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Challenges and Opportunities

By Lourdes Rodriguez- Nogues, President, DignityUSA

During the weekend of July18 -20, the Board had its second face-to-face meeting of the year, this time in Madison, Wisconsin. The folks from the Integrity/Dignity Madison community were very gracious hosts and we enjoyed joining them at their liturgy on Saturday night, followed by a gourmet pizza party. Thank you, Madison, for sharing your gifts with us, and for your warm, welcoming spirit. Thank you also, for your loyal support of DignityUSA and your generous contribution of talent and treasure through the years.

As you all probably know, for the past six years the Board has been taking their meetings on the road. We meet face to face three times a year: spring, summer, and fall, and we have had the opportunity now to visit with many of our Dignity communities across the U.S. It really is a wonderful experience for us to get to know groups and individual Dignity members better, and to take to them a glimpse of the work achieved by DignityUSA. Our next meeting in October will be in Seattle, to have an opportunity to meet with the convention host community and to experience first hand the Convention 2015 hotel to ensure all is as expected for your arrival in the summer of 2015.

Our meeting in Madison was very productive and, as always, we had a good time with one another. We work hard, but we always take the opportunity to spend time with one another, developing our relationships, and enjoying a few good laughs. It really helps us to work better together as your Board when we devote some time to relate to one another socially before or after the meeting, at breakfast, for a drink at night, before bedtime, lunching together, and praying together. And yes, we do laugh a lot!

One of the things we did at this meeting was to go over the results of the survey of our Dignity members conducted by Dr. Michele Dillon. It was interesting to note that the Catholicism of the Dignity members who responded to this survey is, by and large, similar to that of American Catholics as a whole, and that the respondents share with LGBT individuals nationwide a relatively similar political profile. This survey also showed that a high number of them connect to Dignity via the website and the on line newsletter and not necessarily as members of a chapter. There will be more information on the results of this survey in future publications.

As we discussed the results of the survey, the Board continued to face the challenge of how much our community has evolved through our 40-plus years. This presents for us both a challenge and an opportunity. One of the most engaging and energized conversations ensued, led by a presentation that our Executive Director Marianne based on some thoughtful conversation she had had with our professional staff. Starting with the question "What do our chapters offer that is relevant for today and into the future?" we examined the decline in chapter numbers and attendance, the vibrant life of many other chapters and caucuses, the existence of a large "virtual" Dignity community, the many social- and justice-oriented activities already in existence in our chapters, and the many successful partnerships our communities are involved in. If you pay attention to all of that, we concluded, our challenges will seem like very inviting possibilities and our energies can move into building a new future in our communities. In order to continue this conversation, and to send us into action to make it happen, the Board will plan a summit of creative visionaries and leaders. Thanks to the monies received through an estate donation from a very generous deceased member, we will have funds to make this happen. Look for more information and details on this summit at a future date.

Of course, as usual during our Board meetings, the Board paid attention to our budget, reports from our committees (fundraising, chapter services, technology, publications, media relations...) our caucuses (Defenders, women, transgender, young adults) and our staff. A busy but very productive weekend indeed. Personally, I truly enjoy the meetings. For one thing, I prefer these face-to-face meetings to do our business and believe that we do our very best work when we are together.

In addition, I truly enjoyed the visit to Madison, a very nice city. Our hotel on the Capitol Square added to the ambience (I loved the Farmer's Market right at our door: homemade cheese and honey brought home to Boston!). The visit with a chapter is always a highlight for me, and this one was no exception. But, I have to say, one of the things that always impresses me the most is the professionalism, dedication and giving of time and money of the members of the Board. And I thanked for that, again, on your behalf. I also learn a lot from the reports and from each Board member about our communities out there, and again I marvel at how much Dignity members do and contribute to our work of justice and faith. I thank you all, for each of your contributions is an important part of this inclusive church we are and witness.