By David Lichter
By the time you read this, my 14 years as Executive Director will be effectively over. So many of you have been so gracious in sharing your gratitude for my years with you. I am humbled by your prayers of support and your appreciation. We have been on this journey together. I thank God for the gift of Erica Cohen-Moore, who will continue this ministry of support to you, our members.
This past fall, I shared with your NACC Board of Directors some thoughts on these past years. I will adapt those thoughts to this column. My headings are plans, partnerships, programs, and people.
In my prior consulting work, our firm used a quote attributed to President Dwight Eisenhower that he said he got from a soldier during the war: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” In 1957, he gave a slightly longer version: “The details of a plan which was designed years in advance are often incorrect, but the planning process demands the thorough exploration of options and contingences. The knowledge gained during this probing is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as future events unfold.”
When I started in 2007, I was happy to find a fresh strategic plan (2007-2012) in place. Since then, we have created three more. My role was to help the board to clarify the meaning and intent of the plan as unfolding events required us to shift our course together. Each board meeting, I described activities related to each goal and suggested some next steps.
Again, both the planning process and the ongoing dialogue on these priorities helped us strategically think and plan together. Each process was very different, but critical at the time.
Early on, I memorized the mission statement, since I used it so often. I am grateful to the board for its ongoing reflection on the social, cultural, professional and ecclesial environments within which our members minister, and how best to prepare for the future.
I remain so deeply grateful for the partnership opportunities in my first 90 days as Executive Director. In September 2007, nearly 40 volunteer leaders from our strategic partners met for three days at Disney World in Florida to begin planning the 2009 joint conference with our cognate groups. Over the years, biweekly calls with my executive colleagues (APC, ACPE, NAJC, and CASC) have been vital for partnership development. I am grateful to our collaboration in 2015-2016 to revise the Common Qualifications and Competencies.
In October 2007, over 50 leaders from Catholic healthcare and education gathered in Omaha for Decision Accelerator to identify metrics of spiritual care, and I met many people who remain key partners many years later. That partnership set the groundwork for what became the CHA Pastoral Care Advisory Committee. How providential that beginning was. How vital for NACC going forward.
Also 2007, the Certification Commission submitted standards and procedures to the USCCB Commission on Certification and Accreditation. Sr. Kay Sheskaitis, chair of the CCA at the time, stopped at our office (just a couple of miles from hers) and spent good time with me explaining their work and expressing appreciation for NACC. I was very grateful for Suzanne Chawszczewski’s work and relationship with Sr. Kay.
In 2010, the USCCB replaced the CCA with the Subcommittee on the Certification of Ecclesial Ministry and Service (SCEMS), for whom I served as a consultant for 10 years. That partnership, along with the relationships with the bishops on our NACC Episcopal Advisory Council, supported and helped define “in the name of Church” – the last phrase of our NACC mission statement. These are indispensable partnerships.
Our Partners in Planning for Pastoral Care initiative began five years ago when 20-plus partners gathered in Milwaukee to plan new pastoral care resources and formation/certification paths. We still need to make more resources available to dioceses as we work through the challenges of COVID. Hopefully, these partnerships will develop further, with next steps guided by discernment, patience, commitment, and courage.
When I arrived in 2007, NACC had an annual national conference which was well attended. There had been no regional education gatherings for six years, but the strategic plan’s first goal was to remedy that. I remember meeting Tim Serban and 40 other members at our first local gathering on Dec. 14, 2007, the Feast of John of the Cross, at Palisades Retreat Center in Tacoma, WA. Over the next four years, we averaged nearly 20 local events per year. The programs were successful because they let our members meet and engage with one another, strengthening a sense of community in this ministry.
In 2011, we started the audio conferences that evolved into our webinars. These monthly offerings again are not only content, but also a way for our members to connect. We continue to think through what should be the distinctive offerings of NACC alongside the educational offerings of our other professional association partners. With the new offerings of Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and Transforming Chaplaincy, along with CHA, so much is now available to our members. Each year we are challenged to find topics and presenters that will meet our members’ needs at a reasonable price.
Staying member-focused is vital. We are real people with real lives. How do we continue to listen to you, our members, letting you know you are cared for and part of our mission?
By my German heritage and my family upbringing, I can lean toward being responsible, work-driven, and a “must do” demeanor. Being very introverted and a doer, I sometimes tend to want to “get something done” rather than devote time to relationships, enjoying and being nourished by them. It’s a lifelong discipline to tend to others’ lives first, to learn to delay the task in order to take a call, answer an email, and spending the beginning of a Zoom meeting asking about people’s life situation.
Ironically, I hunger to learn from people’s life stories. They are the living Gospel today – how Jesus calls me to awe and conversion. I have been changed by you, our members. Our NACC listening sessions during the early months of COVID were times of inspiration and shared compassion for one another. It’s what we are about.
Going forward, I know this is the hallmark of NACC – a people association, caring for one another. I thank you again for the gift of serving you and this ministry in the name of the Church.