August 1, 2012, will mark my fifth anniversary with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). I thank God daily for the gift of service and ministry with you and on your behalf. The other day, as I was sorting through some items for our recent home move, I came across my thesis for my Licentiate in Theology of 1977, only 35 years ago! The thesis was on Karl Rahner’s “Theology of Death as a Natural and Person Event.” It explored Rahner’s theological anthropology, his understanding of nature and grace, and how the human person throughout his or her life lives daily and practices the art of dying. With each “yes” to the moment, sometimes to small and great sacrifices and unknowns, we rehearse and prepare for the final “yes” as we in freedom and faith hand ourselves over to the greatest mystery, death itself. He called asceticism the anticipatory grasp of death, when we embrace freely limits to our human existence, whether in the form of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, or in the form of daily demands our vocation in life brings to us.
I thought back to my studies, to my passion to read anything and everything about death, about ascetical practices, and how we as human beings seek the Mystery in everyday life, especially when we encounter and deal with suffering. Little did I know that three decades later, God would bring me full circle and remind me of and renew in me that passion, as I am now enriched daily by your ministries and your stories that live out what I hungered to learn so much about then.
My daily prayer is for you, for your ministry, and for the mission of NACC, that we may continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the church.
When I arrived August 1, 2007, I was charged with leading the implementation of the new NACC 2007-2012 Strategic Plan. Great energy and life went into the creation of the plan by the board, staff, and the Vision and Action Team. What was clear from the plan and those who interviewed me is that member engagement and renewal in NACC was a top priority. I was grateful that, within the first three months I was with NACC, I was able to join more than 30 Spiritual Care Collaborative (SCC) planning team members to prepare for the 2009 SCC Summit, and more than 50 spiritual care leaders at the CHA/NACC Omaha Summit to dialogue on and create action plans around key issues of metrics, staffing, and marketing recruitment. However, I was and remain most grateful to so many of you who during the remainder of 2007 and 2008 invested yourselves in task forces, became state liaisons, planned and hosted more than 20 local events, and offered to be nominees for the NACC board, committees, commissions, panels, etc. Within the first 18 months of my tenure, there was a remarkable surge of member interest and investment to bring new life to NACC. That interest and investment has not waned. Thank you for your commitment to the mission and future of NACC! We need you now more than ever.
Let me offer two other examples of recent member investment. Since last spring the NACC Board of Directors has been discussing the review and revision of the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan. While the Board did its work over the summer, at the fall 2011 board meeting, and during subsequent conference calls, we were deeply appreciative of and helped by our member investment in reviewing and offering feedback on the three drafts of the plan. We received more than 120 responses to Public Draft I, nearly 200 responses to Draft II, and more than 300 members reviewed and gave feedback to Draft III at the 2012 business meeting. Nearly 50 members volunteered to assist with developing implementation strategies for the plan’s goals and objectives. This member investment in the plan development is a strong signal that we will be moving forward together into the future. Thank you for your investment in NACC!
Secondly, the NACC Board determined more than three years ago to establish a Nomination Panel that would assist the Governance Committee in identifying, qualifying, and recommending candidates for the NACC board of directors, committees, commissions, and panels. If you recall, in fall 2007 we had no board candidates, other than the two board members who were eligible for a second term. In spring 2008, we had five high quality candidates for one board seat. While this was a good sign of member interest, it also left the board thinking about how to best engage members in leadership discernment, as we learned many candidates for one position was not always best use of talent. These candidates could serve the association in diverse ways. Thus, the Nomination Panel was set to begin its work. Over these next years, the Nomination Panel has sought to identify and learn more about our members who are in or might be called to volunteer leadership roles with NACC. The panel learns of all upcoming vacancies, reviews names and backgrounds of members who have provided them on application forms, invites our members to consider positions as they open up, and then assesses the position criteria and applicants’ backgrounds. The two “investments” here are: the significant investment of the Nomination Panel members in this process, and the investment of our members to share their interest in positions and their backgrounds on the application forms and open themselves to being involved in this discernment process. In 2009, the board had two candidates for one seat, in 2010, two candidates for two seats, and in 2011, two candidates for one seat. This year this investment process again took place and the Nomination Panel recommended to the Governance Committee one candidate for one open board seat.
Of course, our dream is to have in our database the professional background, interests, and prior leadership experience with NACC. This will help us immensely as we do leadership succession. In the coming weeks we will be asking you for this information, and I hope you will invest a few moments in providing this information so that we can better know about you and how you have interest in serving the NACC.
Again, I am grateful for your investment in the future of NACC. May we continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the church!
Peace to you,
David A Lichter, DMin
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