The Congregational Leadership Team is pleased to welcome Kim Westerman as the first congregational coordinator of communications. Her position is based in St. Louis at the Congregational Offices. Kim comes to the position with a background in communications and fundraising in non-profits. She has a passion for social justice and is excited to live that out working to encourage awareness, engagement and integration of the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet through external and internal communications.
Meet Kim and read about her new role, her personal experiences and her perspective about being a part of the mission and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
What attracted you to work with the CSJs?
I first learned about the CSJs in college. I was very involved at the Newman Center and a small group of us went on a trip to St. Louis where we visited three orders of sisters, including a night at Carondelet. I was very impressed by all the ministries I heard about and your commitment to social justice. I’ve kept you on my radar for years, and when I saw this position announcement, I jumped at the chance to apply!
Tell us a little bit about your experience and the gifts that you bring to your work.
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s of public administration. I have previously worked at three prominent nonprofits in the St. Louis area: St. Patrick Center (a homeless services center), The Magic House (St. Louis’ childrens’ museum) and the local Boy Scout council. Though I have worked in volunteer coordination and development in the past, communication has always been a big part of what I did. I volunteer a lot in the community as well, and somehow, I always seem to end up helping with communications in those roles too.
How do you hope your gifts can serve the mission of the CSJs?
Though Jesus told us not to shout about our good deeds out in the streets, I believe that we need to be witnesses, educating them on the issues we’re addressing and calling them to join us. I am so excited about all the great work our sisters accomplish and I want to help support you any way I can—by telling your stories, by inviting people to join in various opportunities, by helping craft messages and supporting materials and by facilitating communication between provinces.
What are some of your favorite aspects of communications work?
I love to gather information and then share it with others, whether it’s listening to people’s stories or researching on the internet. I’ve been known to fall down a “rabbit hole” when learning about something new. (Have you heard about mantis shrimp? Google it!) It’s a great feeling knowing that you’ve connected people to the information they need and opportunities they want, especially if they didn’t know they needed or wanted it before that communication!
What have you learned from working with the CLT about the congregation and its goals? How do you hope your work can help further those?
Various people have pointed me to three key words on page 9 of the 2013 Chapter Calls to Action: collaboration, experimentation and consolidation. This is a time to be thinking about new ways that we can be more connected as a congregation. For example, one of the first things I’m working on is a congregational publication on our sisters’ work in Peru that will raise awareness and financial support.
The CLT would also like to start communicating to our network more directly, so you may be seeing my name in your email inbox soon.
You recently met the province communicators at their annual meeting in Albany. How was the collaborative experience?
It was a great experience. All of our provinces are blessed with some amazing communicators! I was so happy to learn from them and get the big picture right away. Everyone brings great experience and different skill sets to the table. It will be a great support network.
How do you see that collaborative experience as part of your position?
My position is all about collaboration. I see myself as a bridge between the provinces. When I hear about something great going in one of the provinces, I want to make sure everyone across the country knows about it. I’m going to be visiting all of the provinces to get a feel for the unique character of each, and I want to make sure those individualities are preserved while also helping everyone to be more aware of the vision and well-being of the whole congregation.
What are some of the top priority projects you will be working on?
First and foremost, I am working on the congregational website (www.csjcarondelet.org). We want to make it the go-to source for CSJ information. The Prayers Please website and app (www.prayersplease.com) is also on my list, so we can drive more traffic to it. On a wider scale, I’m taking some time now to listen to our leadership to see what the needs are and then develop a communications plan.
Tell us about your passion for social justice—how it began and how you live it out in your life. What particular issues are you most passionate about?
I’m not sure when the seed was planted in me, but it has grown steadily over time. After undergrad, I served as a Dominican Volunteer in the Bronx, which solidified for me that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. As I’ve gotten older and become more aware of the injustices in our world, I’ve sought out more opportunities to make a difference. I lead the Living Justice Ministry at my parish, and strive to educate and inspire people to take action. Immigrant and migrant rights are an interest of mine, and I serve on the board of the MICA Project, a nonprofit immigration law firm. I am also heartbroken about the pervasive racism in our society, and I’ve been facilitating Sacred Conversations on Race through a local organizing group. We’re now moving into an action-planning stage and will be pressing the city on policing issues.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love dogs, and I volunteer a lot in the emergency shelter for a local dog rescue called Gateway Pet Guardians. Otherwise, you can usually find me walking my dogs, cooking, running 5Ks, reading, or binge-watching a good TV show.
What is your favorite book or movie?
It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s more than just a Christmas movie!
Do you have a quote or motto that inspires you?
Eleanor Roosevelt is a personal heroine of mine and a one-woman wisdom-factory. She was a painfully shy child, a lot like me. Her directive to “Do one thing every day that scares you” has always stuck with me. I certainly don’t accomplish it every day, but when things intimidate me, I remind myself that “you must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Finally, tell us a little about your family.
My husband and I have been married just over three years. He is a seventh grade English and history teacher at a local Catholic school. We have two rescued greyhounds, Ukee and Tofino (named after towns in Canada). My parents live in northern Illinois, where I grew up. I also have a sister in Columbus, Ohio and a brother in Wichita Falls, Texas.