Every once and a while a crazy idea has the potential to take off and become something huge. That’s the story of the Imagine Sisters Movement, an apostolate that harnesses powerful digital storytelling to promote vocations. As a founder and chief digital designer, strategist, web developer, social media strategist, and (well you get the picture) I got to sit front row as we took the internet by storm. And there was very little “sitting” let me just say…
Problem: Lots of young women have a vocation to be a religious sister (read: nun) but many (read: almost all of them) have never considered the potential that they may be called. The problem runs deep and in many directions, but in summary: there are fewer habited nuns than ever – limiting direct exposure for young women, words like “vocation” and “consecration” are both weird and confusing, lots of nuns (in 2012) avoided the internet, and nearly 80% of young Catholic women spent more than an hour a day online. Now add in the stigma of becoming a sister, fears of not getting married, and lots of parents misinformed about religious life – the problem was real.
Solution: We created an online movement that presented habited sisters in an authentic light: in their own words, joyful, excited, and alive in their faith. I lead the charge and created films, websites, social media campaigns, emails, shirts, books, resources – all intentionally designed to be approachable by young women today – and set them free into the world. And you know what? The internet loves nuns. Posts got shared like wildfire, and we connected young women with religious communities that wanted to walk with them on the journey. We received hundreds of messages from young women around the world who entered discernment, and dozens who became sisters. We reached tens of millions on social media and through the website… and we used our proof of concept to show sisters that the internet was indeed St. Paul’s town square of our day. You gotta be where the people are at… and there, you can transform culture. As a result, we helped many communities start their own digital ministries – the Ann Arbor Dominicans (over 1.1M followers on Facebook) and the TOR sisters (360K followers on Facebook) being two of the most successful.
What I did: communications strategy (long/short term), graphic design, website design/creation, photography, video (all aspects), content strategy, and director (typically the creator) of all external communications for the Movement.
Learned: Authenticity sells itself, people (especially millennials) crave connection, and stories are the only currency accepted worldwide. Intentional design thinking has the power to add multiplying factors to your effort, and young people will follow the lead and respond. Oh, and making a feature-length documentary on a tiny budget is an awesome way to spend five weeks driving across the country.
Sample Project Creative
Light of Love Documentary
Thanks to our incredibly generous donors and benefactors, we created a full-length documentary aimed at exposing the world to the joy of religious life. Described as a vivid portal into the convent, Light of Love was created to be a totally free resource for groups, families, and individuals looking for more insight into the religious life.
Thanks are in order: To every religious sister who trusted us to tell their story online (especially Sr. Alicia Torres, Sr. Colleen Claire FMA, Sr. Helena Burns FSP, Sr. Lois FSSP, Sr. Joseph Andrew OP, and the list goes 100 deep), and the men and women who believed (and put in hundreds of hours) in making this idea a reality: John, Amanda, Kelsey, Michael, Matt, Steven Durran, everyone at Lighthouse Catholic Media, Cy at Laboure, and Sr. Ragina Marie OCD.