didn’t have that name yet. The walls were pretty bare. The desks were new. It was really quiet.

Lots of people at NCR had been planning and working on this project since the official announcement last August, and some, long before that. But it was all new to me. What’s the big idea? Where to start?

Three and a half months later, here we are, Global Sisters Report. And it is a big, forward-looking idea: reporting on and giving voice to women religious around the world.  

Catholic sisters are skilled, educated, committed agents of change. They engage the world through Gospel values. They live community in ways that disrupt common thinking. Telling their stories and helping them tell their own stories, on a journalistic platform, will be eye-opening.

Read Chris Herlinger’s dispatch today from South Sudan, his first of several for Global Sisters Report. In 10 days on the ground, Herlinger, a contributing writer, found crushing need among civilians caught in the violence – and sisters standing witness to senselessness. Just this week, the United Nations confirmed that rebels searched out and killed hundreds of civilians in the town of Beniu.

Sr. Amala Francis told Herlinger, “The women say, ‘We have no hope with the men because they always want to fight.’” Not a perspective often heard in mainstream media accounts of the ethnic conflict.

Keep reading.

Sr. Joan Chittister writes on the strength of the Global Sisterhood, an “invisible network of impermeable steel forged out of mutual respect.” Sr. Barbara Lum describes her work decades ago as a nurse during the Civil Rights protests in Selma, Ala. Later this week Sr. Caroline Mbonu explains how African women break cultural bonds today when they choose consecrated life.

This is the beginning for Global Sisters Report. We’ll be broadening and deepening our journalism, adding strong voices, covering more ground, finding new ways to connect. Every day people call and write about sisters we need to meet, people who would be great columnists, stories we need to find a way to tell. It is sometimes daunting, almost always exciting.

We focus this year on building our network in the United States and Africa, then stretching deeper into Asia then to Latin America. A new reporter joins us in Kansas City in May, followed by another soon after who will cover women religious in the U.S. GlobalSistersReport.org will phase in new features.

Global Sisters Report wouldn’t be launching without the skilled and focused attention from many folks at NCR. Thank you. To the scores of sisters who inform our work, thank you. To our correspondents, including Jill Day in Zimbabwe; N.J. Viehland in the Philippines and Joachim Pham in Vietnam, thank you.

Special kudos to GSR’s close-by staffers. Sr. Jan Cebula and Sr. Joyce Meyer are building relationships with religious communities and identifying trends and issues. Colleen Dunne and Tracy Abeln are helping report and edit, run social media and, beginning now, managing a dynamic website built by NCR’s web developer, Robyn Haas.

So, I went home that first day in January thinking about the work ahead and warming to the possibilities. My husband, Alan, asked me how it went. I remember telling him, I think they were happy I am here.

I hope that’s how you’ll come to feel about Global Sisters Report: happy we are here, pleased that Catholic sisters have more visibility and voice.

[Mary Lou Nolan is managing editor of Global Sisters Report. She can be reached at mnolan@ncronline.org.]