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The Beauty of Collaboration

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

This week, I spent three days at the Annual NASPA Convention, where executive directors, rectors, board members and staffers from shrines and pilgrimage apostolates around the country gathered to be renewed in their commitment to mission, inspired to grow together, and return well-prepared to serve pilgrims throughout the country.

 

To build a strong community presence, look for ways to collaborate and cooperate with neighboring and/or like-minded organizations that share your mission.


For Catholics, this might mean shifting our mindset: we are partners working towards a common mission, not competitors trying to drown out other voices. For an organization like the National Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate (NASPA), connection and collaboration is key to their mission. NASPA is a nationwide organization that works with the USCCB to renew understanding of shrines as key to the new evangelization, inspire interest in pilgrimages as part of a journey of faith, and serve the teams who directly minister to visitors.



NASPA President and Carol Bezak notes that shrines and pilgrimages can play a role in the Eucharistic Revival. “Through this network of Shrines, we want to help people encounter the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist."


Through their website, regular networking webinars, and an annual convention, NASPA connects more than 30 member shrines and has contact with more than 150 additional shrines, pilgrimage groups and professional organizations.


“Our Membership ranges in size from small Shrines, run by a volunteer lay staff or friends organizations, to large destinations with fully-staffed teams. Every singe one is important,” notes Ashleigh Buyers-Kassock, NASPA team member.


Participating in national organizations like NASPA can help boost your organization’s profile on the national level. It also provides high-profile opportunities for collaboration in intentional ways. As your organization make an effort to cooperate, be sure to elevate these partnerships, learn from what works well, and highlight success among ministry teams with special, personalized recognition.


 

In the final session of our conference this week, Dr. Jem Sullivan, Associate Professor of Practice, Catechetics for the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America talked about the essential role that beauty plays in a visual culture like ours.


She noted that artists use materials from the physical world and craft them in such a way as to lead us from the visible world into the invisible realm. Each of these elements: stone and mortar, glass and lead, fabric and thread, notes and voice, must all unite in a carefully crafted plan to be truly transcendent beauty.


Mosaic Chapel
The Luminious Mysteries Chapel at the Shrine of Saint John Paul II

In addition to our conference time, we all had a little free time to explore Washington D.C. - a city designed with great intention and attention to detail in creating the capitol of a new nation. Of course, I went straight the Smithsonian to enjoy the First Ladies exhibit on how the art of entertaining and style has influenced the nation's culture.


From this sartorial selection collection, to the mosaics in the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, I found a common thread: the design, the quality of the materials, and the skill of the artist all unite in pursuit of balance, proportion, and radiance:



Both featured in D.C - from Pope St. Paul II's traveling ensemble, to Maimie Eisenhower's evening gown, clothing can tell us so much about a person, and evoke admiration, affinity, even nostalgia.


Pope St. John Paul II tell us, in his Letter to Artists that "Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God."

 

Featured cover image: Jaqueline Kenney's famous faux pearl necklace.









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