By Heather Rockwell
As a reporter for a Catholic newspaper, SNJM Associate Carrie McClish has learned that writing is a powerful tool for ministry.
At the Catholic Media Conference of the Catholic Press Association held in June, Carrie received an award of excellence for Coverage of Violence in Our Communities. Carrie works as reporter and staff writer for The Catholic Voice in the Diocese of Oakland and won second place in this new category.
A few years ago, Carrie began reporting on a ceremony that takes place at a church in Oakland, CA. As a way to bring attention to the high rates of violence in the community, this church holds an annual memorial service in commemoration of those murdered each year. For every victim, a cross is displayed. Carrie attends this service yearly, reporting on the sense of community that arises when family members come together to pray for one another and their city.
Writing on violence can be troubling work, but Carrie finds ways to spotlight the beauty within the tragedies. “These people have suffered so much,” Carrie said, “yet they are trying to help each other.”
By covering issues that affect marginalized and voiceless people, Carrie sees the positive impact of her writing. “It’s a way of helping people see what’s going on in the Church outside of their parish,” Carrie said. Sharing people’s stories and difficult moments is a privilege for her and one of the many reasons she enjoys reporting on a wide variety of events, ranging from funerals to jubilee celebrations.
“I think of it as a way to maybe bring people together. Not everyone can go out to these events, so it can be a way of not only building community but deepening other people’s faiths.”
In addition to reporting for The Catholic Voice and being an active member in her own parish, Carrie has become an active Associate with the Sisters of the Holy Names. Since becoming an Associate in October of 2017, Carrie has enjoyed seeing the ways in which her writing connects with the values that Holy Names Sisters hold dear.
One of Carrie’s favorite experiences as an Associate so far has been attending an interfaith group that meets outside of a detention center in Richmond, CA. The center detains immigrants and refugees as they await deportation. The Sisters and Associates who attend this interfaith gathering each month use it as an opportunity to pray for the family members of those being detained and to listen to their stories. “It makes the issue come alive,” Carrie said.
In addition to attending these monthly gatherings, Carrie had the privilege of flying to Portland, OR this July for the community’s chapter. Over 250 Sisters, Associates and Lay Consecrated came together for the event. One of the highlights of Carrie’s first chapter was attending a public witness organized by the Sisters towards the end of their time together. “We all walked out of the hotel and stood outside with one another, standing up for immigrants and refugees,” she explained. “It was really moving for me.”
Supporting migrants and refugees is a corporate stand of the Sisters of the Holy Names and one that often brings the community together. Carrie has appreciated seeing Sisters and Associates put this value into action in their daily lives, in small and in big ways.
Carrie said she would encourage anyone to become part of a community of women religious, especially one whose values you share. “It is a community,” she said, “and it’s not just a word they toss around. It really is a community. I almost feel like I’m part of a family – a bigger family.”