VOTF Representatives Meet in Chicago
Report prepared by Hugh O’Regan, Region 11
Background: VOTF’s National Representatives meet
twice yearly in an effort to exchange ideas, concerns,
news and discuss future plans. On June 2nd – 4th
the representatives met at the Cenacle Sisters Retreat
house in the heart of Chicago. The second meeting of
the National Representative council has been scheduled
for November 10th -12th in Saint Louis. Observers are
What Happened: The National Representatives and observers
started arriving on Friday afternoon, making their way
by taxi, van or auto to the modern but sparsely decorated
retreat house of the Sisters of the Cenacle. The schedule
was full. For the next two days the representatives would
be asked to think out of the box; review and affirm or
question VOTF policy decisions; elect trustees and learn
new techniques for conflict resolution and affiliate
growth. Different regions face different and distinct
challenges in their (arch)dioceses, and individual affiliates
face differing choices. One reason why the National Rep
Council meets twice yearly is to share what worked and
what might have been done differently. In so doing, Council
members are then expected to return to their own regions
and disseminate what they have learned to member affiliates
within those regions.
The conference started at 7PM with prayer, introductions
and a review of the meeting ground rules by Ron DuBois
who would be moderating each session for the next two
days. With that out of the way, the balance of the evening
was taken up by a training session on Decision-Making
and conflict-resolution techniques.
The approach taken by the facilitator, Linda Mains,
was to identify the types of decisions which any organization
must make: Autocratic (Leader Alone) decisions, Consultative
decisions (Leader with formal input) and Consensus decisions
(Leader and group together). The trick is to arrive at
agreement on which type of decision is needed for any
action. Group leaders at every level need to identify
who needs to be informed, who needs to be consulted,
and who needs to have a vote. Short-circuiting or failing
to make this determination will almost always result
in less than enthusiastic group participation as well
as unsuccessful actions.
On Saturday, the nitty-gritty of the conference itself
began. Various committees of the Council gave presentations.
Election guidelines were presented by Ron DuBois (Region
1). A report and discussion of the by-laws was presented
by Bill Culleton (Region 3).
Sheila Peiffer (Region 2) led a spirited discussion on
Council participation and the election of VOTF trustees.
The election of the four at-large Board of Trustees members
scheduled for this time was postponed to a later date
because of procedural concerns. VOTF president Mary Pat
Fox and Executive Director Ray Joyce presented reports
on “the state of VOTF” and directions for
the future. Dan Bartley (Region 2) gave an excellent
presentation on strategies for growth. Dan gave the following
advice: Don’t sit down and ask, How do we grow?
Sit down and ask, How do we get people involved? Growth
will come from involvement. Frank Douglas led another
spirited discussion on VOTF resolutions concerning our
support for statute of limitations reform legislation.
The Council affirmed its support for victims and recognized
their need to publicly tell their story.
Council and officers then discussed the organizational
relationship between VOTF Trustees, the Rep Board, the
Affiliates and the Officers. Who consults with whom and
when? When does VOTF National take the lead and when
should a local or regional affiliate’s actions
take precedence. The Chicago situation with Cardinal
George was used as an example on how that relationship
might work out in practice.
Sunday morning’s session was taken up by an election
of two National Representatives to the Board of Trustees
and a short review of the guidelines for VOTF working
in partnership with other organizations. When does it
for VOTF to work with other organizations?
What are the guidelines? What are the pitfalls?
Ron Dubois (Region 1) and Dan Bartley (Region 2) were
elected by secret ballet to sit on the Board of Trustees.
Bill Culleton (Region 3) was elected to replace out-going
Steering Committee member Frank Douglas.