Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Toastmasters club gives support for improving communication and leadership skills

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 4, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Leadership of the Clare’s Clan Catholic Toastmasters Club includes, from left, Vickie Nicks, Vice President Education; Jim Nicks, President; Poor Clare Sister Rita Louise McLean, Sergeant-at-Arms; Rhonda Mannino, Vice President Publicity; and Theresa Faerber, Vice President Membership. (IR photo)

Each Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., 10-15 people gather in the meeting room of the small building attached to the Monastery of St. Clare, on Spokane’s near north side, but they aren’t there for Mass or an evening retreat. Rather, all are members of Spokane’s newest Toastmasters International club, one of 16 such groups in the Spokane area. What makes this Toastmasters club unique is its Catholic identity.

“There are two kinds of Toastmasters groups,” said Poor Clares Sister Rita Louise McLean, Abbess of the monastery. “There are clubs open to anyone and clubs that have membership requirements. We belong to the second kind because we require members to be either Catholic or very open to Catholic beliefs and perspectives.”

Sister Patricia Proctor, also of the Poor Clares community, first brought up the idea of starting a Toastmasters group at the monastery in April of 2009. She thought it would be helpful in her work with Sacred Heart Radio, AM 970, in Spokane. Notices went out to local parish bulletins, to the Inland Register, and by word of mouth, and by the middle of May the first meeting of Clare’s Clan Toastmasters – named in honor of the monastery’s patron saint – took place. Today, some 15 Spokane Catholics are members, with an average of 10-12 participating in any given meeting.

On a Tuesday evening in January, Poor Clare Sisters Rita Louise and Jane Wade, joined nine laity – three men and six women – prior to the meeting being called to order. Each Toastmasters gathering follows a strict one-hour schedule, and the group adheres to standard Toastmasters rituals and protocols. In other words, unlike most church-related evening meetings, everyone at a Clare’s Clan Toastmasters gathering can count on leaving for home by 7:30 p.m.

The meeting officially began when president Jim Nicks called the group to order and led an opening prayer followed by recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Nicks then read aloud the Toastmasters Mission Statement: “The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”

Chairing the meeting was the Toastmaster for the evening, Rhonda Manino. Sister Rita Louise served as Grammarian, whose task was to introduce the word of the day: authentic. The evening’s speakers’ task was to try to work the word into their presentations.

Another assigned role for each meeting is Timer, filled this evening by John Hynes, who tracks the speakers’ assigned time limits. And then there’s the Jester – this time, Vickie Nicks – who delivered a joke – a Catholic joke.

Manino introduced the evening’s first speaker, Jim Nicks, who spoke on St. Joseph of Cupertino, followed by Patrick Kirlin, singing his interpretive poetry reading, Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Corey.” There seems to be no such thing as a boring talk at a Toastmasters meeting.

The next Toastmasters role to become active was Table Topicsmaster. Table Topics are spontaneous one-minute presentations in response to topics formulated and explained by the Table Topicsmaster, who this evening was Sister Jane Wade. Once introduced by Manino, Sister Jane announced the first Table Topic: “Your Favorite Teacher.” Subsequent topics included “My Most Valued Possession or Memory,” “My Most Inspirational Book,” and “One Commercial Jingle That Caught My Ear.” Each topic elicited one or two brief responses, each one followed by lively applause.

Inga Weber served as the evening’s General Evaluator, along with Speech Evaluators Millie Hynes and Vickie Nicks. Hynes evaluated Jim Nicks’s talk on St. Joseph of Cupertino, emphasizing the successful aspects as well as making suggestions for improvement. Vickie Nicks performed the same task for Kirlin’s poetry recitation.

John Hynes, the Timer, reported on the speakers’ use of their time frames, and Sister Rita Louise, Grammarian, addressed their use of the Word of the Day, mispronunciations, and how successful speakers were at avoiding undesirable expressions like um, uh, and ah.

General Evaluator Weber gave a brief evaluation of the entire evening’s proceedings.

“Everybody who had a speaking part or a duty came very well prepared,” she said. “Something that is just really fun about our meeting is the humor that is here, and everyone is so relaxed, and we can all laugh at ourselves and with each other, and it’s all in good fun. It’s just really good for us as a group to be able to do that. It makes us more comfortable when it comes to standing up here and doing our best.

“One thing we could improve on,” she said, “is that our lectern was abandoned a couple of times. We need to make sure we don’t abandon the lectern. Wait until the person who introduced you comes back up and shakes your hand. Also, our applause was a little weak at some times. We need to make sure that each person feels appreciated by how we applaud.”

After closing remarks by Manino, President Jim Nicks led the group in a concluding prayer.

And the next Tuesday evening, the Clare’s Clan Toastmaster’s Club would re-convene to do it all again.

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