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 Writer's Desk 

September 19, 2005
Vol. 3, No. 21



Tara Harris Reviewing our reason for being

By Sr. Rita Larivee, NCR publisher

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Every September we prepare for the annual meeting of the NCR board of directors. In many ways, it's a matter of routine with the usual budget reviews and operational assessments. Yet, there is one item on the agenda that is never taken for granted -- it's a review of the company mission. Are we getting it right? Why continue on this road? Are there new challenges to which we must respond? Can we do a better job? Do we have new responsibilities now that we've celebrated our 40th anniversary?

Looking at our mission statement -- "Seeking to inform and inspire a just and peaceful world, serving as a platform for discussions of church, society and global community" -- I'd like to offer my own view on why we do what we do.

Imagine two groups of people. One is made up of visionaries, creative thinkers, and those who have a gift for articulating the moral and spiritual questions of the day. This group is able to see with greater clarity that which most of us catch but mere glimpses. With talent for writing and public speaking, they are capable of capturing our imaginations as they describe their view of history, society, culture and every other facet that helps us understand the complex nature of the human family. They are willing to navigate uncharted waters and to test the boundaries of our perceptions of reality. Some in this group have college educations, some do not. Some are professionals with much experience, some are not. It's a diverse group of people from all walks of life who share one common belief - truth is never to be feared and can withstand any amount of questioning or scrutiny.

The other group is composed of individuals seeking understanding and insight into the moral and spiritual challenges of our lives and of our world. They believe that life and everything around it is evolving. For this group, unchecked certitude is not enough when responding to the ever emerging ethical debates and questions of family, sexuality, poverty, human rights, globalization, the oppression of women, scientific inquiry and concerns for our planet. These are people of faith, people of the gospel, people interested in hearing what others have to offer as possible solutions to the moral and spiritual complexities that surround us. They want to be challenged with new thoughts and deeper insights.

NCR's mission, at its innermost core, is to provide the avenues for these two groups to dialogue in an open and unobstructed manner. Anything less is a breech of faith in what we hold very dear in our hearts - that the Spirit will guide us through prayer, discernment and the dialectic of the community. It can be a frightening experience, but nonetheless trust in the Spirit is a demand of our faith tradition, one that continues to shape both groups and forms the basis of the platform from which these discussions are entertained.

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Though NCR responds in great part to the needs of the Catholic community, it labors for the entire human family. The full demands of the gospel are embraced by all participants as they seek out authentic responses to the call of justice, peace and nonviolence, a preferential option for the poor, compassion, inclusivity, respect for human life and everything this requires on behalf of every human being.

As publisher, I am always challenging the NCR organization to achieve new heights in its responsibility to provide the sacred space where the moral and spiritual conversations of the day can happen. We have a national and award-winning editorial staff, we count on 40 years of networking experience with voices from around the country and the planet, and we have a board of directors and a readership of individuals highly dedicated to the call of justice, peace and the creation of a better world and a healthier church. With these resources, we must accept the challenge to invite others into the conversation through every avenue at our disposal.

Newsprint was the only medium available to us in 1964, the year in which NCR was founded. However, in the past 40 years, the communication industry has changed one hundredfold and we must take advantage of advances in technology to give as many people as possible access to the critical information and the voices of the day that are shaping our moral response to the issues facing humanity.

We will continue our wholehearted commitment of independent journalism at the service of the church, and we will continue to ground our perspectives in the rich tradition of Catholicism, the teachings of sacred scripture, insights from the social and physical sciences, as well as the humanities, and the human experience itself. It is our custom and our belief that we are far better off with the conversations than without them. In many ways, the NCR organization serves as a facilitator for the rich dialogue between diverse groups. We are committed to this self-corrective process that dialogue cultivates. It is our mission and our raison d'etre. Anything less is unworthy of the name Catholic.

Are we getting it right? Why continue on this road? Are there new challenges to which we must respond? Can we do a better job? Do we have new responsibilities now that we've celebrated our 40th anniversary?

These are our questions as we plan for our future. I have little doubt that the responses will provide for a very rich and stimulating conversation.

Rita Larivee, a Sister of St. Anne, is NCR publisher. She can be reached at rlarivee@ncronline.org.

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