2020 annual report: A Year of Unveiling
Selections, highlights, and stories from the CAC’s community in 2020
“2020 was a year that we encountered the unexpected. I’m so proud of the way that our team pulled together to continue delivering our mission to introduce Christian Contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action.” – Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director
The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) theme for this year is A Time of Unveiling. Despite the uncertainty and disorder, our present moment is an opportunity to awaken to deeper transformation, love, and hope. Amid the widespread need for healing, reality offers us an invitation to depth—to discover what is lasting and what matters.
Central to Father Richard’s teaching and the Gospel is the strong affirmation that the reality of disorder always gives way to the hopeful possibility of reorder. In this time of revelation and tumult, contemplation helps us welcome reality with a different set of eyes. We become more able to receive each moment in its present form and remain open to grace, learning to recognize and even embrace our shadow selves without condemnation or shame.
This 2020 Year in Review offers highlights from each of our core program areas as well as an overview of CAC’s financial and operational stewardship. We hope it will give you a look “behind the curtain” at what we do and the community we serve.
Our Vision: Transformed people working together for a more just and connected world.
Our Mission: To introduce Christian contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action.
The CAC is an educational nonprofit introducing seekers to the Christian contemplative path of transformation. Our programs are designed to help deepen prayer practice and strengthen compassionate engagement in the world.
It takes many kinds of people to make this work possible — readers, listeners, donors, staff, and volunteers, just to name a few! That’s why you’ll find voices from our community included in each of the following program highlights.
“If religion cannot find a meaning for human suffering, humanity is in major trouble. All healthy religion shows us what to do with our pain. Great religion shows us what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the traumatic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”
– Father Richard RoHR
“My hope and my dream for the Production and Outreach department and for CAC as a whole, is that we can be an essential and present force through both the good times and bad times. I want to thank you for your presence and practice and deep soul beauty.” – Tisha Ford, Managing Director of Production and Outreach
The courtyard at the Center for Action and Contemplation Visitor Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations
In 2020, the Daily Meditations team continued to offer daily spiritual wisdom from Father Richard, CAC core faculty and other colleagues and teachers for more than 412,448 email subscribers. In response to world-wide effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we featured teaching from Richard Rohr that specifically spoke to the needs of people in that moment. Some of our most well-received meditations of the year are from this period of collective pain, uncertainty, and liminal space. Here are three of our most read and shared meditations, with our top post being read by 888,348 people.
It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you.
Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.
In this time of global crisis, it may be that reality is revealing itself to us—through great suffering—universal patterns that are always true.
“I have been receiving these emails for over a year. But it is in the last few months of 2020 they have become like nectar to my soul. A connection, an inspiration, a spiritual echo, and a nudge.”
– Polly, Daily meditations Subscriber
In 2020 we expanded our podcast offerings to four shows, created in partnership with CAC core faculty and other prominent teachers aligned with Father Richard’s lineage. Listeners journeyed alongside James Finley through the life and teaching of Thomas Merton and Teresa of Ávila in Turning to the Mystics; they delved into the challenging work of transforming and transcending personal bias with Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, and Richard Rohr in Learning How to See; and they continued to explore the deep connections between action and contemplation in seasons three and four of Another Name For Every Thing with Richard Rohr.
Altogether our podcasts were downloaded by listeners a total of 4.7M times across 190 countries and territories around the world. Click the podcasts below to listen to our top three favorite episodes from 2020:
Season 4, Episode 1 of Another Name for Every Thing; listened to 99, 147 times in 2020.
Season 1, Episode 1 of Turning to the Mystics; listened to 70, 620 times in 2020.
“The subjects discussed lately in the Turning to the Mystics podcasts have given me language and guideposts, and sometimes a lifeline. Part of my morning routine has been reading or listening to content from the Center. The repeated listening to the podcasts has been a centering, sacramental bonus. With my prayers, and my most sincere thanks.”
– Patti, Podcast Listener
Recording ANFET Season with Paul Swanson, Brie Stoner, and Father Richard.
In 2020, the Online Learning team continued to offer in-depth opportunities for personal transformation. Created in tandem with our CAC core faculty, our online courses give everyone the opportunity to go deeper with the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.
Altogether 9,763 people participated in one of our courses. And to keep the cost of course registration from being a barrier to access, we were able to award over $128,000 in scholarships in 2020 due to the generosity of our donors.
With over 1,300 students from 37 countries, our most popular course was Interior Castle. This eight-week course gives students the chance to experience Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle as an embodied, spiritual pathway of union with God, illuminated by a blend of the practices, reflections, and teachings from James Finley and Mirabai Starr.
“No matter how many times I listen to a course teaching, it speaks to me in fresh ways. As a CAC Teaching Assistant, I’ve had two of my life’s greatest questions answered: How does God see me? And what does that feel like? I hope in some small way, I can pass that onto others who are on the same journey and who are asking the same questions.”
– Lisa Powell, Interior Castle Course Teaching Assistant
Video still taken from the James Finley’s online course, Interior Castle.
In 2020 CAC Publishing released The Universal Christ: Companion Guide for Individuals and Race and the Cosmos by Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Holmes, which is the first book CAC has published by one of our core faculty members outside of Richard Rohr.
In Race and the Cosmos, theologian Barbara Holmes addressed the Western cultural complexities of “race” and ethnicity through the lenses of physics and cosmology. Reminding readers that there is only one human race, she focuses our attention on the lessons learned by modern scientists about ancient indigenous science and wisdom and the need to re-imagine how we find meaning and dream of a community-called-beloved.
Established in 2013, ONEING is the biannual journal of the Center for Action and Contemplation. Renowned for its diverse and deep exploration of mysticism and culture, ONEING is grounded in Richard Rohr’s teachings and wisdom lineage. Each issue features a themed collection of thoughtfully curated essays and critical perspectives from spiritual teachers, activists, modern mystics, and prophets of all religions.
“As a mother of two boys and teaching full-time, the reminder to focus on contemplation is a huge component in my ability to take action in my daily life. In this time of COVID, I am even more buoyed by the words of Father Rohr. I am reminded, again and again, to return to contemplation and then action.”
– Anna C, Daily Meditation Subscriber
Photograph of CAC staff member, Gigi Ross, for the cover of Barbara Holmes’ Race and the Cosmos.
The Living School for Action and Contemplation
The Living School, CAC’s two-year formation program, continued to evolve and progress in 2020. The year’s biggest highlight was the integration of new CAC core faculty Dr. Barbara Holmes and Brian McLaren into the curriculum of the program, a significant priority since they joined as core teachers in 2019.
Because of COVID-19, their participation alongside all 450 of our students in our annual Living School Symposium was virtual instead of our typical in-person gathering each year, but even so, it was still very impactful and well-received.
“With each step forward, I am reassured how the unique chemistry of such a dynamic and brilliant group of educators truly can keep the flame of contemplation burning bright in our time and fuel the action that can heal the soul of the world. Working with the Living School Team is a dream come true.”
– Rev. Michael Petrow, PH.D
Father Richard teaching in 2019 at Symposium, the annual gathering of Living School students.
Special 2020 Initiatives
Like many of you, we had no idea how much the challenges of 2020 would force us to change or adapt. What didn’t change, however, was our role to provide spiritual wisdom and guidance to support both inner and outer transformation. Here are two campaigns from 2020 that had a profound impact on our community when it was needed the most:
This 22-video online series was designed to help people amid the uncertainty and hardship during the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine. Viewed more than 130,000 times on YouTube, it featured Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Brian McLaren, Barbara Holmes, and James Finley sharing on the wisdom that can be found in times of crisis, as well as relevant contemplative practices.
Through a series of social media posts leading up to the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, more than 350,000 people explored using Fr. Richard’s Jesus Hermeneutic as a lens for engaging with information online. These posts culminated in a 2-minute meditation video for grounding which has been viewed 124,816 times.
“It was through CAC’s Facebook that I found my spiritual footing
and a group of like-minded brothers and sisters,
whose words and experiences keep me safe and sane.”
– Janis H.
The front door of the Center for Action and Contemplation Visitor Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I was very grateful for Fr. Richard’s willingness to offer his wisdom and guidance as we documented our financial principles because I believe they are going to serve us well both for now and for years to come.” – Cindy Kroll, Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics
What We Believe About Money
For the first time, CAC completed a process to document a comprehensive Financial Philosophy to codify our relationship with money: how we raise it, manage it, and spend it. We are grateful for the many ways this process has helped CAC institutionalize Father Richard’s values around money and the stewardship of resources. The key financial principles are:
- We operate from a clear definition of “enough.”
- We practice transparency.
- We seek for money to never be the barrier to participation.
- We understand exchanges of money first and foremost as vehicles for advancing our mission and message.
- We commit to spend simply, equitably, and sustainably.
- We lead with giving and generosity.
35,572 people from over a dozen countries donated to CAC in 2020. The average donation was $77.53. We are especially grateful for the 3,609 people who were recurring donors, giving a consistent donation every single month. Our Financial Philosophy holds CAC to high standards of sustainable and responsible stewardship. Below is a snapshot of our 2020 financials, to see our comprehensive and independently audited financial statements, please click here.
New colors of spring on the grounds of the Center for Action and Contemplation in the South Valley, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Board of Directors
The CAC Board plays an important role in providing independent governance as the senior-most group responsible for the welfare of the CAC and its mission.
It has been a great honor to have had LaVera Crawley serve a three-year term as CAC’s Board Chair that ended in December 2020. As a physician, clinical pastoral educator, and director of spiritual care for a hospital system, LaVera knows firsthand the power of contemplation to sustain a life of compassion-in-action. A sendee of the first Living School cohort, LaVera is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s role in supporting a broader contemplative movement and directs her “radical servanthood” toward helping CAC grow more deeply into the “action” part of our name. At the end of the year, Chris Ferebee was elected the new Chair of the CAC Board of Directors.
“I share the feelings of hope that have been expressed by many before me for our individual and collective capacity to transcend the dangers we faced in 2020 while carrying all that we’ve learned from that year to heal our bodies, our relationships, our economies, and our societies in 2021. CAC can be proud of the part that it has played—that YOU have each played—in providing a measured, contemplative, and brave voice for the world when it has needed it most.” –LaVera Crawley, CAC Board Chair
Gifts left by visitors after their pilgrimages to the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Operations & Future Impact
“CAC has big plans and my focus is on ensuring the legacy of Fr. Richard is preserved in a tangible way through an efficient and effective organization. I want to thank the CAC community because we know we are not building this future alone.” – Doug Murrell, Chief Operating Officer
2021 & Beyond: Returning to the Center
In keeping with Father Richard’s insight that how you do anything is how you do everything, we feel inspired to continually share openly and transparently about what we are learning and how we are approaching our vision and values as an organization. Over the past several years, we have been navigating a period of significant organizational growth and change while also confronting the looming question of how to prepare for our future as Father Richard enters his final years in public life.
Returning to the Center is a new series of updates and reflections from the CAC on our discoveries and growing pains as an institution. You can expect regular updates on our progress, as well as institutional history, community stories, staff essays, videos, and even opportunities to contribute. We invite you to follow along with the latest posts on our website as well as social media and in the News from New Mexico, the CAC’s monthly newsletter.
“Though ‘Love’ is not in our Center’s name, I hope that it is the driving force behind all we do, just as it was for Jesus who knew God’s love intimately and fully, and for the early church who proclaimed that ‘God is love.’” —Richard Rohr
The work of the Center for Action and Contemplation is possible only because of friends and supporters like you. CAC is not sustained by any large institution, foundation, or corporation; we exist because of thousands of people around the world who participate and give freely because this work has impacted them. To learn more about how to support the CAC or consider making a legacy gift, visit cac.org/support.