Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Merging Monasteries

This week I've been working on a big story at the monastery. On Saturday, the Sisters of Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, voted at their Chapter meeting to accept a request from Saint Bede Monastery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to merge. Saint Bede Monastery will close down, and its 29 members will join Saint Benedict's Monastery.

This is the kind of thing where, given the nature of Chapter, you don't even work on the press release until the vote is taken. No assumptions, although it was fairly clear even in November that Sisters were behind this idea. I had two discussions wiht the prioress about it beforehand, so I had notes and knew what might happen if the vote was affirmative. Monday morning I began work on the press release, with input from the two prioresses. By late Monday afternoon, I was able to call the St. Cloud Times and The Visitor, the diocesan paper for St. Cloud, and tell them that the next morning I would be sending out a press release. It was a great day, doing what I most love, which is writing. This assignment was particularly gratifying because I crafted quotes and also was dealing with a delicate, sensitive situation.

Tuesday I sent it out, and got two calls from local radio stations asking how to pronounce "St. Bede." (It is the same as "bead.") I also got a call from a reporter in Eau Claire who ran the story.

This morning the story was on the front page of the St. Cloud Times, above the fold. I just love to say that: above the fold. In the world of communicators, "good placement." And he used the quotes I'd written-- used most of the press release, actually, in addition to a few other facts I provided him. He cut out some of our jargon, but hey, ok. The press release, in other words, is working for both our internal and external audiences. A large number of Sisters have told me how good it is, how well it is written, and how happy they were to read it. Both prioresses are pleased. I've had calls today from The Visitor saying the story is being moved to the Minneapolis office and will appear in both the diocesan and archdiocesan papers, and from a t.v. station in Eau Claire.

In the end the real work of these two communities coming together has just begun, but this week was a good week. Talk to me in six months when I'm putting together a photo directory for 300 Sisters!

To read the press release, click here.

photo: Sisters from Saint Benedict's Monastery visit with Sisters from Saint Bede in January.

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