Voices Crying Out at a Conference

A Letter from the Executive Director

You are most recognized for promoting service that transforms. But you also prepare volunteers to find their voices for leadership. That’s a great thing to honor during Advent.

Two days into our annual conference in November, I lost my voice. After initial frustration, I actually became glad for the loss when I heard Sr. Teresa Maya of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious speak. She said that one measure of a leader is how many opportunities they create for others to lead; how many they promote to realize their potential. Part of that is allowing more voices to be heard. When the need arose, CVN staff (all who served with a member program) were ready to speak.

Seeing them up on stage making connections between faith, service, and leadership was moving. It reminded me of the thousands of volunteers you shape each year through service opportunities and companionship. Even if you aren’t always able to witness it, you prepare volunteers to literally “step up” when leadership is required. And you motivate them to pursue efforts like a new one we offered at the conference.

For the first time, over 30 current and former volunteers took part in a day at the conference designed to help them reflect on their service experiences, identify personal and professional skills, and explore how to foster life-long commitment to social justice, simplicity, spirituality, and community. Many of the participants were ready for such a day because of you and your programs. The discussion was rich, and most said: we want more of this!

The volunteer day, leadership cohorts, and other special efforts equipped us. In addition, keynote speakers inspired and challenged us. They reminded us that to serve and lead authentically requires the hard work of walking with our shadows and vulnerabilities. We were encouraged to listen and respond to the rumbling in our Spirits because: who are we to not trust God? And we were reminded to remain grounded in the humanness we share with others.

One of CVN’s several rising staff leaders stepped up and brought it all together as we prepared to leave. Katie Delaney reflected on how the labyrinth (the symbol for our conference) represents a deep way of walking that offers a chance to trust God more deeply:

“It is all too easy for me to become discouraged, distracted, or deterred by my and our failures, hypocrisies, and contradictions – the antithesis of walking the talk. What gives me faith and courage are the friends, mentors and role-models who, by their witness, draw me back into the place of Truth and Love. Those living their vocation and calling so grounded in Spirit, so intimately tied to experience.”

Whether you were there or not, I know you are with us. You are the friends, mentors and role-models. You are preparing future leaders to find their voices. Be proud of helping many be heard.

During Advent, God raises up new voices in surprising ways. May you prepare well during this Advent season. May God prepare your voice for more witness, service, and leadership.

With you in service,
Yonce Shelton
Executive Director

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