News coverage of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Catholic sisters,

Posted on February 21, 2021


Solidarity with Sisters

Solidarity with Sisters

For more news coverage of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Catholic sisters, check the excellent Global Sisters Report, as well National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service, Crux, and other major news sources. LCWR‘s monthly newsletters, public statements, and many other materials are also online.
Want periodic updates via email? We don’t post news often anymore because Global Sisters Report (invented after we began this website) does an outstanding job in providing news of Catholic sisters around the world.  We have practically day-by-day posts from many sources during the years of the LCWR mandate starting in later 2012 through 2013, 2014, and 2015.

By the way — Global Sisters Report is my favorite newspaper, period, because it is covers world news from a stance of solidarity with people on the margins and with intelligent, informed perspective from the women religious who minister there, and because it gives voice to women religious who share the spiritualities that ground and animate their mission — and can animate us. 

Sometimes a single story does all of this at once, so powerfully that I wish everyone could read it.  Soli Salgado‘s 2019 reporting from the border.  This 3/3/2020 story by Tracey L. Barnett:  have you wondered what’s happening for refugees that the US has sent back to Mexico?  The shameful statistics are reported, but in context of Gospel life:  With deep anxiety and steadfast resilience, refugees improvise a village, write asylum applications, teach their kids…all with Catholic sisters at their sides. 

Other media also cover Catholic sisters with far more attention and balance than in the past.  Thank you, Global Sisters Report (a project of National Catholic Reporter), US Catholic, America Magazine, and more.

March 2020 LCWR Update newsletter:
    2020 Assembly to honor Sr. Patricia Chappell with Outstanding Leadership Award
    2020 Assembly theme:  God’s Infinite Vision:  To the Borders and Beyond (Aug. 11-14, Dallas, TX)
    “An attitude of being” – reflection by past president Sr. Sharlet Wagner
    Pilot program for women and men religious currently serving the Latino population in the United States (July & Oct. 2020)
    Ordering 2020 Reflection Books, “You will have light for your first steps.”
    New resource for religious congregation archives
    Book review
    LCWR leadership programs
    LCWR resource-sharing forum now operative
    Substantial, very informative updates on LCWR social mission

February 2020 LCWR Update newsletter:
    A national conversation and discernment on the emerging future of religious life
    LCWR 2020 Assembly keynote speaker:  Sr. Mercedes Leticia Casas Sánchez of Mexico, on “what religious are learning
         as they make the journey into understandings of God and God’s vision for the world. To what borders are religious being
         invited today? What are religious seeing as they attempt to view the world with the vision of God?”  Sr. Casas Sanchez is
         a long-time member with the Confederation of Latin American Religious, now in ministry at the Vatican’s dicastery on
         religious life.
    Challenges and gifts of intercultural living – by LCWR president Sr. Jayne Helmlinger
    LCWR leadership programs
    LCWR 2020 Assembly information, Aug. 11-14, Dallas, TX
    Nominations for LCWR officers and board to be elected at 2020 Assembly
    Ordering new LCWR reflection books
    Reading recommendations from LCWR members
    New resource-sharing forum
    Substantial updates on LCWR social mission

1/6/2020 – The January news from the LCWR Office of Social Mission includes:

  • The annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), April 24-27, 2020, will explore “Imagine! God’s Earth and People Restored.”
  • A toolkit for action during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and the feast of St. Bakhita (February 8),  the patron saint of Sudan and herself a survivor of kidnapping and slavery.
  • The Global Fragility Act that was signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (p. 1321). The act is an important bipartisan step to focus U.S. foreign assistance on preventing violence and conflict in fragile countries, including $1.15 billion over the next five years for conflict prevention and peacebuilding in countries at risk of violence and conflict.
  • Resources to enable people to exercise their legal right to observe immigration court proceedings all over the USA and to document their observations in order to hold judges and the US government accountable.  Doing this lets us witness and stand against obstacles to due process experienced by migrants and violations of their constitutional and human rights.  Read the US Immigration Court Observation Manual for info on being a court observer and also excellent info on the immigration process (p. 9 maps the whole immigration process!).  Also:  Webinar: A Guide to Immigration Court Observations and an Immigration CourtWatch app,
  • “There is room at the inn,” a report on a December 2019 statement by 31 US border shelters that have collectively provided temporary shelter to welcome over 320,000 asylum seekers in 2019,  strongly objecting to the recent US policy that denies them the right to welcome families seeking safety and instead returning asylum-seekers to Mexico, where they face homelessness and danger from human traffickers and cartels, with 636 publicly reported cases of violent attacks against asylum seekers returned under the new policy.  The vast majority of such attacks are not reported.
  • The 2019 Human Development Report (HDR), entitled “Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century,” which says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing for millions of people,  a new generation of inequalities is opening up, around education, and around technology and climate change.

12/20/2019 – The January edition of LCWR’s Update newsletter features: 

  • Sister Mercedes Leticia Casas Sánchez will be the keynote speaker for the 2020 Assembly in Dallas, Texas on August 11-14.
  • Sister Carol Zinn’s reflection renews themes from the 2019 Assembly and pulls us toward the future with wonderful questions.
  • Congregational leaders are eager to participate in the regional gatherings announced in the December Update newsletter to explore collaborative leadership possibilities within context of canonical leadership.  using LCWR’s materials on canonical leadership and are eager to explore this topic together in a series of regional gatherings.
  • LCWR continues at the forefront on many national and international issues of justice and peace.
  • LCWR’s schedule is also packed with various workshops for congregational leaders.

Dec. 11, 2019 – Sister Ellen Cafferty spent 28 years in a parish near Guatemala City named “Jesus walking with us.” Her quietly riveting story lets us see people and systems vividly and in context.

Dec. 4, 2019 – The Sisters of Mercy tweeted that “Right now, over 60,000 asylum-seekers have been returned to Mexico where they face kidnapping, sexual assault, extortion, and other human rights violations in dangerous Mexican border cities and towns.” [Remember, US law gives people the legal right to seek asylum here.]

Nov. 2019 – LCWR’s December Update newsletter features:

  • Important steps to explore a collaborative future among congregations:  “From its national perspective, LCWR is observing that all US religious institutes are in some form of significant transition. Of utmost interest is the exploration of collaborative possibilities to provide leadership as religious life evolves. In partnership with GHR, LCWR is addressing this reality by initiating a process of national conversation and discernment where all leaders will be invited to practice anticipatory leadership for the whole of religious life….”
  • A vibrant call in Sister Elise Garcia’s reflection:  “It can be no accident that we US women religious, despite our fast-receding numbers, have been among those at the global forefront of addressing climate change, practicing “integral ecology” long before Pope Francis boldly called the world to it as a response to the interconnected cry of the Earth and the poor. Are we not provisioned to help the world meet this fraught moment in the arc of God’s unfolding creation? Our life form as women religious is entering a global phase of sisterhood. The porosity of our congregational and national borders is facilitating new ways of bonding and collaborating for the larger common good. The technological noosphere is enabling us to magnify our voices globally even as we grow smaller in number….”
  • New international procedures to “ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions” related to sexual abuse, consistent with Pope Francis’ issuance of “Vos estis lux mundi” (You are the light of the world) on May 7, 2019:  Important aspects are new reporting procedures to include use of violence or intimidation to engage in sexual acts, a broader definition of “vulnerable adult,” legal requirements for all clerics and religious men and women to report abuse, provision for the spiritual and emotional well-being of victims/survivors and their families, and new roles related to allegations against bishops and leaders of religious institutes.
  • LCWR again hosted a delegation from the European organization, Pastoral Innovation (this year, from the German diocese of Fulda), which organizes visits to expand understandings of church. Joining LCWR and the delegation this year on November 7 were members of our Solidarity with Sisters group. 
  • The “emerging orientations for religious life” discussed at the 2019 LCWR Assembly are becoming touchstones for leaders, said those involved in the November 2019 board meetings including regional chairs.  “The orientations are a way of being in leadership at this moment, rather than tasks to be accomplished, and that they encompass both the vulnerabilities and strengths of those in leadership today.”  The orientations are:
    • Global
    • Porous borders
    • Integrative partnerships for religious life and mission
    • Mission focus in public square
    • Technologically astute

11/7/2019 –  This story of 25 years of telemedicine innovation demonstrates that Catholic sisters are and have long been pioneers, in health care and in a way of life that can change the world.

9/23/2019 – “The Power of Sisterhood” – great new brief videos featuring 5 young sisters.

9/17/2019 – Women religious are experimenting with new ways of living community:

  • The Reservoir Hill House of Peace in Baltimore, “a pioneer plan for religious life” where two women religious are co-coordinators for a house of people seeking to “be the change.”
  • A witty retired woman religious living with 60-years-younger Franciscan Community Volunteers in St. Cloud, Minnesota — and discovering “that I am in a remedial Franciscan life learning program, and now I am having to rethink the question of who supports whom here.”
  • The 2019 Sisters of Mercy-Nuns & Nones pilot residency in Burlingame, California.
  • These new ways in which women religious are living community often focus on convening, hosting, expanding, cross-fertilization, with the same core of Jesus and the Gospels. Great piece from Sr. Linda Romey.
  • They explore shared mission instead of on membership, which is happening in some parishes, too.
  • All of this work mirrors many themes at the LCWR 2019 Assembly, like the session on the LCWR Emergent Planning Process (starts at 3:24) and Sister Sharlet Wagner’s presidential address (Text and video, where address starts 27:00.  Also in Spanish).

9/17/2019 – Nuns & Nones has a great new Organizer Toolkit.  Insights, tips, experiences, connections.

9/10/2019 – New resources on our Eco-Justice Action page, our Immigration Action page, and our page for An Active, Contemplative Life.  Note especially the new video conversation about how to make a contemplative stance our normal way of being.  Two wise and deeply centered women, Sisters Marie McCarthy and Carol Zinn, the LCLWR associate director for programs and the LCWR executive director, recorded the conversation because people asked them to do it.  Thoughtful, practical.  If you have recommendations for this or any other webpage, please let us know.

9/4/2019 – Over 400 people, including many women religious and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, demonstrated at an immigrant detention center in Newark, New Jersey, to protest the “inhumane treatment” and detention of children and families at centers across the country.

8/13-16 and after, 2019 – Our LCWR 2019 Assembly page has video from the LCWR 2019 Assembly, all Assembly addresses, screen-shots of the “emergent planning process” links about the next 5-10 years for LCWR, major media coverage, etc.

8/13/2019 – Talitha Kum, a worldwide network of 2,000 Catholic sisters, marked the 10th anniversary of its work against human trafficking and slavery on July 29.  “Talitha kum” are the words Jesus spoke to the centurion’s daughter who had died.  The network is bringing hope to people and change to systems in the 77 countries on 5 continents where the sisters are working against trafficking.   Our “Ways to act – Human trafficking” page offers ways for you to help.

8/13/2019 – Sister Helen Prejean’s new memoir describes her spiritual journey as she has accompanied six prisoners to their executions, saying “I couldn’t let them die alone.” Fine interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air introduces her book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.  This sister-activist against the death penalty is well known for her earlier book, Dead Man Walking , which became a film with Susan Sarandon.

8/6/2019 – A mom, dad, and 5 kids ages 2 to12. The parents decided to leave Honduras when gangs started recruiting the 12-year-old at school. “If you don’t try to save yourself, who will?” “The moment they all crossed the Guatemala border, leaving Honduras behind, the group locked hands and began chanting, ‘El pueblo unido no será vencido’ — the people will not be defeated.”
— the people united will not be defeated. ”  Guardian Angel sisters accompany and assist.  Soli Salgado of Global Sisters Report reports about her recent experiences with the sisters and with refugees.  Why are they coming?  In March, 75 faith leaders, including many women religious, traveled to Honduras to examine root causes of forced migration from Central America to the USA.  Learn what they learned there via this powerful 8-page report: the roots of forced migration by youth and families, and ways to act.  More ways to act on our Immigration page.

8/5/2019 – Two big issues, one big action for immigrants and against human trafficking.  Guardian Angel sisters run a center on the Mexico-Guatemala border that gives respite to migrants.  They also show migrants “what to look out for, where to go next, how to take care of themselves,” said Sister Carmela Gibaja Izquierdo.  They notify the government if the individual has experienced trafficking, while also offering the shelter’s psychological services.

8/3/2019 – “If you’ve met one millennial sister … you’ve met one millennial sister.” I highly recommend that you meet Sr. Tracey Kemme. Inklings, plot twists, community that crosses boundaries, a gorgeous story of unfolding grace.  A response to a widely circulated, superficial article that suggested all Millennial nuns were seeking stability and security.  Nope.

7/19/2019 – Catholic sisters were prominent at the powerful Catholic Day of Action for immigrant children at the US Capitol .  LCWR executive director Sister Carol Zinn gave a strong, eloquent address to hundreds gathered in humid heat on the Capitol grounds; so did NETWORK director Sister Simone Campbell and others.   This 12-second video gives a vivid glimpse of the prayerful action that led to the arrest of 70 people, including Sisters Marge Clark and Ann Scholz, who are quoted in the Washington Post coverage:  “We hope that by being here and putting our bodies on the line, we can give people, members of Congress, courage to do the right thing.”  “The Gospel compels us to act.”  Their words make me ask what I can do to give courage to officials who lack it.  Attacking them simply creates resistance.  How can we, like these 70, witness in ways that make the injustice vivid to them,  witness in ways that make their choice vivid to them?  Accompaniment of those suffering injustice is also urgent, and Sister Carol noted that “In the last few months over 1000 sisters have spent time ministering to those who come to our southern border.”    Back to yesterday’s #CatholicDayofAction – Rachel Maddow showed one arrest up close, retweeting a comment and 1-minute video from Marissa J. Lang:  “Watch here as Sister Pat Murphy, 90, is arrested and led out. Sister Pat works with migrants and refugees in Chicago, and has been holding a weekly vigil outside ICE there for 13 years. She says the treatment of migrants should outrage all people of faith.” 

7/18/2019 – Some congregations of sisters are in their last generations and “have brought skill, resilience and profound faith to the task of planning for their individual and corporate futures.” What does that mean, personally, communally, and institutionally?  A moving and very informative story from Global Sisters Report.

7/16/2019 – Join in public Catholic action for immigrant children on Thursday, July 18.  Women religious and others are risking arrest in order to stand against current terrible violations of the basic human rights of immigrant children on the border.  You can be there as a witness without risking arrest and in company of hundreds of other Catholics  – US Capital lawn opposite the Russell Senate Office Building, 10 AM Thursday, July 18.  LCWR will be there.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also strongly opposes current US anti-asylum actions and treatment of immigrants.  If you can’t be there, pray the same prayer service to be used in the Capitol. 

7/12/2019 – New page on our website – “Towards Spiritual Maturity – opens with great resources about the power of humility to lead us into right relationships with ourselves, one another, the world, the Earth, and God.  It may turn into something like an expansion of our charisms page after a conversation with a sister-friend earlier this week about the journey to spiritual maturity.  She commented that the essential first step is to choose a path, any path will eventually lead you to the union of all paths — and the starting path is the charism (active grace) you are drawn to.  It could be like the sisters whose charism is Providence or Mercy or Charity, the sisters who “welcome the dear stranger” in the tradition of St. Joseph,  the sisters who follow the rule of St. Benedict, and so on. 

7/11/2019 – Historic appointments by Pope Francis:  7 women will now have full voting membership in the Curia‘s governing body for religious life, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  “These new appointments are of great importance in advancing Pope Francis’ concern for the rightful place of women in the church,” said Sister Sharon Holland, a noted canon lawyer and a former LCWR president.

7/10/2019 – LCWR Office of Social Mission’s July 2019 update is full of news and action opportunities related to immigration, a peace and justice immersion program in DC, leadership by women, and South Sudan.

7/7/2019 – LCWR invites us to be part of Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants, refugees, asylum seekers.  Friday, 7/12.  Speakers 7:00-9:00 PM, silent candlelight vigil 9:00 PM.  Find or create events in your town, on the border, in your front yard.  The Sisters of Mercy and many others serve on the border, and write:  “The pictures and videos of children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection centers are repugnant. No one, especially a child, should be made to suffer in these conditions.”  We’ve added more action options on our Ways to Act – Immigration page.

7/6/2019 – Congratulations to Giving Voice on 20 years! “To be able to connect with younger women religious all over the country from all different kinds of congregations, that’s where the future of religious life is formed.”-Sr. Kristen Matthes in Abundant Connections:  Celebrating 20 Years of Giving Voice (1-minute video)

7/5/2019 – “The future of religious life is expanding,” writes Katie Gordon of Nuns & Nones from her summer work with the Erie Benedictines.  “It looks like many things…. How does the monastic community make room for people who want to commit in non-traditional ways?”  Katie began considering this question as she completed her graduate degree at Harvard Divinity School. 

7/1/2019 – It’s the season of jubilees and of new and renewed religious vows.  Emily TeKolste writes, “On Sunday, I will profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the first time. Or, as Joan Chittister, OSB, calls them, “generous justice, reckless love, and limitless listening.” Read here what this means to me.”  She also reflects on the charism of her congregation, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana:  “I love the spirituality of Providence, the ongoing challenge to dig deeper into myself and discover new ways of relating to the Holy and to the world — and to the presence of the Holy in the world.”

6/25/2019 – “Being church:  we can do this,” urges Betty D. Thompson.  She draws inspiration from the working model of LCWR.  “Very quietly, with no spotlights, they’ve been evolving innovative ways to be a community of communities since the 1960s.”  LCWR’s 2018 book However Long the Night:  Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis gives much insight and raises questions that lay people can use to become the change that we want to see in the church.

6/17/2019 – An example of Gospel advocacy:  speaking both boldly and with love.  Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK (A Catholic Social Justice Lobby) speaks out clearly:  “Income and wealth disparity is sucking the life out of our nation. And right now, the approach of the Republican Party is to shift as much money to the top as possible.”   At the same time, “she strives for ‘radical acceptance’ of those with whom she disagrees politically. ‘If I’m at odds with the God in them, I’m at odds with the God in me.'”

6/17/2019 – The role of women in the church: “The future of the church depends on it,” says Kerry Robinson of the Leadership Roundtable.  In a minute and a half, she explains how Catholic women are critical to reforming and renewing our church. “At this time of crisis, we need their leadership more than ever.”  (1:26 video)

6/10/2019 – Millennials moving in with nuns?  For the last 6 months, the Sisters of Mercy of Burlingame, California, welcomed several spiritual-but-not-religious millennials as roommates, having met through Nuns & Nones.  Great quotes and anecdotes fill this report of how the experienced mattered to and affected both the sisters and their temporary roommates.

6/10/2019 – Year-long volunteer programs with Catholic sisters are a great way to get grounded and explore community while making a difference. I love Samantha Wirth’s “10 reasons” to do it.  Catholic Volunteer Network has lots of options.

6/9/2019 (Pentecost Sunday) – Many new prayers and blessings are on our Prayers for Challenging Times page.  At our regular meeting last week with LCWR, we blessed Linda P. Donaldson, a beloved friend and leader in SwS who is moving away (not too far, tho!) and gave her a notebook of many opening or closing prayers at our 7 years of meetings as SwS and with LCWR.  We share them with you.

6/8/2019 – Year-long volunteer programs with Catholic sisters are a great way to get grounded and explore community while making a difference.  Volunteer Samantha Wirth’s “10 reasons” to do it is great – with some unexpected parts.   (See our Connect with Sisters page for more volunteer program options, as well as the Catholic Volunteer Network.)

June 2019 – Nearly one in every six patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital. The organization that represents the Catholic health care system will have a new leader in July.  Sister Carol Keehan, a revered and courageous leader of the organization for 14 historic years, is retiring at the end of June.  Sister Mary Haddad will take the helm.

6/8/2019 – Visible in their deaths, as in their lives, are sisters’ courageous clarity about reality, naming it, living into it creatively and communally.  This beautiful 2-part series by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans can illuminate and educate our own thinking and planning about the end of one’s time on earth.

6/4/2019 – Two kinds of ministries:  Many know that women religious give innovative, essential, direct support to people in need. Lots fewer realize that sisters also work at the highest levels to change the systems behind the needs. At the UN, to solve global homelessness, for instance.

5/31/2019 – What happens when Millennials get new roommates – and they’re Catholic sisters?  Millennial “Nones”:  “These are radical, badass women who have lived lives devoted to social justice.We can learn from them.”  Women religious:  “Millennials were looking for the secret sauce of how we do this.”“We had so much in common to talk about.”  Great NY Times article about a 6-month pilot with the Sisters of Mercy at Burlingame, CA.

5/29/2019 — The tourism press calls this German retreat center/monastery a “wellness destination.” Would diverse people find these havens more readily if US sisters used that language?  Would that be valuable or problematic?

5/23/2019 – Francis reminds us that the early “Church of Jesus [lived] a charity that doesn’t create uniformity but communion. No one knew everything, no one had the whole of the charisms, but each one held to the charism of the whole.”  Full text of his wonderful thought-provoking address to Caritas International.

May 2019 – Gathering can be a radical act, says Sr. Sharlet Wagner in LCWR’s May Update newsletter.  “In the simple act of gathering lies one answer to the question of what we can do in response to the epidemic of attacks on those who are different. We can drop pebbles of peace into the troubled waters of our world, trusting that ripple effects will be felt. … We can gather with those with whom we differ & dialogue respectfully about those differences. We can speak to our world of the truth that God is God of all and that all of God’s wonderfully diverse children are different facets of one diamond.”

May 2019 – “Everything Is Interconnected.” Sisters worldwide unite in action to “Sow Hope for the Planet,” with a website to provide study resources and facilitate collaboration.  Sister Sheila Kinsey answers questions about this initiative, which she heads.  Also on our Ways to Act – Eco-Justice page.

May 2019 – “Sowers of prophetic hope.” That’s a theme worth digging into. The excellent addresses & prayers from the May 6-10 triennial meeting of the International Union of Superiors General are online now.  E.g., Sr. Ariana Carla Mirmanda:  “Interculturality moves beyond a multicultural approach that recognizes differences to one that celebrates and integrates them in forging a new culture within a community” – a goal we can apply in our neighborhoods and cities.  And past LCWR president Sr. Teresa Maya:  “Religious sisters should all be feminists, Christian feminists, who are committed to struggle and resist to ensure that women and men and children are all treated as human beings.”

May 2019 – Photos to pray with: “Nuns Healing Hearts” shows sisters around the world taking “subversive action” hand to hand, heart to heart, with human trafficking victims. Online now, at the United Nations in NYC 7/30.  Pope Francis visited it in Rome, before meeting with the International Union of Superiors General.  It shows the “amazing, sterling” work of Catholic sisters to work against human trafficking around the world, with “this unending reservoir of strength and goodness and desire to help. They do a lot with very little.”

May 2019 –  Sr. Mary Berchmans, president of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, decided to announce gay alumnae marriages as the school has long done for other alumnae weddings.  “As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love.”

May 2019 – We urgently need to learn and use a different kind of power.  Sr Nancy Sylvester tells how “shifting the energy to one of love, curiosity and exploration does effect change. [We can exercise] contemplative power.”

May 2019 – “The ability to imagine a different future takes courage.” Sr. Judith Best writes an excellent summary of our 6 years with Francis, a “good pope [who] wants to be Peter’s successor, not Constantine’s.”

May 2019 – This might be the best two-page intro to white privilege that I’ve seen, new from LCWR – insight, analysis, resources, and a to-do list.   Also on our Ways to Act – Racial Justice page.

5/9/2019 – “The ability to imagine a different future takes courage,” Sr. Judith Best writes in an excellent summary of our 6 years with Francis, a “good pope [who] wants to be Peter’s successor, not Constantine’s.”

5/8/2019 – If young progressive Catholics in the U.S. have rejected the church or are indifferent to it, why are so many graduate schools in theology, ministry and religious studies brimming with millennial Catholics (the majority of whom are women)?

May 2019 – A few copies of LCWR’s wonderful 2019 reflection book,Making Meaning of Our Lives, are still available and may be ordered online.

5/7/2019 – “It’s not the actual way we did things in the past that counts. That’s simply traditionalism. It’s why we do what we do that is of the essence of tradition.” (Sr. Joan Chittister)  Tom Roberts notes those words in his excellent, brief article:  “Religious life is not failing.  It’s changing.  What we see today emerged from the women’s deep search of their founding documents, of difficult questions they asked themselves about vocation and purpose.”

5/6/2019 – Sister Ann Scholz of LCWR writes that “Today marks a year since the Trump administration announced their cruel ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. This is the defining policy failure of this administration which caused tremendous trauma and suffering.  Families belong together” on the border.

May 2019 – The 2019 LCWR Assembly (August 13-16 in Scottsdale, AZ) will focus on “Imagining Leadership in a Global Community” with keynoter Sister Pat Murray, the executive director of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).  Insights from LCWR’s 2018-2018 emergent planning process will invite members to reflect on how they’re engaging their congregations in being part of new ways of religious life tht are emerging.  This assembly will also include new guests like diverse younger women religious and representatives of national organizations that serve religious life.

5/3/2019 – As numbers drop, “There is power in smallness. U.S. religious life will be nimble, flexible & adaptable… we increasingly know each other-and need each other. Global sisterhood. Vibrant collaboration. Unity in diversity for Jesus’ mission.”  Sister Tracy Kemme sees an intercongregational future full of hope for women religious.

May 2019 – Order by June 3 to get the Summer 2019 issue of Occasional Papers, entitled Our Search for Meaning.  This issue will explore how women religious are increasingly experiencing a call to join with others in this search for meaning – interculturally, intergenerationally, with young lay  people – and will include interviews with key thinkers and do-ers like Walter Brueggemann and Katie Gordon.     

5/3/2019 – Younger foreign-born sisters ministering in the US are “really an incarnation of religious life that has tremendous potential to link with young Catholics.”  Sister Mary Johnson, Mary Gauthier, and other researchers from Trinity Washington University, the GHR Foundation, and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate have written a new book, Migration for Mission:  International Sisters in the United States.  Based on interviews with sisters, the book reports on both the gifts and challenges that international sisters experience.  This book follows up on the quantitative research that the authors reported in 2017 (e.g., 8% of Catholic sisters ministering or studying in the US were born in other countries).

5/4/2019 –  From an April 2019 delegation’s visit to the US-Mexico border:  “The discrepancy between what’s portrayed in the media & what our delegation witnessed is stark. I worry for my country..the administration is exposing innocent asylum seekers to terrible danger,” writes Jean Skokan, head of the Sisters of Mercy  justice institute that led the delegation.  “For more than 30 years, I’ve led faith-focused delegations to Central America — and since 2016, to U.S.-Mexico border communities. We’ve taken nuns, bishops, rabbis, and grassroots congregants to learn about realities rarely covered in the news.”  “Nearly all the children were sick, and some were so malnourished their hair was whitening.”  She piercingly reports on “a border crisis of our own making.”  Beth Thompson, also with the Sisters of Mercy, reports that these trips create “Border Witnesses” who can tell what the saw and learned, beyond the scare-tactic headlines.  “Our goal is to change the narrative from blaming the victim to addressing root causes of migration.”  The sisters provide valuable facts and observations. Use them to inform your friends and family.

5/2/2019 – The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have partnered with AmeriCorps for 25 years, which “helps them build capacity for what they are doing and gives them an influx of new energy, of people wanting to change the community, change the country, change the world under the direction of these wise women.”  The partnership now “has more than 400 members working in about 200 locations in 25 cities around the US,” a big jump from the start: about 50 in 1995, Gail DeGeorge reports.  “I can’t think of another place where I would be able to grow and bring my  unique self to something I was so passionate about,” says Anthony Newman. He calls Sr. Barbara English “my superhero.”

May 2019 – LCWR officers were in Rome March 23-31 for their annual visits with Vatican offices.  Sister Carol Zinn reports that “The meetings were marked by a warm welcomes, a deep desire for mutual dialogue, shared topics for conversation, and a felt sense of the church universal.” Rich details online (pages 4-5).

April 2019 – LCWR, the Sisters of Mercy, and others led an interfaith group of about 75 on a “reverse caravan” to Honduras to examine root causes of migration.  Several of the 25 women religious and other delegation members have reported on what they witnessed.  These are excellent, first-hand accounts, well worth your time. 

  • Sister Doris Regan reports that faith leaders and others risk death to speak for Gospel justice in Honduras, as many others flee to the US.  Very powerful report.
  • Sister Margaret Farrell reports on howexploitation of the earth by big business has also contributed to the caravan of migrants fleeing their homes.”
  • Mary Ellen Brody met people from several communities.  People migrating said that “Yes, they said they wanted a better way to live, but if we listened more deeply to what was really being said, they simply wanted to live. The possible risks they face in migrating are small compared to the actual abuses they experience on a regular basis.”  When women staying in Honduras spoke of their lives, “The word “femicide” was used as commonly as we use “feminism.”  
  • Sister Patricia O’Keefe got direct experience of the terrible conditions of daily life, and the strength of people in Honduras.  “We also met at the [US} embassy [to Honduras] where a spokeswoman listened to delegates who were prepared to discuss the misery of the people in various areas of Honduras. For one who represents the U.S. administration, it was evident that what she was hearing was not part of her daily awareness.”

May 2019  – how women religious are responding to the crisis at the border:  “In November 2018 LCWR responded to a request for assistance from colleagues staffing respite centers along the Southern border. The request came as a result of the decision by the administration to release hundreds of asylum seekers into border communities without any support. Shelters in those communities were quickly overwhelmed by the hundreds of immigrants in need of welcome, food, and rest before continuing their journey to join sponsors in other parts of the country. The need continues, as does the response from congregations of women religious to that call to assist at the border and at immigrant resource centers in the interior.
“Some 77 congregations of women religious have provided nearly 500 volunteers and more than $700,000 to help with the needs of immigrants seeking safety and shelter in the United States. Sisters have spent weeks at Annunciation House in El Paso; La Posada Providencia in San Benito; and Catholic Charities’ programs in McAllen, Tucson, and San Antonio. Sisters, associates, and their colleagues have provided support to colleagues in San Diego, San Bernardino, and Chula Vista. Congregations are providing hospitality and support in the midwest and along the east coast. At the border and across the country, sisters are serving meals and cleaning rooms, providing welcome at bus stations and packing care packages for travelers. They are helping with medical needs and communication with sponsors. They are providing legal aid and assisting with interpretation and travel arrangements. They are making beds and sorting clothes; reading to children and praying with parents.This summary is at best a rough estimate of all the good work that is going on across the county. It is impossible to accurately report the countless ways women religious are engaged in welcoming immigrants.”  This work continues.

3/29/2019 – “The entire staff of Women Church World, the women’s magazine that comes out once a month alongside L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, resigned on March 26,” America magazine reported.  The editor of Women Church World cited numerous reasons related to top-down male control.

Lent 2019 resources for you at our Prayers in Challenging Times page

Apologies for the lack of recent posts – a family need has taken a lot of time – I’ll be back here soon.

2/7/2019 – LCWR statement on the sexual abuse of women religious by clergy – strong and clear:  Pope Francis’ “honesty is an important and significant step forward. Our hope is that this acknowledgement is some comfort for those who have survived abuse and that it hastens the much-needed repair of the systems within the Catholic Church that have allowed abuse to remain unaddressed for years.”  LCWR expresses regret for not always speaking out in the past, not always providing environments that encouraged reporting.  “Communities of Catholic sisters have worked hard in recent years to have in place what is needed to deal responsibly and compassionately with survivors and will continue to make the protection from abuse of all persons a priority.”  What must happen now? 

  1. “The creation of mechanisms for the reporting of abuse in an atmosphere where victims are met with compassion and are offered safety.”
  2. “Refashion the leadership structures of the church to address the issue of clericalism and ensure that power and authority are shared with members of the laity. The revelations of the extent of abuse indicate clearly that the current structures must change if the church is to regain its moral credibility and have a viable future.”

Related:  interviewed on NPR, LCWR executive director Sister Carol Zinn emphasized the same message.  Also, “any allegation goes first and foremost to law enforcement. ” Things have shifted:  “Just because [Pope Francis has said] something about it doesn’t mean that it stops, I think we already have movement that we have never seen before. The day of these situations happening in the dark and people not being able to speak about them are over at least theoretically in the same way that the #MeToo movement has unleashed a whole avenue for exposing this kind of reality that people are no longer afraid. They’re actually encouraged to come forward and share their story.”

2/5/2019 – Pope Francis said today that the church must do more to stop the abuse of women religious by bishops and priests.  From the papal plane, Ines San Martin reported that he said:  “Women are treated as second class.… in some countries, the mistreatment of women goes as far as femicide.”  “I’m glad that we’re working on this,” he said. “Some priests have been removed [from the priesthood] because of this.”  “Do we need to do more? Yes. Is there the will to do more? Yes.”  Francis was responding to journalists’ questions about a challenge to the church by Lucetta Scaraffia,  editor of the women’s magazine of the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.  In the February issue, she wrote that the church must recognize the sexual abuse of women religious by priests and must name it “for what it is, an act of exploitation,” pointing to Pope Francis’ clarity that sexual abuse is power abuse.  Even when the sexual abuse of a woman by a priest is condemned, it often is presented as “sexual transgression freely committed by both parties” — and that’s an illusion that ignores what Pope Francis has said about “abuse and its coverup being the result of clericalism and the abuse of power in the church.”  The prior week, another prominent editor took on the issue.  Gail DeGeorge, editor of Global Sisters Report, assessed in depth the abuse of women religious by clerics.  E.g., she cited global milestones during 2018, including charges against priests and bishops in India, China, and Myanmar, plus “statements encouraging sisters to report abuse and congregational members and superiors to believe and support victims were issued by the International Union of Superiors General, the largest worldwide representation of Catholic women religious leadership; and by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the U.S.”  She further examined where protocols are in place or are missing, and how they are applied, and how women religious are warned by their congregations about the dangers.

2/4/2019 – Whether they call themselves Nuns & Nones, or Sisters & Seekers, something important and exciting is happening in these groups that are growing across the USA, with one group even piloting a shared residence.   Great Part 1 report from Soli Salgado.  Millennials (who often check “None” for religious preference) and women religious are connecting with each other through gatherings coordinated by three unexpected organizers — a 20-something woman raised Catholic, an older Protestant minister, and a 30-something man with Jewish roots.   Surprisingly, the movement began in two unrelated initiatives in Michigan and in the Southwest.  Millennials and women religious all find “the gift of intentional, meaningful community” as they share “a passion for social justice, desire for authentic community, hunger for contemplative practice, and a willingness to devote their lives to a greater purpose.” 

2/4/2019 – The number of women and men making perpetual vows in religious life seems to be growing, says a new report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.  CARA “(was) able to identify 240 persons” taking perpetual vows, “up from 200 the last time we did the survey.”  There’s more diversity than in the past, said researcher Mary Gauthier; of those who responded to the CARA survey, “around one-third indicated that they belonged to a minority group, primarily Asian or Hispanic,” and this indicates “homegrown interest in the religious life as opposed to some coming from other countries to join institutions in America.  Seven in 10 of the professed are U.S.- or Canada-born.”  Read the Catholic News Service summary or the full CARA report.  And groan with us that news organizations choose photos of only women religious in habits when most women religious don’t wear habits.

2/2/2019 – The roots of Catholic activism, and the question of what Catholic activism is becoming.  This article looks back to papal advocacy for workers’ rights during the Industrial Revolution, through Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Fr. Dan Berrigan, Phil Berrigan, Robert Kennedy, and more.  I’m hoping that the March “Part 2” will emphasize the powerful and continuing role of women religious, from the founding of NETWORK lobby through continuing work both on the front line and for systemic change.

Feb. 2019 – LCWR’s update newsletter has front-page photos of at least 7 of us from Solidarity with Sisters, and more of us (and many others!) were there at the open house to celebrate LCWR’s new offices.  Look inside the newsletter to find a reflection on resistance and hope;  to order LCWR’s new reflection book on Making Meaning (by March 1);  to consider the invitation to join LCWR on an interfaith pilgrimage to Honduras March 19-25 that LCWR is co-sponsoring;  to catch up on LCWR work against racism, in support of asylum-seekers, to protect the Clean Water Act, and to support other justice work;  to learn about LCWR’s involvement in a meeting about the future of religious life;  and to see upcoming leadership development plans.  [For more on the Honduras pilgrimage, see also the 1/11/2019 post below.]

1/31/2019 – Fine Q&A on religious life today with Sr. Maria Cimperman, director of the new Center for Consecrated Life at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.   At the Center, “we are engaging the questions needed for today” like intercultural and international aspects of religious life.  Fundamentally, says Sr. Maria, “What struck me most about Dorothy Kazel and the others [martyred missionaries in El Salvador] is that they were there to love, not counting the cost. That’s my image of religious life –to love, not counting the cost.”  

1/30/2019 – From the Sisters of Mercy – a great, practical, fun list of 52 ways to care for creation! Some favorites I’ve been working on: #40, 42, 44.  But how many other lists include parties?!  #51  (Also added to our resources for Eco-Justice Action.)

1/28/2019 – Want terminology to participate in the big conversations about priesthood these days?  This article from America magazine is a good base.

1/25/2019 – Want US and global Catholic stats 1970-2017 in 44 categories plus other FAQs from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University?  Something for everyone – by year- # kids in religious education,  # baptisms/funerals, dollar value of Catholic Charities services…. Much more.  Great stuff.

1/25/2019 – A brave personal story and a compelling challenge:  “Dear white people, ‘nice’ doesn’t cut it, by Sister Tracy Kemme.   Also added to our Racial Justice action resources.

1/23/2019 – The Vatican released guidelines to galvanize the world church to combat modern day slavery and protect victimsLCWR and individual congregations have worked steadfastly for years on this cause, with some real successes. The new guidelines, in various languages and formats, have been added to the many resources at our Anti-Trafficking Action page.

1/23/2019 – Baltimore sisters focus dignity and respect on black women and girls in creative programs for housing, schools, prayer, and more.   Many congregtions are involved in an activism that has long sought to work against the particular burden of racism for women in Baltimore and elsewhere.  “The new generation of anti-racist activists have done a superb job of outlining the ways in which black men are systematically criminalized, and yet black women who are profiled, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed by law enforcement officials are conspicuously absent from this frame even when their experiences are identical.”

1/14/2019 – “Guadalupe traveled months from her native Guatemala with a 5-yr-old, a 2-yr-old and a 7-month-old in order to escape violence and provide a better future for her children.”  Sister Caroljean Willie shares her experience working at the US-Mexico border.

1/11/2019 –Join Sr. Ann Scholz and others from LCWR and elsewhere in pilgrimage to Honduras March 18-25. The pilgrimage will celebrate the 39th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Oscar Romero and “deepen bonds of solidarity with Honduras and, in particular, offer the visit as a gesture of international accompaniment.”  The trip is sponsored by SHARE, a group with strong experience in trips like this, at the invitation of a Jesuit priest and a School Sister of Notre Dame in El Progreso, Honduras.  The sister writes:  “While you are in Honduras, you will be well taken care of; don’t be afraid, others have come and deepened their consciousness about what is taking place among our peoples.” 

1/11/2019 – The Sisters of Notre Dame of Mankato, Minnesota invite everyone to join them each Sunday afternoon 4:00-4:30 in quiet reflection in solidarity with immigrants and refugees around the world.  “There’s no dialogue; there’s no study group, there’s no formal prayer, it’s whatever rises from the heart.”  They will continue this weekly communal gathering “until our USA policies, practices and behaviors change to truly live authentically our desire and commitment to ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free!’ (Emma Lazarus)  They invite all people in the greater Mankato area to come.  They “invite you, wherever you are, to join us in spirit.”

1/11/2019 – “We need to sacrifice to mitigate climate change”: The Adrian Dominican Sisters pour efficiency savings into renewable energy & infrastructure.  Energy usage has dropped 21% since 2013. Electric bills are 15-20% lower.  And this is before investing in solar power.  An important step was the 2016 choice by the sisters acting as a whole (in their general chapter) to commitment to this action 2016-2022:  “Recognizing the violence against Earth community that places our common home in dire jeopardy and intensifies the suffering of people on the margins, future generations and all creation, we will sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.” 

1/11/2019 – “Make a resolution for 2019 to live with your eyes wide open – open to the pain we, as individuals and as a nation, have caused those different than us.” Sr. Denise LaRock recommends first steps and specific books:  “Racial Sobriety by Clarence E. Williams Jr. offers a variety of resources. Waking Up White by Debby Irving is another book that will help you become self-aware and appreciative of what minorities experience. It explores her journey to understand her privileged life. Each chapter ends with questions for your own reflection.”  Also added to the resources at our Racial Justice action page.

Jan. 2019 – Try telling lies about yourself as a way to know truths?  It’s working for me and it’s fun!  From Sister Mary Lou Kowacki (“Old Monk”) at Monasteries of the Heart:  “Probably the best way I ‘walk toward myself’ is through writing. I try different writing practices to keep myself interested and on the edge. Last year I read an article in Parabola by Betsy Cornwell, a writing teacher who starts each new course by asking students to lie to her. She has them write a three-sentence life story and, except for their names, nothing can be true. Her point was that no matter how fanciful or outlandish the lies, they reveal some insight about what’s happening in our lives. It’s less threatening than sitting down to write a three-sentence factual autobiography and it’s just as truthful, maybe more so. Old Monk [the title under which Sister Mary Lou Kowacki writes at online Monasteries of the Heart] is having a great time writing lies. She is always surprised at what finds its way onto paper. Here’s one:  Once when no one was looking, Mary Lou buried her mother in the backyard. From that time on she has become the gravedigger for people who died but were never buried. Mary Lou became very rich.”

1/10/2019 – Today Sister Norma Pimentel and President Trump met on the border as he briefly toured her Catholic Charities respite center for migrants.  Let us pray that he absorbs her wisdom from decades helping immigrants and refugees.  Sister Norma heads Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and received the prestigious Laetare Medal in 2018 for her work on the border.  Pope Francis singled her out personally in an internationally televised video chat in 2015 (starts about 01:05).  Back in November, the Jesuitical podcast (starting 13:00) asked Sister Norma:  Who is in this caravan?  What do you do to accompany them?  How does this impact your prayer life? How is the Catholic Church doing aiding immigrants? What’s it like working with ICE? 

1/9/2018 – Within minutes after President Trump’s 1/8 prime-time TV speech, the Sisters of Mercy responded on Twitter:

  • Tonight’s speech by President Trump was another, in a long list of speeches, rooted in untruths, fear and division.
  • It is particularly troubling that a speech of this nature comes while the Church recognizes #NationalMigrationWeek, a moment to reflect upon the desperate and harrowing circumstances confronting migrants, immigrants, and refugees.  (Attached: a superb short Sisters of Mercy blog post, “A Tale of Two Borders.”)
  • Neither the continued government shutdown nor a declaration of national emergency aimed at funding a wall will correct years of failed U.S. immigration policy, or ameliorate the U.S.’s role in the root causes of migration.
  • Make no mistake, there is a humanitarian crisis on the border, but it is one of the Trump Administration’s own making.
  • One where asylum-seekers are forced to wait in dangerous and unhealthy conditions for weeks while their asylum claims are assessed and decided.  (Attached: “As Washington Fights over a Wall, a Humanitarian Crisis Is Unfolding on America’s Doorstep.”)
  • Let us be clear: This is not the time to close our borders or build walls. Now is the time to stop the fear mongering and demonstrate our shared humanity in how we respond to our sisters and brothers in Christ.
  • We are at a pivotal moment in history, one that asks our nation to reflect and act justly upon what it truly means to welcome the stranger. Our faith demands that we not be on the wrong side of history. #MercyForImmigrants

1/6/2019 – The Dominican Sisters of Iraq fled from their homes on August 6, 2014, as ISIS arrived. In refugee camps and temporary settlements, this small group started schools and provided what care they could. In mid-2017, sisters returned to their devastated hometowns.  Please read their moving letter for Christmas 2018.  May it be our Epiphany prayer for them and for God’s light to shine in the East.

Jan. 2019 – “A Cup of Blessings for the New Year” is the theme for the monthly WATERritual on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 PMReserve your spot to participate either by phone or in person with the Women’s Allliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual in downtown Silver Spring, MD.   And congratulations to Mary E. Hunt and Diann Neu on the power and gift of the 35 years since they founded WATER!  Watch the excellent video that describes WATER’s origin and work (17:32).  In the video you will be inspired and refreshed in the contagious grace of Mary and Diann, and you’ll know how you want to drink from this WATER.

Jan. 2019 – Women religious are with migrants at the border. LCWR’s January Update reports that “A few weeks ago, Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that they would no longer be keeping individuals in holding cells for prolonged lengths of time. Instead, they would release immigrants with instructions to report for their asylum hearings at a later date. Shortly after, the call for help went out from those staffing respite centers at the border. They knew that if they could not provide needed hospitality, ICE would simply release people onto the streets. The response from congregations of women religious to that call to assist at the border has been tremendous. More than 145 Catholic sisters and their colleagues are volunteering with Annunciation House in El Paso; La Posada Providencia in San Benito; Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Respite Center in McAllen; Catholic Charities’ Las Alitas in Tucson; and Catholic Charities in San Diego. Volunteers are serving meals and cleaning rooms, providing rides to the bus station and airport, and packing care packages for travelers. They are helping with medical needs and communication with family in the United States and assisting with interpretation and travel arrangements. They are making beds and sorting clothes, reading to children, and praying with parents.” 

1/5/2019 – Sr. Ilia Delio’s 7-minute Advent reflection fits Epiphany equally well:  “God is waiting for us to wake up.  It’s as if we’re asleep in the manger, not Jesus.  Sometimes I think we have things backwards.  What if we’re in the manager and God is already awakened in our midst and we’re so fallen asleep, so unconsciously asleep, that God is sort of looking for ‘Will someone get up and help bring the gifts into the world?’…  God is seeking to move from the collective unconsciousness into consciousness.  God is seeking to become God in us, which is a way of looking at the Incarnation itself.  Jesus awakens the human consciousness to a new way of being that is expressive of the divine reality of love.  How could God come to the world without us?” 

1/4/2019 – Sr. Linda McDonald offers thoughtfully grounded, hopeful insight into the “silent momentum” of societal transformation, reminding us that “…to follow Jesus is to examine the boundaries of our love and care.”

1/3/2019 – Order your copies before March 1 of LCWR’s 2019 reflection booklet, “Making Meaning of Our Lives.”  Over 40 women religious share how they make sense of what happens in their lives, and they don’t shy away from complicated questions like:  Does my life make a difference?  If I don’t see any results through the work I have done, has it been worthwhile?  Is the manner in which I live making any impact on the world around me?  As I get older, does my presence matter?

As we begin 2019 – from the weekly peace prayer of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace:
“God of peace, bless us all over again,
that we might live with a new, mature faith,
that we might be instruments of your gift of peace on earth,
that all may be healed,
that all may radiate your love,
that all may be one.”

12/28/2018 – Magisterium of the People” is a powerful new documentary inspired by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia – sisters, priests, laypeople who go to Appalachia to listen to the people’s stories and report their findings in the form of pastoral letters.  The first two letters in 1975 and 1995 were official messages from the Catholic bishops.  By 2015, the bishops’ priorities had shifted.  The Committee didn’t let that stop their prophetic word.  They issued a “People’s Pastoral” to document the harm done to people and to the earth, and the self-empowerment, collaboration, and transformation that the people are bringing about. Watch the trailer and – at its end – use the “rent $4.99” to watch the whole excellent video.

12/20/2018 – New! Search the archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore (est.1790), the oldest continuous community of women religious in what became the original 13 states. Early colonial/US church history to now – a treasure.

12/16/2018 – “If we believe that the reign of God is real and as near as our own hearts, we will become freer than we could ever have imagined,” writes Sr. Mary McGlone.  This is the freedom I see in the women religious I know. They inspire me.

12/13/2018 – We in Solidarity with Sisters brought refreshments and champagne as a happy housewarming for our very dear friends at LCWR in their new office home.  Already they were almost completely unpacked and fully decorated for Christmas! As Richard of SwS said, “The Spirit of God is in this place.”  LCWR shares the suite with the Resource Center for Religious Institutes and Friends in Solidarity with South Sudan, who also were co-located at LCWR’s former “8808” building for many years. 

12/10/2018 – LCWR president-elect Sister Jayne Helmlinger and LCWR Global Concerns Committee member Sister Sue Dunning joined with other faith leaders (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, more) in leading 400 in a solemn procession to the border to welcome and bless migrants seeking refuge in the US.  When they reached the enforcement zone, they were stopped by a line of Border Patrol agents in riot gear. Leaders moved forward to offer a ceremonial blessing and 32 people were taken into custody. LCWR co-sponsored this action with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) as part of the Week of Action for Migrant Justice (Dec. 10-18).

12/11/2018 –  Over 100 retired Immaculate Heart sisters covered 1,170 miles during a nine-week pilgrimage to support migrants and refugees — while raising almost $2,000 for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services along the way. Each sister pledged to walk (or wheel, if needed) 100 miles. Their journey took place in the long hallways of Camilla Hall, their retirement home outside Philadelphia.  What’s our version of this pilgrimage?

12/10/2018 – Make the tradition fit the moment:  A posada is a Latin American Christmas-Eve tradition, a door-to-door journey for “Mary and Joseph” through the town, seeking shelter.  “La Posada Sin Fronteras uses the exact same songs as the traditional Posada liturgy. But rather than walking through a neighborhood and knocking on doors, immigration advocates … gather on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border.”

12/7/2018 – Want to hear voices directly from the US-Mexican border?  Women religious are using their amazing networks and generosity to put themselves on the border at the places of most urgent need.  They bring warmth, welcome, and practical help to migrants after their long journeys and long waits (warmer clothes, some privacy, transportation to the bus station to get to the immigrants’ sponsors, etc.).  Global Sisters Report is compiling their first-person stories — from early November, early December, and later in December, plus a new, free, more comprehensive e-book, Seeking Refuge.for download.  In another blog, Sr. Judy Molofsky observed that “Because of the upsurge in refugees…Sr. Adelia has noticed that the ‘light in the womens’ eyes has gone out,’ for those at her shelter.” Women religious also organized “Christmas in Tornillo” where 2,300 immigrant teens are held in tents on the Texas border.

12/6/2018 – Sister Susan Rose Francois, “a GenX nun,” tweets a daily prayer to President Trump. Why? Sitting in the Newark airport, she realized that “I am going to go crazy if I don’t come up with some calming spiritual practice that keeps me engaged but does not add to the negativity.” The New York Times interviewed her to find out more.  So did NPR.

12/5/2018 – What do young people need to stay in the church?  Sister Tarianne DeYonkers answers thoughtfully in her blog post.  E.g., “Jesus called disciples, taught them and knew they’d live in a variety of ways. As we listen to young peoples’ questions, may we grasp those openings as teachable moments. Young people are calling for honest dialogue. Can we dare?”

12/5/2018 – Sisters’ vows of poverty enable “impact investing” – strategic use of stock ownership/funds in solidarity with marginalized people. The CFO of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace explains what they do.

12/2/2018 – For this first Sunday of Advent, a poignant and powerful call to “Stay, Wait in Hope” on today’s 38th anniversary of the murder of the four churchwomen martyrs of El Salvador – Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clark, Maryknoll missioner Jean Donovan, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel.  Includes one image “that might be challenging for some.”

12/2/2018 – Advent resources for you!

  • “Walking toward Hope,” reflections with a focus on refugees and immigrants for each week of Advent, Christmas Eve, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and the Epiphany, from the Interfaith Immigation Coalition (includes LCWR) – 21 pages
  • From the School Sisters of Notre Dame – Advent 2018 reflections with a focus on Mary – 7 pages
  • From the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA — weekly Advent reflections
  • Sisters of Mercy –weekly Advent 2018 reflections – 1 page each week
  • Sister Joan Chittister, “Prepare Your Heart
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange – 100 Days of Prayer
  • From NCR’s website Celebration Publications – sign up for daily Advent emails
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia – A Cosmic Advent Wreath – short prayers for each week of Advent as you light the wreath’s candles
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia – Praying Advent – readings, reflections, and prayers for Advent
  • Advent retreat and resources at Sister Joan Chittister’s Monasteries of the Heart
  • Jan Richardson’s ‘Illuminated 2018‘ online retreat
  • All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by David G Klein and Gayle Boss – “The dark is not an end but the way a new beginning comes. Short, daily reflections that paint vivid, poetic images of familiar animals, paired with charming original wood-cuts, will engage both children and adults.”

12/2/2018 – LCWR’s December Update newsletter has important info, wisdom, and news. E.g.,

  • LCWR and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men have historically met twice a year; this November, sisters of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious accepted the invitation to participate in the meeting.  Later in November, “LCWR leadership enjoyed a luncheon with our CMSWR sisters during the USCCB meeting…. As we continue to strengthen our relationships with our sisters, the presence of joy, mutual respect, and love for one another becomes more tangible.” 
  • LCWR has named a team of officers and members to lead the process of discerning the next iteration of LCWR as it responds to the needs of leaders into the first half of the 21st century,” which sounds important and exciting to me.
  • In the “emerging questions” series for December, for reflection and conversation:  “What is it that we know that we act as if we don’t know?”
  • LCWR continues in the forefront of many justice actions nationwide.  I’ll send you LCWR’s December newsletter on this work; I don’t think it’s online.
  • Incoming LCWR president Sister Jayne Helmlinger reflects on “living the questions.”

12/1/2018 – December 7 is the last day to order your copy of the Winter 2019 issue of Occasional Papers focusing on “Activating Compassion.”  Leaders share their own experiences of both receiving and extending compassion in times of crisis, and other writers offer insightful ideas on activating compassion in the world as a force for good. Included in this issue are interviews with author Sister Joyce Rupp on living and leading from a stance of compassion and theologian John Haught on how the concept of an unfinished universe impacts our understandings of suffering and compassion. Order your copies today (Christmas gifts?).

11/27/2018 – Sister Joan Chittister led us to this hymn and others by the same writer.  “A New Hymn:  When Children Scream from Tear Gas” is a strong lament written in response to the November 25 news stories of children suffering from the tear gas used against asylum seekers on the border. Permission is given for free use of this hymn. Please share it.

When Children Scream from Tear Gas
PASSION CHORALE D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)

When children scream from tear gas where they’ve been told to wait,
when signs tell families, “Don’t pass!” outside our nation’s gate—
O Lord who welcomed children and loves each little one,
we cry, “Where is compassion?” We pray, “What have we done?”

When neighbors seek asylum as days and weeks drag on,
when they dream dreams of freedom while we make fences strong—
O Lord who said God’s kingdom will welcome those in need,
we cry, “Where is the welcome? What have we done, indeed?”

When travelers on their journey walk on, on blistered feet,
as they look for a country where peace and justice meet—
If faith can topple mountains, Lord, what will churches do?
Will we reach to the suffering? Will we, in them, see you?

We ask, “What should we do here? Are we our neighbors’ friends?”
The challenge isn’t new here; you’ve shown how love extends.
May we cry out for justice till others need not cry.
May love become our witness till no one waits outside.

More hymns to well-known tunes in support of immigrants can be found at

11/25/2018 – What does it mean to be “global church” during the international church crisis of sexual abuse?John L. Allen Jr. reminds us of factors that we seldom notice  — and that the February 2019 bishops’ summit in Rome will have to navigate as the bishops address sexual abuse.  Being global church means dropping accustomed European- and US-centered perspectives because “There are roughly 1.3 billion Catholics in the world today, two-thirds of whom live in the southern hemisphere, and by mid-century that share will be about three-quarters.”  For African prelates, “the very concept of ‘child protection’ is much larger, including sexual abuse but also slavery, child soldiers, trafficking, child marriage, and much else.” Excellent info in the article.

11/21/2018 – Sisters report on their work with asylum-seekers along the US-Mexican border, amid caravan headlines.  Individual sisters give clear, poignant  pictures of what people need and what they’re doing.  Less obvious is the immense network of sisters who work for justice and who share information constantly so that these good things happen for new refugees.  That network (that holy communion!) has been built for many, many years and holds powerful collective information and wisdom.  “Follow the nuns and you can’t go wrong,” advised Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the House 1977-87.  He was talking in part about how he relied on the international network of Maryknoll sisters as he opposed President Reagan’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s.  Could we convince current policy-makers to read these stories?

11/22/2018 – “Our [women’s] leadership is needed now more than ever… Not to change the church, but in changing ourselves and our communities, which will in turn create the change we need in the  institutions that make up our society.”  Please read Sr. Linda Romey’s superb essay and straightforward examples show how “Women hold tremendous power and it is our choice to release it or not.” — in our language, our behavior, how to be at the table, how to speak our truth in our prayer, our works, our celebrations.  We really can do this.  Often, as she notes, we can invite our brothers to join us. 

11/19/2018 – Theologian James Keenan SJ’s proposal that the pope should (and has the authority to) immediately name women cardinals continues to gain interest.  The Austrian monthly Kirche In just translated, published, and made his 9/8/2018 NCR article their cover story.

11/19/2018 – In South Sudan, congregations chose a decade ago to live and share ministry together, creating a school where people from different tribal backgrounds live and learn together, and then bring learning and peace to their communities.  Over 4000 teachers have participated in courses offered through the Solidarity Teacher Training Program.around them.  Students stayed at the school as war swept through their home places and areas near the school. 

11/12/2018 – Sr. Teresa Maya, past president of LCWR, spoke lovingly and boldly to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, her “hermanos” (brothers).  Starts ~8:55. Worth listening.  E.g.,

  • She repeatedly uses a vivid, timely, pointed image of a tree she loved, outside her office at her motherhouse (generalate).  “A beautiful oak tree had a rotten core despite its apparent health on the outside. Without a core it could not sustain its branches. Without a core it could not survive.”   “I pray that you will have the courage to take down any structures with a rotten core and to plant the seedlings that will take time to grow.”
  • “The only way to face any crisis is together, in communion.”  “Create relationships that will enable true discernment.” “You are called to encuentro.”
  • “Hold the ambiguity.”  “You are called to listen.”  “…a listening, contemplative heart.”
  • “Times of crisis call us to lean into our core identity, what our discipleship in Jesus Christ means – what we need to let go of and what is most precious.”
  • “You are called to renewed spiritual depth.”  Like the beautiful, seemingly healthy oak tree at her motherhouse, “without a core, it could not survive” – “heart rot.”
  • You are called to “a listening, contemplative heart…. Without a deep spiritual life in communion, we lack the humility to discern the good from the bad, the authenticity to understand God’s deep desire, and the courage to remain at the table.”                                                                       
  • “Look to your left and to your right; the men of the church need the women of the Church to recreate the Catholic communion.”
  • “You shepherd one of the most diverse and most gifted churches in the world.  You need the diversity of insights and talents gathered at this table of communion.   This may be the grace of this moment:  the actual need to turn to the lay men and women who can lead through this time, to turn to Catholic universities to help us ask the brave questions we need to ask….”
  • “You should not expect the Vatican to resolve what is yours to resolve.”
  • Telling of the blessing of bishops by 3000 young US Hispanic Catholics at the recent V Encuentro: “To get the blessing, first you must show up to a culture of encuentro, without agenda, vulnerable in the midst of our church.”

11/13/2018 – Schism in the US church? Fr. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit with clear, broad vision, writes: “History shows that the possibility of schism is always present, but the odds against schism today are high…. The topics under discussion at the Baltimore meeting [of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, now underway], sex abuse and racism, are certainly controversial, but the bishops are united in their opposition to racism and united in panic in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis. On sex abuse, the major split is not among the bishops, but between the bishops and their people…. History’s most important schisms have been more about politics than theology….  The issue in Baltimore is not schism but credibility. If the bishops are not capable of credibly dealing with sex abuse during their meeting in Baltimore, the faithful will not break away; they will simply leave.”

11/6/2018 – The pivotal work of Catholic sisters against human trafficking was recognized in a recent award to Sister Marlene Weisenbeck and LCWR.  “No one organization can do it alone.  It’s as simple as that,” says Sister Marlene.  “One contribution [by] women religious is that we don’t want to be involved in turf protection. It comes out of the communal life that we have dedicated ourselves to over the years-that we have needed to learn to live together and work together for the sake of the common good.”

11/5/2018 – Sister Carol Keehan, a force for great good in US healthcare, will retire next June as president and CEO of the Catholic Healthcare Association.  Sr Carol was one of TIME magazine’s 2010 “100 Most Influential People in the World” and NCR’s 2010 “Person of the Year,” and was named to Modern Healthcare’s list of “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” for several years, topping the list at number one in 2007.  She is “irreplaceable,” writes Michael Sean Winters. She told him, “I got into this work because I want to help the poor. I found out that to really help them in this day and age I had to learn all about Medicaid regulations.”

11/1/2018 – This gorgeous All Saints Day homily by Kerry Robinson belongs in all of our digital storehouses of treasures to share with friends who have lost a loved one. From Catholic Women Preach, at Yale University’s Thomas More Chapel.

10/30/2018 – Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), granddaughter of slaves and powerful voice for Gospel justice and joy within the US church, is the subject of a one-woman show by Sherrie Tolliver, and you get a dose of Sr. Thea’s joy if you listen to the interview instead of reading the transcript. Plus some good insights in a 10/31/18 story: “The difference between me and some others is that I am content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things to make change. If each of us would light the candle, we’ve got a tremendous light.” At their next meeting, the USCCB will consider approving efforts to make her sainthood official.

Oct.-Nov. 2018 – LCWR executive director Sister Carol Zinn joined other faith leaders in condemning President Trump’s 10/4/2018 Presidential Determination setting the refugee admissions goal for Fiscal Year 2019 at 30,000, the lowest number in the history of the program. “The Trump administration’s continuing attempts to dismantle the U.S. refugee resettlement program in the face of an unprecedented global refugee crisis is unconscionable. More than 65 million people have been displaced from their homes, more than at any time since World War II. Some 22 million are refugees; most are children. They have been forced from their homes. They are quite literally fleeing for their lives. The United States has a long history of welcoming refugees and women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany refugee communities. We strongly object to President Trump’s attempts to limit our ability to heed the scriptural command to welcome the stranger and care for the foreigner. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious urges President Trump to reconsider his decision and set the refugee admissions goal for FY19 at 75,000.”  The need is vivid in an 11/5/18 video and an 11/6/18 report about the caravan of refugees from Honduras trying to reach the US border.

10/27/2018 – What happens when a Santa Fe minister and a Philly-based Jewish activist introduce some nuns and some nonreligious Millennials? They “fall in love. This sense of seeing and being seen.” Great story on the origin, growth, and hopes for Nuns & Nones: “The surprising alliance between nuns and religious ‘Nones’” in US Catholic. Millennials are glad to find intergenerational community that values justice “with a level of authenticity and vulnerability that’s just rare in life in general.” Sisters who begin with uncertainty discover “we’re soulmates.” Tensions become “learning opportunities.” They bond over “doubt living within faith.” Millennials find they learn from how sisters are “advancing social justice work, doing it in a way that’s collective, that honors people, and in a way that’s really smart.” Next step? They want to try living together. “Currently, Nuns & Nones has an open call for women religious willing to open their convent, motherhouse, or retreat center as a test site for a small group of Millennials to try out a temporary residency.”

10/27/2018 – Helpful to me re the abuse crisis – Why stay in the church? “Sister Lyn Szymkiewicz responded that one doesn’t throw away a body because one part is diseased.” And I love the title of the article: “Be the church you wish to see in the world” from US Catholic.

10/26/2018 – LCWR calls for the welcoming and humane treatment of arriving immigrants. In their statement, they “reject the president’s rhetoric of fear and policy of division that poison our politics.” “The United States has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants and sheltering refugees. Women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany and serve migrant communities across this country for a very long time. We will continue to welcome them as our national history demands and our faith requires.”

10/25/2018 –The leaders of 34 German-speaking European women’s orders “are calling for the admission of women to all church ministries and offices.” The sisters — from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg — are members of the worldwide UISG (International Union of Superiors General). They call for a new “culture of dialogue, of participation, and of gender equality.” They affirm that higher numbers of qualified women would enrich the church at all levels, showing “how men and women have worked and do work in brotherly and sisterly collaboration as a rich blessing for people.”

10/15/2018 – Bishops and sisters discussed the declining numbers of women religious in a Sept. 24-25 meeting to help the Chicago diocese grasp the impact. Yet again, women religious lead the church into new realities. “The number of women religious in the United States has declined 75 percent in 50 years, from a peak of 181,421 in 1965 to 47,160 in 2016”; nearly 8 in 10 are over age 70. In “open, honest, moving, at times humorous” dialogue, LCWR executive director Sister Carol Zinn and other sisters look at declining numbers and see “life-giving” ways of “transformation.” Can we do that with the US church as a whole, as numbers continue to drop?

Oct. 2018 – LCWR past president Sister Teresa Maya on “What religious orders can do today to thrive – exciting and inspiring.

Oct. 2018 – “Nuns on the Bus 2018” are on the road from Los Angeles to President Trump’s palatial getaway at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Sister Simone Campbell and Network: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby are holding town halls and advocacy meetings with elected officials and town halls with hundreds of people in towns across the United States. Sister Simone and Sister Rochelle Friedman did a lively, fun, thoughtful 10/26 Q&A session with young staffers at America magazine: “A good Catholic meddles in politics…and votes.”

10/3/2018 – The international Catholic Women Speak network has a new book, launched at a symposium timed to coincide with the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, in Rome. Visions and Vocations offers engaging, accessible essays from both theological and personal viewpoints, from more than 60 women and girls from 20 countries ranging in age from 14 to 85. To lift women’s voices at the Synod, book copies were delivered for the bishops and others participating. Buy it online from Paulist Press.

10/25/2018 – The five sisters in India who publicly protested the rape of one sister by a bishop now fear for their lives. The bishop is free on bail, and a priest who accused him was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

10/25/2018 – Global Sisters Report editor Gail DeGeorge points out a big gap in the Hilton Foundation’s 2018 awards for humanitarian innovation: no sisters’ voices or awards for sisters, despite worldwide programs by women religious that clearly model the Foundation’s criteria.  DeGeorge points out that sisters, like the award nominees, “start at the grassroots level…, living in a community often for a year or more, before starting programs or offering help to really understand the community’s needs, and they encourage and inspire local residents to take charge of their lives.”

A tiny sampling of October 2018 movements in the church as a whole:

  • Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980), who stood up for justice and the people of El Salvador at the cost of his life, was officially declared a saint.
  • 10/15/2018 – “We take our eye off the ball if we don’t deal with privilege, power and protection of a clerical culture. Those three elements have to be eradicated from the life of the church. Everything else is a sideshow if we don’t get at that,” Cardinal Blase Cupich (Chicago) told NCR. “Bishops have to, as a group, say, ‘We cede our rights as bishops to have somebody else come in and investigate us’ if there is an accusation against me” he told NCR, presuming some sort of independent lay oversight group.
  • New investigations are underway into records of clerical sexual abuse of children and cover-ups in the USA. Some bishops have taken the lead, asking their states’ attorneys general or independent bodies to conduct thorough examinations (Missouri, Connecticut, Oklahoma). Civil authorities have initiated other investigations (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, Wyoming); other states (like Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana) can take action only in response to lower-level civil authorities. On 10/26 the US Department of Justice (already investigating all 8 dioceses in Pennsylvania plus the Diocese of Buffalo) formally asked every Roman Catholic diocese in the United States not to destroy documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse, a sign that the federal investigation into the church could grow far more extensive.On 10/26 the Congregation of Major Superiors of Men (the umbrella group for men in religious orders like Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans, etc.) invited its members to voluntarily make known the names of men credibly accused of sexual abuse, which would be a radical step of transparency for orders that have been less in focus than bishops and diocesan priests. Pope Francis pledged to examine the Vatican records on abuse and cover-up related to Theodore McCarrick, following Archbishop Vigano’s public accusations of hierarchical complicity; already there are reports that papal strictures on McCarrick existed by 2011, without apparent enforcement. Not yet clear how these issues of sexual predation on vulnerable people, including “workplace” harassment similar to #MeToo, will impact the November agenda of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s regular semi-annual meeting. Will they mention that all these issues relate to abuse of power and more fundamentally to the theology of priesthood?
  • In September, the Vatican signed an historic agreement with China on the appointment of bishops. Maybe this will increase the legitimacy of Catholicism and Christianity, perhaps providing some protection in the face of China’s increasing persecution of Christians and also of Islam and Tibetan Buddhists.  
  • Hopeful stuff in the group reports at the Youth Synod in Rome, which were the foundation for (all male) votes on the final report and decisions by Pope Francis.  Sisters present at the synod report being treated with respect and a sense that their voices are valued and heard in small-group discussions.  US Sister Sally Hodgdon, a Synod participant, called the Synod a hopeful “conversion” time and notes that the challenging part will be the follow-through back home.

10/2/2018 – In response to sexual abuse and abuse of power in the church, a new group called Catholics For Action has created beautiful, prayerful resources we can use to hold pain and make room for grace and action. “Our premise was simply, we thought it was important to show that the folks in the pews felt the hierarchy’s response was unacceptable. We want to lift up survivors’ voices and pray together,” says foundress Adrienne Alexander. Use the Catholics For Action page on Facebook  to learn about actions and ask the growing community for advice about yours, and possibly to get help in publicizing your event. As Adrienne says, “I still think a lot of folk are searching for prayerful, collective action so if you’re interested in doing something, it’d be good.” If you email Adrienne Alexander, she may be able to help you to publicize your event.

  • Prayer of Catholics For Action – for Abuse Survivors and for the Church (see image above right)
  • Flyer / handout, which includes the Catholics for Action Prayer
  • Press Release (used in Boston) – coming soon
  • A Prayer Service of Lamentation for the Broken Body of Christ (used in Naperville, IL, 8/26/18)
  • Stations of the Cross for a Broken Church by Victoria Gaile Laidler
  • Prayers and intersessions from J.S. Paluch, in English and in Spanish

9/30/2018 – Three strong homily reflections to hold onto right now:

  • “God’s prophetic Spirit is given freely and stirred up freely, to the surprise of many people who thought they were specially chosen to receive such a wonderful gift.” – Sister Carol J. Dempsey of the University of Portland in NCR.
  • “God is the source of all power and authority, and nothing will ultimately thwart the coming of the Reign of God!” Are unexpected voices being raised? If the people speaking “are of the Lord, it is the Lord who is acting here. Moses would certainly encourage more of that kind of activity from the Lord’s people!” Be “pilgrim people” —  Reject belonging to the church as an “exclusive group” that “sees itself as self-sufficient, superior to and separate from the outside world… the church of the ordained at the expense of the baptized.” – Sister Dawn Nothwehr of Catholic Theological Union.
  • “In our church and our world today are many people and places where the Spirit is blowing. Even as the scandal and negativity swirl around, green shoots have been appearing…growing from the grassroots up in the most surprising places.” – Lorna Gold at Catholic Women Preach
  • These reflections flow from the readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
  • [Editorial comment: wonderfully, it’s now easy to find women’s voices in contexts like this. Not so true in 2012 when LCWR was challenged by the Vatican.]

9/26/2018 – Back in July, Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming asked the police to re-open its investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of two boys by retired Bishop Joseph Hart. “For the diocese as a whole, it needed to be resolved…. We need to address that abuse of power and the environment that enabled it.” If Bishop Hart is prosecuted criminally, it will be the first prosecution of a bishop for sexual abuse in the US. Wyoming has no statute of limitations on these crimes. Text reportvideo interview with Bishop Biegler

9/21/2018 – Milestone for justice: A bishop in India was arrested in a case of raping a nun 13 times over 2 years. Gail DeGeorge, Global Sisters Report editor, tweeted: “First such arrest ever in India — and I can’t thing of another elsewhere. Sexual abuse of sisters by clergy is yet another ‘hidden sin’ in the Catholic Church.” Today’s arrest in Kerala (the Indian state that has by far the largest proportion of India’s 2.3% Christians in a country 80% Hindu and 14% Islamic) is a tribute to the members of the sister’s local community who’ve held a sit-in protest at a busy intersection since 9/8, and to her biological sister who joined them with a hunger strike and has been in the hospital since 9/19 because of her worsening condition. The five sisters who began the sit-in felt “forced to launch this public protest after the church leadership in India and the Vatican ignored our demand for justice” which began in 2014.

9/21/2018 – Glimpse worldwide violence against women refugees in this personal story: “Nun survivor of anti-Christian violence in India rises from trauma.

9/21/2018 – A creative list of actions for peace — some take only one minute — from Maryknoll for this International Day of Peace.

9/21/2018 – A personal story and challenge for all-male Catholic prep schools. in context of Brett Kavanaugh’s experience at Georgetown Prep. John Gehring (in Commonweal) says they can instill lifelong Catholic values along with “a toxic masculinity and sense of entitlement” and a culture of secrecy…like “exclusive, patriarchal clerical culture that enabled generations of sexual predators.” Some mundane details are chilling, like the chant after a sports-team loss.

9/20/2018 – LCWR has sold its national office building and will move to a new nearby location later this year.

9/20/2018 – Sister Joan Chittister writes, re the abuse crisis, that reformed accountability structures are needed but will fail unless theology changes and lay people step forward. Any new accountability “process guarantees nothing. It’s the theology that counts…. Structures have been used to validate evil forever. As in the present. Nothing that canonical courts dealt with would deal adequately with the evil of child abuse while it was bishops themselves, in concert with Rome, who provided the secrecy that would maintain the problem.” Clericalism, lay obedience, and flawed theologies of priesthood, of the human person, and of church mean that “what we wind up with is a sin against adult conscience and the infantilization of the laity.” The laity “must grow up to be equal to the Christianization of the church itself.”

9/15/2018 – Sister Christine Schenk writes that “For [theologian Leonardo] Boff, the church is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, and since the Spirit is given to all of the people of God, one could ask what organizational or jurisdictional structures function best for releasing the Spirit’s gifts on behalf of the reign of God?” Please read for her stimulating clarity and specifics about how to escape “the monarchical-clerical system” in “a radical overhaul.” (Plus: “I just finished reading “However Long the Night — a beautiful little book from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [that] exemplifies many of Boff’s writings about the central place of charism in the life of the church.”)

2017 – Very fine July 2017 insights into clerical culture: how it works, how it harms, and “how wholly and demonstrably incapable the Catholic clerical culture is of dealing with its own sin.” Tom Roberts ends this superb piece with a question to all the bishops and priests of the world: “What caused us, members of the Catholic clergy culture, to arrive at the point where we could devise a rationale that allowed us to walk away from the incalculable suffering of the community’s children in order to protect those members of the clergy culture who caused the suffering?”  I believe Sister Christine Schenk and Sister Joan Chittister answered on 9/15/18 and 9/20/18: flawed theologies of priesthood, of the laity, and of the church. Their answers make sense only after this thorough, thoughtful analysis by Tom Roberts.

9/13/2018 – Hooray, they went so we don’t have to! Young sisters review the horror film “The Nun.” BTW “nuns and sisters are the heroes.” Except for the one with yellow eyes.

9/11/2018 – Update: The new Baltimore Archdiocese school will be named in honor of Mother Mary Lange. Mary Elizabeth Lange (1784-1882) came from Haiti to Baltimore in 1813. By 1929 she had founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious community of women of African descent, and opened the first Catholic school in the United States for black children — at a time when racism was the law and such schools were forbidden. The Archdiocese decided to name the school for her instead of for deceased Cardinal William Keeler, who was named in the Pennsylvania report.

Sept. 2018 – Important insights keep arriving about sexual abuse, abuse of power, and fundamental philosophical/theological/structural buttresses or foundations of abuse within the church.

  • US sexual abuse by clergy  peaked in 1980 (about 700-775 cases each year 1970s-1980), followed by a steep decline and “no new wave of allegations” (average 17 cases per year 2000-2017), after the USCCB reforms, says a new CARA report. Even one is too many, and support for those who have been abused and legal action to stop abusers is top priority. But the numbers have improved a lot. Father Thomas Reese describes the data and the policies behind the change.
  • Nonetheless, as Reese says, “the bishops have forfeited their credibility.” Father Reese advocates for a “full and credible account of past abuse” in every diocese, led by someone of public stature like a retired judge.
  • Sisters point to structural and cultural changes needed for healing to occur. Many women religious speak out in this article. “True healing can only come with change” and with profound entry into victims’ pain. Many cite the need for courageous, transparent examination of what happened and why, including clericalism, women’s unequal role in the church, secrecy, church structure, and canon law. LCWR president Sister Sharlet Wagner hopes for healing through compassionate listening as well as systemic change.
  • The global patterns of clerical abuse suggest that the roots may be not in the culture of a place, but in the culture of the church. In the past couple of weeks: Catholic sisters in India publicly protest “sexploitation” and church-police collusion in protecting a bishop from charges of raping a sister. A new German report implicates 1,670 clergy in sexual abuse of nearly 3,700 children 1964-2013Three Chilean bishops have been subpoenaed because of their alleged cover-up roles in sexual abuse of children; Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of one of them when all Chilean bishops offered their resignations in May 2018 because of the clerical abuse scandal.
  • “Clerical culture is a primary answer to the question: Why the sexual misconduct scandal in the United States?” Please read Tom Robert’s keen, perceptive 7/17/2017 analysis – long, and truly worth it. If you have to skip some, start at the heading “An inseparable part of being Catholic.”
  • Pope Francis also points to church culture. In Ireland this month the pope said that abuse, “especially when it is widespread and gives great scandal — think of Chile, here in Ireland or in the United States — has behind it a church that is elitist and clericalist, an inability to be near to the people of God.”
  • Important structural change (like female-male equality) can be rooted in a new linkage of science and theology, and that’s both more fundamental and less inflammatory than some other ways of advocating for change, writes Sister Ilia Delio.
  • The Chilean archdiocese of Santiago is piloting training to empower young people against many forms of abuse inside and outside the church. In addition to (and related to) sexual abuse, the training looks at the abuse of conscience, situations where people in power take advantage of young people and normalize behavior that isn’t appropriate. A trainee noted the connections “like boyfriends being too controlling and calling it love and mothers bringing their children up to be sexist by saying things like it’s girl’s work.”
  • This is a crisis of abuse of power plus “substance abuse” that’s built into structures and foundational assumptions, like the “ontologically different” priesthood and the culture of self-protective silencing, which harms priests as much as it harms us and the church.
  • Structural change takes a long time. How about making women cardinals right now? Father James Keenan writes: “I believe that until women have power in the church, we will not be reformed. By power, I don’t think making women deacons is much of a step; I think making them cardinals is.” Father James Keenan advocates 8 as a start. He says that until 1917 there was no requirement for cardinals to be ordained; before that, the College of Cardinals was made up of both ordained and lay men. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger told others that Mother Teresa turned down an offer to become a cardinal.
  • Pope Francis has called the heads of worldwide bishops’ conferences to meet in Rome on clergy sexual abuse in February 2019. Is it possible for this meeting to occur without lay women and men (including women religious) as equal participants?
  • Focus on revolution acts of reparative love, Sister Virginia Herbers urges.Before anything else, before any attempt to understand or converse or tend or triage, I first see, and in seeing someone I love who is hurting, I do not make a decision to tend. I do not even discern whether it is right or wrong for me to be the one to reach out. When I see the heartbrokenness of my beloved, I simply respond with a tender, reflexive love so that my beloved is not alone in her pain. It is the reflex of the mother seeing her child fall off the jungle gym….  One thing I know for certain: Divisiveness is the victory lap of evil. The divisiveness to which we are succumbing is only doing more damage to the already-scourged body of Christ.” This echoes Sister Sharlet Wagner’s and LCWR’s calls for compassionate listening as well as structural change.

9/4/2018 – The Nuns and Nones movement is reaching wider and deeper. Very stimulating article about this “unlikely  alliance” between spiritual-but-not-religious millennials and Catholic sisters — a thought-provoking alternative to millennials’ finding that “CrossFit [gym] is my religion.” Nuns and Nones is attracting people who “live on the edge and challenge the middle.” A young woman reports that she was “surprised to discover that the sisters are ‘quiet revolutionaries,’ who run everything from N.G.O.s to retreat centers, always working in marginalized communities. The level of independence sisters have was something she was not familiar with, but as an activist and organizer herself, she was immediately drawn to the models provided by the sisters of what feminist, nonhierarchical leadership can look like, and what ‘beloved community’ can be. ‘Their way of life,’ she said, ‘is medicine for our times.'” Nuns and Nones has held gatherings around the country since its 2016 start. Meetings “explore new forms of community life, help millennials see models for sustainable activism and create an intergenerational network of connections.” Some become continuing communities. It all began with two Harvard post-graduate fellows plus an ordained United Church of Christ minister in his mid-60s from Michigan and a 31-year-old man raised in a secular Jewish family. So many stimulating insights and possibilities are opening! Also: 15-minute America Media podcast with the article’s author, Kaya Oakes. 

What’s wrong with polarization when so much is at stake? Demonizing people, taking children from moms… Don’t we have to stand for principles?” A very experienced, thoughtful, practical panel begins reflecting about this at about 47:00 during a June 3-6, 2018 seminar, “Though Many, One: Overcoming Polarization through Catholic Social Thought.” Led by Georgetown University’s John Carr, this panel features LCWR’s past president Sister Teresa Maya, Helen Alvaré, and Cardinals Blase Cupich and José Gómez.

Meet LCWR’s new executive director (started 7/1), Sister Carol Zinn.

Aug. 2018 – Sisters’ networks are offering resources for creation Justice leading up to, on, and after the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi 10/4.

  • Season of Creation, September 1—October 4  — From the beginning of September until the feast of St. Francis, Christians around the world unite to pray and care for creation. The theme is “walking together,” and there are endless ways for your community to show it is on a journey toward better care of our common home. Download the planning guide. Register your Season of Creation celebration to join the global movement to protect creation.  Find events near you.
  • Feast of St. FrancisOctober 4  — Every October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis celebrates the saint who saw all created beings as his sister or brother. Inspired by this example, Catholic Climate Covenant produces a free educational program to help faith communities explore how they can better care for creation and the poor. This year’s program, “Who Is My Neighbor In A Climate – Threatened World?” focuses on the interconnections between immigration, refugees, and climate change.  To receive the 90-minute educational program, register here.
  • Global Week of Living the Change—October 7-14  — During these seven days, Living the Change will hold its first Global Week, celebrating with more than 100 local events in faith communities around the world. This will be a joyous occasion to come together as the world’s faith communities and commemorate the changes we are all living for a flourishing world. Learn more about how to plan an event, make a personal commitment to live more sustainably, and share the message here.

8/28/2018 – 9/10/2018 – Nourishment in this time of great pain and deep longing:

  • Pray the new Prayer for Wholeness and Healing for abuse survivors, for all of us, for the church – by Sister Linda Buck.  “We come together broken, shaken…. We gather as the People of God… seeking a unifying love….”
  • Explore LCWR’s new Resolution to Action, “We Are Made for These Times,” and its insights about how to hold these times in church and society, and still keep moving. By Sister Ellen Haynes.
  • Return to the powerful 2016 reflection of Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, “We Were Made for These Times.” An excerpt:  “What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
         “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.”

8/28/2018 – Archbishop William E. Lori is considering a proposal to name a soon-to-be-built school in West Baltimore after Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who established the country’s first Catholic school for black children, instead of the original plan of naming it for the late Cardinal William Keeler, who was cited in the Pennsylvania grand jury’s report for allowing a priest accused of multiple sex offenses to resume his ministry in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun reports that “Mother Lange was one of the most important and well-known figures in the history of the black Catholic church. Born in the Caribbean [Haiti], Mary Elizabeth Lange moved to Baltimore in the early 1800s and opened a free school for black children in Fells Point. She is currently on the path to canonization and could become the first ever black American saint. At a time when much of Baltimore’s black population was enslaved and racism ran rampant, Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order of black nuns in modern history.” You can contact Archbishop Lori’s office at 320 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 – or by phone at 410-547-5437 – or by email.

8/22/2018 – The Hilton Foundation’s 2018-22 support for women religious will focus on “sisters’ human development work and their role as spiritual and prophetic witnesses through their vocations.” The Conrad N. Hiliton Foundation is an important source of strategic funding. Its 2018-22 strategy envisions “Catholic sisters recognized as global leaders in sustainable human development, grounded in the vitality of their services and spiritual witness.” Its investment strategy highlights sisters’ education, human development services, knowledge, and innovation,

8/22/18 – Sisters, bishops, the People of God risk death together to oppose the brutal, corrupt regime of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and to accompany the many living in fear and poverty. “We live with risk and uncertainty every day. We are at the point of doing our humanitarian work in secret,” says Sr. Esperanza. “We’re called to work with Jesus in proclaiming and trying to usher in little by little the kingdom, and challenge injustice and falsehood. If we aren’t being persecuted, we aren’t preaching the Gospel,” says Fr. Eduardo. Reported by Sr Rhonda Miska in Global Sisters Report.

8/23/18 – Meet Sister Jayne Helmlinger, new president-elect of LCWR.  “[G]oing through what we did with the doctrinal assessment and apostolic visitation–it took away those imaginary borders [between congregations] and we came  together as women religious. We’re coming together as women religious globally,” she says in an interview with Global Sisters Report. She emphasizes diversity and global focus in congregations, as well as collaboration & innovation — e.g., to connect younger sisters with each other, to partner in meeting congregational needs, to work with other sisters’ groups & with men’s communities. “Bridge-building.”

8/23/18 – Why did Mark Piper become an associate member of the Sisters of Mercy? “I wanted to be a part of something, and I wanted that something to develop my Catholic spirituality, in communion with others, and I wanted to make a difference in both prayer and service.” His article describes a thriving movement: “in 2000 there were some 25,000 associates, by 2015 that had increased more than 120 percent to over 55,900.”

8/23/18 – What can we learn from Irish sisters and the Magdalene laundries? How did Irish sisters respond when stories of  physical and emotional abuse in orphanages and industrial schools (1940s-1960s) were widely publicized in the mid-1990s?  Can US bishops learn from what sisters did? E.g., are US bishops doing the hard individual/communal work of processing their own feelings so they can be genuinely attentive right now? Are they creating ways for all priests to do it? Have they clarified non-negotiable they will express in every aspect and for all involved? Sister Breege O’Neill writes of the Irish Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy: Its leaders “had to come to grips with their own feelings and responses” and create ways for all sisters to process their “stunned, paralyzed” feelings (“confusion, anger, depression, denial, grief”) in context of the question: “What is God saying to us/asking of us in all the events that are unfolding?” Sister Breege describes her congregations’ chosen values as well as the internal and external steps taken on pp. 183-194 in LCWR’s 2015 book Transformational Leadership. Similar principles and processes fill the stories of US LCWR leaders in LCWR’s 2018 However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis.

Other updates to this website September – October 2018:

  • Updated the “Nones and Nuns” information on our page with tips on how to “Connect with Sisters.”

8/21/18 – Superb interview with Sister Simone Campbell on the crises of sexual abuse and power abuse in the church.  Listen (32:37) or read the transcript. Sister Simone is executive director of NETWORK, an advocacy group for Catholic social justice which organizes the Nuns on the Bus campaign. She’s the author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.”

8/21/18 – Many are looking for root causes for the abuse scandal. The one that seems to me to go deepest — beyond needed procedural reform, beyond a culture of silence, beyond clericalism – is feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt’s “Real change against abuse starts with church’s clergy/lay structure.” Clarity about causes will keep us from solving the wrong problem. In a harrowing personal account of sick, sexualized culture within his former seminary (8/22/2018), Gabe Giella makes clear that there’s no reason for “the scapegoating of gay men by the Catholic Church regarding the sexual abuse of people of all ages. We are not talking about healthy, out, integrated men who are aware and unashamed of their sexuality. We are not talking about men who are simply repressed because they follow their vow of celibacy diligently. We are talking about deeply dangerous minds in the highest and lowest ranks of the Church’s clergy and hierarchy.” He writes that “There are sick, broken, power hungry, scared men on both sides of the ‘liberal/traditional’ Catholic fence.”

These times in the church (see highlights, 8th item below) and the world remind me of Margaret Wheatley’s memorable, prescient, practical LCWR keynote address in 2016: “It’s going to get a lot worse and we’re going to look back at these as the good old days.” — and “What does it take for you to be able to stay and be the presence of love? In the face of terrible inhumane atrocities, what gives you the capacity to be the presence of love? To me, this is not theoretical at all. For me, this is a commitment that I made. I want to stay. I want to be available. I don’t want to get overwhelmed with rage and grief for what I am seeing. And I think that is the challenge for all of us.” — and wisdom in her responses to those questions: contemplation, surrender to Mystery, communion with each other and with suffering people. “…there is no way to peace. We’re not cultivating it, we’re being it, step by step.”  And it can be simple and joyful, as Dani Clark describes in her very very short story, “This is why it’s divine.”

8/20/18 – From L.A. barrios to Mar-a-Lago, Nuns on the Bus will be on the road again October 7 to November 2, with 54 stops in 21 states — “exposing the lies and telling the truth about the harmful effects of the 2017 tax law at every stop along the way.” Get behind-the-scenes insight into what it takes and how sites are chosen, thanks to Dan Stockman of Global Sisters Report.

8/17/18: The Body of Christ Must Reclaim Our Church NCR editorial -Excellent throughout, and: “…women should be as equally represented as men in [groups formed to deal with church issues]. We would especially recommend reserving places in these groups for women religious. There are many leaders of women’s congregations who are more than qualified to serve on any of these bodies, particularly those in the U.S. who endured years of Vatican scrutiny under the apostolic visitation and the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.”

  • NCR closes with the reminder that “Kneeling beside you [in the pews at mass] are likely the strongest allies you have in rebuilding a church so badly in need of reform.” 

8/20/18 – LCWR Statement on Sexual Abuse by Clergy. “The recent news… has left us at LCWR sickened and ashamed of the church we love, trusted, and have committed our lives to serve. We weep and grieve with all who over the decades have been victimized by sexual predators within the faith community and feel their pain as our own. We recognize that the damage done to many is irreparable.  Sexual abuse is a horrific crime, and the horror is so much worse when committed by persons in whom society has placed its trust and confidence. Equally difficult to comprehend is the culture within the church hierarchy that tolerated the abuse, left children and vulnerable adults subject to further abuse, and created practices that covered up the crimes and protected the abusers.” LCWR calls upon leaders for specific actions, including involvement of laity, and closes: “We are committed to collaborate in the essential work of healing and transformation that our church so desperately needs.”

8/9/18 – Sister Jayne Helmlinger was elected president-elect at the LCWR Assembly. She serves in the three-part presidency with president Sister Sharlet Wagner and past president Sister Teresa Maya. Sister Jayne is General Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph of Orange, CA and is/has been? CEO of their St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation. Meet her via a Q&A about herself and her hopes for LCWR, a bio, and a youtube about “What do sisters do for fun?”

8/9/18 – St. Louis sisters now embed anti-racism in their ministries, reported as Global Sisters Report begins a new series examining how sisters and others are working to heal cities divided after incidents of anti-black racism. The date isn’t accidental — 8/9/18 was the 4th anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. The LCWR Assembly included standing up for racial justice at the courthouse of the 1847-1850 Dred Scott trials, whose conclusion expanded the civil rights of “owners” of enslaved people, eliminated federal civil rights for enslaved people, and returned the Dred Scott family to their former “owner” even though they had escaped to free territory.

 8/7 to 8/10/18 – 2018 LCWR Assembly in St. Louis. Visit our one-stop page for speeches, media reports, tweets, video, more. Theme: Being the Presence of Love – The Power of Communion. LCWR’s final overview highlights inspiring talks and the powerful anti-racism action of the Assembly.

8/6/18 – Two more great reviews of LCWR’s new book, However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis: A Spiritual Journey. “Very intimate and clear… this is exactly what we need as a nation to begin to heal the polarities we are experiencing… [The authors] reveal from the inside out an amazing process of transformation.” Get yours today in print or Kindle at Amazon.

For anyone who wants a sampling/overview of the avalanche of recent news about abuse within the church, check NCR’s fine extensive list, America magazine’s summary, and/or this simpler version, which also draws on Crux, the BBC, and other sources.

July 2018 – “Being in Communion – Standing against Racism” is the focus of a public action and a resolution at the LCWR 2018 Assembly. Women religious are tireless in this work, with a renewed urgency as they continue to learn about racism in their own congregations (see “Black Sisters” on our Sisters – History page).  Today’s news focuses on Sister Thea Bowman, the first African-American to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin, who died of cancer in 1990 at age 52. The US Bishops expect to approve her first step toward official sainthood at their next meeting in November 2018. An excellent article on her life says: “Arguably no person in recent memory did more to resist and transform the sad legacy of segregation and racism in the Catholic Church than Thea Bowman of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a scholar and public speaker who inspired millions with her singing and message of God’s love for all races and faiths. Sister Thea awakened a sense of fellowship in people both within and well beyond the Catholic world, first and foremost through her charismatic presence. But she also did it through her willingness to speak the truth about racial injustice in society and the church and through her remarkable ability to express such truths in the context of God’s universal love.”
         The National Black Sisters Conference, at its 2018 annual meeting, noted that there’s been progress (“…in 1968, only three of the sisters in the sisters’ conference were in leadership in their communities and there was only one black bishop in the United States. Today, there are nine active black bishops and seven more retired, and most of the sisters are either in leadership or have been in the past.”) — but the Catholic Church is still “reluctant to embrace its black members” and “black Catholics must continue fighting to make their voices heard.”
          Sister Thea saw Catholicism’s tremendous potential to forge healing relationships across the color line. And she didn’t appreciate being seen as a “saint.” “I know people are looking for sources of hope and courage and strength. I know it’s important to have special people to look up to. But, see, I think all of us in the church are supposed to be that kind of person to each other.”

Recent updates to this website:

7/27/18 – Horrifying stories of abuse of Catholic sisters by bishops and priests in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia are spotlighted in a major AP article, Global Sisters Report, and elsewhere. In India, the chairwoman of the National Commission on Women called for a ban on confession for women because of several reported confession-related cases. Indian church leaders responded that this idea is absurd and unconstitutionally discriminates against Catholics.

7/27/18 – Related to the above reports of abuse of sisters by priests, LCWR issued a strong statement today “to end a culture of silence, hold abusers accountable, and provide support to those abused.” They urge any sister who has experienced abuse to report it to civil and church authorities and to seek assistance, not suffer alone. They “thank all those Catholic sisters throughout the world who, at great risk, have spoken publicly about their abuse.”

7/27/18 – Abuse of women religious gains extra focus at this time of horrendous revelations about Theodore McCarrick and the culture of silence that protected him. One of the clearest statements I’ve seen comes from Trinity University (DC) president Patricia McGuire. She calls the Pope, cardinals, and bishops to “a practice of atonement leading to healing and reconciliation with victims and those who walk with the victims. The exercise of such a voice cannot arise from a position of power and authority, or legality and self-protection, but rather, from a posture of genuine humility and vulnerability. Such a posture requires a reduction in trappings and ritual, a simpler and more human vocabulary that begs forgiveness and expresses a level of understanding about the hurt that we have not yet heard or seen.”

7/30/18 – Q: How can you use shareholder resolutions to cause corporate accountability and change? A: Follow the example of women religious. Can you get a gun manufacturer to issue a public report on its gun-safety work and on how its reputation and financial success are impacted by US gun violence?  Sister Mary Ann McGivern  tells the stories and steps to use your rights as a shareholder to make issues visible and cause change.  She also links to an excellent article with more how-to’s about socially conscious investing.

Catholic sisters have been international pioneers against human trafficking for decades, and they passionately continue their brave, creative, effective work. Some great examples here. There are plenty of straightforward ways you can learn and help at our Ways to Act – Human Trafficking page.

7/3/18 – Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s new book Creation and the Cross deals straight-on with questions like, “Did God require the death of Jesus as payback for human sin?” The book is written as a dialogue in which a teacher and a lively, curious student inquire together about big questions like the connection between Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, our lives, and creation. Check out Colleen Mary Carpenter’s review in America and Sister Judith Best’s reflections about the book at Global Sisters Report.

7/2/18 – What’s it really like to be an immigrant at the border?Read Sister Joyce Meyer’s report as she walked in their virtual footsteps as a participant in the innovative “CARNE y ARENA (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible)” by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, an Oscar-winning Mexican director, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

6/23/18 – The Untold History of Black Nuns in the United States — Listen to an illuminating 21-minute interview with Dr, Shannen Dee Williams who has spent years researching the historical experiences of Black women who wanted to become Catholic women religious in America from 1600s to the mid-20th century. Her work has made today’s sisters aware of long-time racist practices in congregations of women religious. (The interview begins at 10:35.) LCWR’s 2016 annual assembly included a powerful presentation by Dr. Williams that was followed by an expression of sisters’ profound contrition for this sinfulness and then a communal ritual of commitment to combat racism within congregations, within society, and within sisters’ hearts. Since then, more congregations have asked Dr. Williams to research their own congregations’ complicity in racism. Other research has highlighted the pivotal role of Black Catholic sisters in forming a spirituality that enabled others to be authentically both Black and Catholic. The National Black Sisters Conference, founded in 1968, has additional information. 

6/27/2018 – LCWR issued a strong and eloquent statement: LCWR Disappointed in Court’s Decision to Uphold President Trump’s Muslim Ban.

Two LCWR members have allowed their names to go forward as candidates for the LCWR presidency:  Sister Jayne Helmlinger and Sister Mary Jo Nelson, OLVM. I’m not finding much info online so far. Sister Jayne has two youtubes as part of the outreach of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, NJ: What do sisters do for fun? and Where do sisters live? Sister Mary Jo was interviewed by Global Sisters Report.

The LCWR election of officers will take place at the LCWR 2018 Assembly in St. Louis, MO, on August 7-12. The theme of the assembly will be “Being the Presence of Love: The Power of Communion.” Over 740 had registered for the conference as of mid-June. 

6/13/18 – Sister Simone Campbell, of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby, expressed a bold vision for action in a speech at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, reported by Global Sisters Report. “If you push back against something, you reinforce the very thing you’re pushing against. You get stuck because you’re both pushing.”  “The Gospel is about fighting for a vision. That vision, I believe, our nation needs to know about and we need to fight for.”  “I believe our only way out of this mess is by rooting ourselves in a deeper faith … into the depth of divine love that can help us break through in very hateful times. Absent a deep prayer practice, we’re doomed.”  NETWORK’s 2020 vision, Mend the Gaps, could call a very diverse range of people to action in unity. Worth reading.

LCWR’s 2017-18 Annual Report is, as usual, an extremely well-written, engaging story of LCWR’s work to be the presence of transforming love. Check out sections like “Creating Spaces for Deep Conversations,” “Providing Skills and Resources for Contemplative and Anticipatory Leadership,” “Standing for Social Justice in Response to the Needs of Our Time,”  “Stewardship of Resources,” and more.

LCWR still has copies available for purchase of the Summer 2018 issue of Occasional Papers, Staying Grounded in a Time of Uncertainty ($5 plus S&H). This issue focuses on questions like: How can one be grounded in one’s deepest self and with God at a time of great outrage, disbelief, and fear for what is ahead? How does one sustain oneself and not become hopeless or numb in light of disconcerting political and ethical decisions we watch being made?

5/29 to 7/6/18 – Recent updates to our website (besides this news page):

5/28/18 – Recent updates to our website (besides this news page):

LCWR’s work for social justice happens every day and can inform and inspire our own. Check out LCWR’s June “Update” newsletter for informative summaries about World Refugee Day (June 20); Catholic Climate Covenant Campaign; Catholic Energies; a new global study of Catholic innovation in responding to the refugee crisis, with forcible displacement of more than 50 million people worldwide; UN World Environment Day (June 5) highlighting “Beat Plastic Pollution” (“If you  can’t reuse it, refuse it”); UN World Day Against Child Labor (June 12); a Solidarity Tool Kit in support of South Sudan; and LCWR’s recent letters to advocate for justice and peace.

Media are noticing the superb new LCWR book,However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis. When  you’ve read your copy (in print or on Kindle at Amazon), please add your own Amazon review; it’s easy to do, helps potential buyers, and boosts the book’s ranking.
• “In new book, former LCWR leaders reflect on years of Vatican scrutiny” by Gail DeGeorge, Global Sisters Report
• “Women Religious: Making meaning in a time of crisis,” State of Belief radio program, an interview with Sister Sharon Holland, one of the book’s authors
• “In new book, LCWR revisits doctrinal assessment,” podcast (27:33) by the National Catholic Reporter, an interview with two of the book authors, Sister Annmarie Sanders and Betty Thompson of Solidarity with Sisters

5/25/18  – A great article about a Pentecost gathering of the younger sisters of the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph led us to look at collaboration among congregations. It’s everywhere. Younger women religious gather across congregations through Giving Voice. They are formed and sustained through initiatives that bring them together in many combinations, like the Collaborative Leadership Development Program and “Together: A Collaborative for Theological Education, Formation, and Community,” a program for both women and men religious that’s sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Congregations that share a common charism are creating a strong sense of unity, e.g.,  through new structures like the Sisters of Charity Federation or “tending the flame” gatherings of the younger sisters in the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph. Collaboration also shines among congregations that may be in their last generation, as they build many kinds of relationships with larger congregations. (And don’t miss Sister Colleen Gibson’s article that started us on this path. Gorgeous wisdom, joyful pics.)

LCWR’s annual visit to Rome on April 16-22 was “a positive series of meetings and honest exchanges” including “cordial” and “engaging” visits with Vatican offices, reports Sister Carole Shinnick in the LCWR June 2018 Update newsletter. This year’s delegation included LCWR president Teresa Maya, CCVI; president-elect Sharlet Wagner, CSC; past-president Mary Pellegrino, CSJ; and Sister Carole Schinnick, interim executive director. LCWR presented copies of the new book However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis to the two congregations most significantly mentioned in that book, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL), and both received them eagerly. LCWR officials also met with the International Union of Superiors General and with 30 Rome-based members of US congregations of women religious.

LCWR president-elect Sharlet Wagner writes about Why Do Women Need the Catholic Church?” in the LCWR June 2018 Update newsletter, with particular awareness of the questions of young women. She reflects on her experiences at the annual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

5/8/2018 – LCWR appoints Sister Carol Zinn as new executive director starting July 1, at the end of Sister Carole Schinnick’s 6-month service as interim executive director. Many know Sister Carol Zinn from her LCWR presidency (2012-15) and congregational leadership (2009-14), but did you also know she represented the Congregations of St. Joseph at the UN (2001-2009), worked in education and education leadership at all levels from elementary to post-graduate, and also worked with a 3,000-member international NGO? Most recently, as a senior vice president at Plante Moran Cresa, she helped religious congregations and other non-profits to determine their ongoing mission in the face of challenges like an aging population. Sister Carol also wrote a chapter in LCWR’s recently published book about the organization’s experience with the Vatican, However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis.She looks forward to “addressing who we are called to be as carriers of our respective missions and charisms into a future that looks nothing like our past or present.”

5/7/2018 – LCWR will move its national office later this year. LCWR and the Conference of Superiors of Men had  jointly owned the building in Silver Spring, MD that has housed both their headquarters for 36 years, which they sold on May 1 to an expanding adjacent business. LCWR expects to move to a relatively nearby location, but has not yet finalized plans.

5/1/2018 – What religious orders can do today to thrive: US Catholic interviews LCWR president Sister Teresa Maya. “Religious life is about God. It’s not about us. It’s about the Jesus story, which continues to captivate and call people. ” “God is stirring things up. We need to trust that. It is a call to faith. Young people today have at their core a longing for something else or something more. We need to create a space for them.” “We need to embrace change from a contemplative stance that allows us to notice, to really pay attention, to look at things, and to listen deeply. At the same time, it’s a collaborative effort. It’s not about me. It’s about us, a process of community.” “A long time ago, I saw a training video about the differences between pioneers and settlers. Religious life really needs to have a pioneer spirit. We need to keep moving to the next. Once we get there, we create institutions, we create, and we organize. But now we’re letting it go for the settlers, and then we’ll keep going. We need our hospitals and our universities to be great places that can really thrive for the community and witness to mission. We also need to start moving to these new frontiers. They are different kinds of frontiers. They could be cultural. We need to engage with a conversation with our culture, with the people here.” Plus a wonderful response to the question, “What does fiesta mode look like for the church?”

4/26/18 – Congrats to Global Sisters Report: staff and contributors won seven awards for editorial excellence from the Associated Church Press, including for Soli Salgado’s coverage of the 2017 LCWR Assembly. We’re delighted to see this recognition of an outstanding team and organization.

4/23/18 – Why Catholic Sisters Are Good at Getting Arrested – Engaging first-person story by a young woman (not a sister) about why Catholic sisters are so effective in working for social justice: they’re grounded in God, they live out the power of community, they are rooted in nonviolence, and they are experienced.

4/15/18 – LCWR has published a superb new book, However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis. Ten LCWR leaders write about their personal and collective learnings during the intensely  challenging period 2009-2015, when LCWR was under scrutiny by the Vatican. LCWR invited us, Solidarity with Sisters, to also write a chapter sharing our learnings and how we have changed during our years of companionship. We think this book is a very valuable, timely contribution to our urgent national and global need to discover new ways of leadership, new ways of dialogue, new routes to solutions. The editor of Global Sisters Report provides a great overview.

4/4/2018 – Ground-breaking pilot program for new women and men religious (sisters and brothers in initial formation who have completed their canonical year of novitiate). The Religious Formation Conference (RFC) and Chicago Theological Union sponsor “Together: A Collaborative for Theological Education, Formation, and Community.” Says Sister Ellen Dauwer, RFC director: “The Together program will provide a solid theological program of study at CTU to enable new religious to acquire the knowledge needed for lives of ministry as public witnesses in the church. The cohort and residential nature of the program will foster community-building among those who participate in it, forming the basis of a lifelong support system for the next generation of religious.”

March 2018 – “How Catholic Nuns Brought Education & Female Empowerment to Millions of Children, Women & Immigrants by Teaching Students on the Fringes” — great article from “The 74” website. Did you know nuns began educating American girls and women in the early 1600s?

Whew. We took a break from posting news while we overhauled our website. It was more work than we expected, but we’re back in gear now.

​1/12/18 – A new survey shows an uptick in engagement by women who identify as Catholic, after steady decline in each of the surveys conducted every six years since 1987 by 25 years of decline. Young adult Catholics, those born since 1979, appear less attached than older cohorts to the church; millennial women are more engaged than millennial men. The survey looked at factors like weekly mass attendance, saying the church is among the most important parts of one’s life, saying one would never leave the church, and satisfaction with church leadership. 86% of women and 83% of men are satisfied with Pope Francis’ leadership, with 62% of women and 53% of men “very satisfied.” Just over 25% of women and of men are “very satisfied” with their local bishops. Less than 20% are “very satisfied” with the leadership of US bishops overall.   

1/12/18 – Sr. Catherine Pinkerton, a major national advocate for social justice and a leader of women religious, died on Dec. 28, 2017. In her 96 years, she was a h.s. principal, a Catholic Worker associate, a leader of her congregation, LCWR president, and, from 1984 through 2009, a lobbyist with NETWORK, Catholic the social justice lobby. She worked persistently to ensure health care for all, engaging with presidents and Congressional leaders, Hilary Clinton and Ted Kennedy. One of her closest friends said, “She is a model for how we can do big things when we move beyond our insecurities.” Sr. Catherine saw it this way: “Women religious are the prophetic dimension of the church. Religious life is a prophetic gift given to the church” and humanity, she said. “We stand on the line of what is and what is yet to be, and that is our role.”

​1/12/18 – LCWR denounces the Trump administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 Salvadorans and the intention to deport them to a country many left decades ago (where their children may never have lived) in order to escape the highest rate of violence in the Western Hemisphere. “Rescinding TPS protection for citizens of El Salvador [as well as recent similar decisions for refugees in the US from] Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan and threatening Hondurans with the same, places us all at risk. Ending their protection will tear families apart, fragment our communities, and disrupt local economies. Catholic sisters will continue to heed the scriptural command to welcome the stranger and care for those in need.”

​1/12/18 – Need a fresh perspective on weekly Scripture readings?Catholic Women Preach offers videos of excellent homilies by women for Sundays and feast days. Jan Richardson’s Painted Prayerbook offers art and written reflections. 

​1/12/18 – Even in winter, we can harvest resilience with this beautiful October 2017 ritual by Diann Neu of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER). WATER also offers links to cultivate resilience and to act for justice. Fuel your resilience by participating in WATER’s 1/22 meditation led by Mary E. Hunt; register to participate by phone or at the WATER office in Silver Spring, MD). WATER’s January ritual will be for an end to human trafficking (1/30, 7:30 PM, register to participate by phone or in Silver Spring). On 1/17 at 2:30 PM, WATER’s Feminist Conversations in Religion will feature Dr. Elizabeth Edman; register here.  1/8/17 – Sisters are confronting their own racism. The St. Joseph Sisters of Baden, PA apologized in 2016 to a woman whose vocation they rejected in 1960 because she was black. 2016 was also the year when historian Shannen Dee Williams spoke at the LCWR assembly about her nine years of research and planned book about anti-black racism among Catholic sisters in the United States — Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America. Dr. Williams has postponed publication of her book because, after that 2016 address, additional congregations have asked her to examine their archives and to speak to their members. Thanks to Dawn Araujo-Hawkins of Global Sisters Report.

In reference to racism and much else, it’s too easy to say “but we were products of the culture.” In the 12/25/17 America, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry reminds us that “Historically speaking, the church has produced countless innovations, both social and technological. It did so prolifically, unabashedly, naturally, relentlessly. More than any particular invention—social welfare, the hospital, the university, the post-slavery economy—what stands out is the mind-set that made all of it possible,” a mindset rooted in Jesus’ proclamation that God’s reign is now. He challenges us: “That the Catholic Church should put Silicon Valley—or any other institution or culture—to shame when it comes to world-changing innovation is not some tantalizing yet naïve prospect. It should be the baseline expectation for any educated Catholic.” He recounts current and past innovations and urges, “The seeds are there. The Spirit lives. The Catholic Church has the means to be the engine of another renewal of civilization.”

1/5/17 – New inputs, like Dr. Williams’ research into congregational racism, can change us. Take 15 minutes with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Help’s powerful, informative new video series, The Faces of Human Trafficking, that introduces the world to human trafficking through the stories of survivors, pimps (sellers) and Johns (buyers). “It’s a brainwashing that happens; there’s a reason traffickers go after children,” said Jenny, the survivor who is featured in the series debut. “I want people to know that women don’t choose this. This is something that happens to them; they’re victims.” Jenny and others interviewed in The Faces of Human Trafficking recall their childhoods, their time in “the life,” how they survived and what they’d like everyone to know about this billion-dollar industry.

Nuns, “nones” find commonalities — (1/3/2018 report by Sister Judy Cannon) A 27-hour May 2017 gathering of 11 younger people with no religious affiliation and 12 Catholic sisters from six congregations led to rich sharing and follow-up.

LCWR names Sister Carole Shinnick as interim executive director.

National and international leaders among sisters talk about current hot-button issues — polarization, human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, working across cultures for the common good — in a Global Sisters Report interview with Sisters Carole Shinnick, Joan Steadman, Teresa Maya, and Pat Murray. 

Leaders of the international sisters’ group (UISG) and LCWR discuss important 2017-2018 initiatives to build relationships among sisters, with the Vatican, with the UN and social-justice nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly in the current political environment. Interview with Sisters Pat Murray, Mary Pellegrino, and Joan Steadman.

LGBTQ people see “Sisters are on our side!” – Sister Jeannine Gramick reflects on her three decades of ministry.
Many of our US congregations are 100s of years old. In other countries, many congregations are new, with foundresses still living. Here’s a report on the challenges they face.

In a very powerful interview with Tracey L. Barnett, Sister Melinda Roper tells of her missionary ministry in Central America during the darkest times in the 1970s-80s through to the present.

Women religious have faced special challenges in recovering from addiction. This story looks back with compassion and forward with hope. “It’s in part the belief system that ‘If I’m helping people, I can’t be weak,’ ” said a sister who is the CEO of a treatment center in Ontario. “It’s embarrassment and probably shame.”
FYI — Materials that Sister Mary Pellegrino spoke about in her keynote address at the Assembly: 2017 edition of the CARA directory of emerging United States’ communities of consecrated life (159, in 86 dioceses or eparchies in 36 states and territories) (3rd edition, 2017); study by Sr. Mary Johnson/Trinity Washington University/CARA of the 4000 international sisters in the USA.

Nov. 2017 – LCWR continues to search for a new executive director. Sister Carole Shinnick (LCWR executive director 2002-08) will serve as interim executive director beginning 1/1/2018, when Sister Joan Steadman will leave to begin other ministries.

A timely story, Grasping for signs of light, shares the varied ways in which several sisters renew their spiritual energy.

Here’s a quick world tour of how sisters continue their vibrant charisms through changing ministries, and an amusing short article in America, “Why are people fascinated by nuns doing normal things?”

Nov. 2017 – In Nigeria, three sisters and their driver were kidnapped in Nigeria 11/12, released on 11/14 — the same day that seven other sisters and aspirants were kidnapped, with no later news on the second group.

Our Contemplation page has always had poetry links, but now (thanks to a website reader!) we’ve added a Poetry Writing and Analysis Guide in case you’d like to go deeper into poetry — understanding it or writing it.

Order the Winter 2018 issue of LCWR Occasional Papers by 12/20.

National Catholic Sisters Week launched the first module of a new curriculum about sisters: What do sisters do? Also, National Catholic Sisters Week offers resources for you to plan and publicize your event for the week (March  8-14, 2018).

LCWR named Sister Christine Beckett as Associate Director for Business and Finance.

LCWR continues to be a strong advocate for Gospel values in public policy: LCWR denounced White House immigration principles and policies; expressed deep disappointment in President Trump’s decision to abandon the Clean Power Plan; and urged action to protect Dreamers.

LCWR 2016-17 Annual Report “Embracing the Mystery: Living Transformation” is a gold mine of information about what LCWR is and does: collaborations and partnerships, new LCWR governance structure; commitments to social justice; leadership development; walking with religious through transitions; 2016 Assembly, finances; much more.

US sisters are pioneers in the green movement, and have been for 20 years; a sampling of articles from The Atlantic, US Catholic, and Global Sisters Report.

11/10/17 –  Recently professed Sister Tracey Horan offers a delightful and profound reflection on what her vows mean.
Materials that Sister Mary Pellegrino spoke about in her address at the 2017 LCWR Assembly: 2017 edition of the CARA directory of emerging United States’ communities of consecrated life (159, in 86 dioceses or eparchies in 36 states and territories) (3rd edition, 2017); study by Sr. Mary Johnson/Trinity Washington University/CARA of the 4000 international sisters in the USA. You can pre-order the February 2018 book by younger Catholic sisters from both LCWR and CMSW congregations, In Our Own Words: A Collaborative Book of Essays on Vows.

Nov. 2017 – Order Winter 2018 issue of LCWR Occasional Papers by 12/20. “This issue will explore what is most at the heart of religious life that makes it of value for these times and for the challenges of the future. What is it that women religious value the most about this life that they wish to nurture and assure will stay strong so that it is not lost as the life undergoes change? What do the people served by religious and the larger global community most need from the presence of religious in the world at this complex, rapidly changing time in the planet’s history? The issue will include an interview with Sandra Schneiders, IHM on living into resurrection.”

Oct. 2017 – National Catholic Sisters Week launches first module of a new curriculum about sisters: What do sisters do? Also, National Catholic Sisters Week offers resources for you to plan and publicize your event for the week (Mar. 8-14, 2018).

LCWR names Sister Christine Beckett as Associate Director for Business and Finance. Sister Grace Hartzog left the position in September to become the executive director of the Sisters of Mercy Federation.

Oct. 2017 – LCWR is a strong advocate for Gospel values in public policy: LCWR denounced White House immigration principles and policies; expressed deep disappointment in President Trump’s decision to abandon the Clean Power Plan; and urged action to protect Dreamers.

LCWR 2016-17 Annual Report “Embracing the Mystery: Living Transformation” is a gold mine of information about what LCWR is and does: collaborations and partnerships, new LCWR governance structure; commitments to social justice; leadership development; walking with religious through transitions; 2016 Assembly, finances; much more.
2016 article, just found – Catholic sisters are pioneers in the green movement, and have been for 20 years, says US Catholic  magazine: “The ‘green sisters’ are various Catholic religious orders that have integrated Catholicism with environmentalism. Some are contemplatives who run retreat centers for prayer and reengagement with nature, while others are activists who travel the world, teaching and ministering to those suffering the effects of climate change. As the Sisters of Earth—their informal network—they come together for international conferences to share how different regions have been impacted by environmental degradation and discuss how they can work with indigenous cultures to seek solutions.” The story highlights the work of several US congregations. There’s lots of related coverage, e.g., in The Atlantic and Global Sisters Report.

8/28/17 – “Networking is the new approach to mission” offers interviews four international sisters to illustrate the many forms and purposes of the networking that is becoming fundamental to the lives and ministries of women religious around the globe. They network with lay people, with other congregations, internationally, with priests and bishops…. Says Sister María de Lourdes López Munguía, a Mexican sister who ministers in Chile: “it is very beautiful to see how our dreams connect around the world… My heart is touched by the great heart of God that opens me to unsuspected ways and allows me to dream. Perhaps adding my small portion of yeast and waiting for God’s hands to knead, heat and ferment the dough will make it a beautiful loaf of bread to share.”

8/24/17 – At a Wisconsin town hall, Sister Erica Jordan asked House Speaker Paul Ryan how, as a Catholic, he reconciles his legislative actions with Catholic social teaching and the preferential option for the poor. She reflects on the experience in this interview with Global Sisters Report.

8/17/17 – Global Sisters Report interview with president-elect Sister Sharlet Wagner about her life and ministries (e.g., immigration attorney) and her experience at the 2017 Assembly. Excerpts: “This assembly seemed to be more focused on tending our spirits and looking to the future and looking outward to the world, and I found that very energizing. I think Mary’s talk, especially, about letting go of the dying narrative of diminishment and looking at the emerging narrative of connection was really spot-on, and that’s what I heard from the sisters: a very strong sense of wanting to look at connections across congregations, connections across the global sisterhood, connections with laypeople. That does seem to be an emerging narrative that I find energizing and that the sisters found energizing. It’s something I believe — that sense of oneness of connectivity — that our church and world need right now.” “I was looking out over the assembly of sisters, and first I felt in awe and was just thinking about the wealth of experience and the wealth of goodness in that room. As I looked out, I have never felt so profoundly inadequate in my life. But I also never felt so held up and carried by my sisters.…”

“Being the Presence of Love: The Power of Transformation”
August 8-11 in Orlando, Florida

   Summaries, statements, and videos of the Assembly:

  • LCWR Narrative: “LCWR Assembly explores the call to embody love for the sake of the world”
  • LCWR Brief video 4:30
  • Global Sisters Report story: “LCWR looks to the future with openness, communion and contemplation”
  • Global Sisters Report video interviews of Outstanding Leadership Awardee Sr. Constance FitzGerald about her own call to religious life and to deep searching into contemplative life (2:51), and about her reaction to receiving the award (“I took about two weeks to say I would accept the award….”) (1:51)
  • Global Sisters Report video of keynoter Chris Pramuk leading Assembly in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1:15)

   Statements from the Assembly:

  • LCWR “condemns racism in all its harmful forms whether the violent acts of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacist groups or the daily acts of hate and discrimination that diminish us all.”
  • During the week of the Assembly, tensions quickly escalated between the USA and the People’s Republic of Korea. LCWR’s public statement “implor[es] President Donald J. Trump to engage in dialogue and negotiation.”

    Advance Media Coverage

   8/8/17 evening:  Assembly Opening

  • LCWR president Sr. Mary Pelligrino, Assembly facilitator Sister Catherine Bertrand, and Assembly “listener” Sr. Liz Sweeney raised powerful questions and insights to affirm the theme and set the tone for the week. Examples (tweets by Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report):  
    • “The world aches for the presence of love as our planet endures such great pain.”
    • Think: “How grounded am I in the source of love as I consider? How grounded am I in the source of love as I speak?”
    • Reflection must be met with action if contemplation is to be done effectively.
    • The goal at this year’s assembly is to regard it in its entirety as a justice event.
    • “At this time, what is being asked of leaders of religious congregations? What is wanting or waiting to be born in our mission?”

   8/9/17 morning – Keynote:  Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Leaning into the Mystery of Resurrection Faith – Dr. Christopher Pramuk

  • FULL KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Christopher Pramuk
  • Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets from the session.
    • This morning, @RegisUniversity‘s Christopher Pramuk speaks to the assembly at LCWR on leaning into the mystery of resurrection.
    • For Pramuk, it all started with music. The piano first taught Pramuk the art of discernment and attention, he says.
    • Music gave Pramuk the important gift of entry into a community larger than himself, a community of the living and the dead.
    • “Something deep in me was unsettled. The longing to study music had never abated.”
    • Pramuk calls the decision to pursue studying music a kind of unconscious surrender to the hidden elements of grace.
    • Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell plunged Pramuk headlong into the deep river of black suffering, resistance, beauty, and grace.
    • In being introduced to spiritual hymns at Naropa University, the resurrection of the body ceased to be an abstraction to Pramuk.
    • In theological terms, we might say that the words of the spirituals when we sing them together become as sacraments.
    • The spirituals become instruments of real presence for people on pilgrimage together in history: our pathos become one with God’s.
    • Pramuk sits down to the piano to play “Wade in the Water” as he asks the assembled to join him in singing.
    • “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” The dead aren’t here, but maybe they are here: we simply need to know how to listen.
    • To sing the spirituals is to know experientially the transformative power of a resurrection faith, says Pramuk.
    • Pramuk returns to the piano to play what he calls a sort of post-modern spiritual: “Mothers of the Disappeared” by U2.
    • Pramuk says the U2 song “reverberates in the same force field of remembrance and hope” as the resurrection Gospel accounts.
    • “As hard as we may try to disappear it, the past always remains in the present.”
    • All of the Catholic rituals plunge us into the liminal spaces between life and death, solitude and solidarity, says Pramuk.
    • “We stand under a cloud of witnesses: a kinship with all things in God, which includes the rocks and the trees.”
    • “The hope that we bear is transformative because we come to a God who remembers the least and most forgotten in history.”
    • In a moving sermon, MLK, Jr. spoke of his own death. Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles said he “preached himself out of the fear of death.”
    • “What did King know that we do not know? What could he see that we cannot see?” – Rev. Kyles
    • Perhaps King could see and feel something of what the slaves sensed: the beginnings of a broken world made whole in God. – Pramuk
    • Think of Sr. Dorothy Stang. Think of the Trappist monks of Tibhirine. Think of Sr. Paula Merrill and Sr. Margaret Held.
    • Pramuk thinks of Sr. Helen Prejean, who says “the Bible Belt and the Death Belt are the same.”
    • “What do you do with your grief? You take that outrage, you take that sorrow and sadness and work for justice.” – Helen Prejean
    • In these martyrs, in these who work for justice, we see that dreams that once seem impossible have a way of breaking into reality.
    • “For my part, I have come to believe that life is too short to play in small, self-enclosed circles.” – Pramuk
    • “We sing our way from fear to courage and fresh hope. We make the path forward together by walking.” – Christopher Pramuk

   8/9/17 afternoon:  Sharing from earlier contemplative dialogue groups

  • Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets from the session.
  • Contemplative group leaders are now sharing feedback from this morning’s deepening groups.
    • “There was awareness that the Spirit speaks through everything and maybe particularly in our history of pain and suffering.”
    • “That’s where our power might be…in that vulnerability. There’s a gift and challenge in vulnerability.” – @susanfrancois
    • “How can we go beyond our congregations and beyond associates to expand our ministry as we experience diminishment?”
    • “In communion, we bring in the suffering world, the joyful world, every piece of what’s going on in the world.”
    • A Spanish-speaking sister says she struggles with knowing others at the core of their being because language can be a barrier.
    • “Perhaps we’re being called to finding and naming that voice we developed during the doctrinal investigation.”
    • “Hope and courage was a felt experience in the room this morning. Solidarity was present in the room.”
    • There’s a freedom in thinking, What do we have to lose? There is energy and excitement in that, sisters say.
    • “In the future, the call is to live; yes, we’re called to action, but not to fix the problems, that’s not ours.”
  • This morning’s evocative keynote address felt like the perfect approach to thinking about religious life, says Liz Sweeney.
    • “Perhaps we need to sing in a minor key for a while and not in a major key, to really dwell in the minor key as long as we need.”
    • How present are we right now to the Spirit? @susanfrancois remarks that the quiet in this ballroom reflects on presence.
    • “Perhaps we’re living into the future that God intends.”
  • The next part of the afternoon at LCWR is an executive session, so we’re signing off until this evening.

      8/9/17 evening – Thanks to Global Sisters Report for tweets:

  • Sisters reflect on today’s programming: “At the end of Chris’ presentation, it felt like we were in the presence of the divine.”
  • “There’s a blaze of light in every word / It doesn’t matter what you heard / The holy or the broken hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen
  • Bishop John Gerard Noonan, of the Archdiocese of Orlando, joins #LCWR2017 now.
  • That’s a wrap for day one at #LCWR2017. We’ll be back tomorrow with more updates!

     8/10/17 morning – Keynote:  We Stood in the Place of Death and Heard the Living Call Our Name –
Jan Richardson 

  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/10 Assembly sessions.
    • To be undone and remade by grief’s hand is a messy, scary and cathartic process, said the keynote speaker for Aug. 10, Jan Richardson, an artist, author and ordained Methodist minister.

      Richardson discussed her emotional journey following the unexpected death of her husband, Gary; he died in 2013 just three and a half years after they had married. In him, she both found and quickly lost her creative partner and “co-conspirator.”
      She invited the sisters to consider what it means to “be the presence of love” (the theme of the assembly) even when it seems that the “love that’s been present seems to have left us.” She said death is a process that can come in many forms: a physical death, the death of a dream, loss of a familiar lifestyle, or “the ending or changing of a community that has held our hearts….”

      “When absence erupts in our lives, how do we call upon the presence of love that goes deeper than our loss?” she asked the LCWR attendees. “How do we open ourselves anew to the presence of love that endures far beyond death?…”
  • TWITTER: Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets from the session:
  • Good morning from #LCWR2017! We’re back for day two, where this morning sisters prayed for places of pain in the world.
  • This morning’s keynote speaker is Methodist minister Jan Richardson, author of “The Cure for Sorrow” and many other books.
  • Jan Richardson begins: “This blessing does not have it all together. This blessing sometimes wakes up anxious and afraid.”
  • “This blessing knows, too, how you keep turning yourself toward mystery, how you keep turning yourself toward hope.” – Richardson
  • “This blessing has been waiting for you. This blessing has been watching you. This blessing has been wanting to see your face.”
  • “This blessing meets you with fierce love that is ancient and present.” – Richardson
  • Richardson reads a fortune from a cookie that, she jokes, foretold this meeting: “Something spectacular is coming your way.”
  • In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Richardson says she was undone by intense grief, altered at a cellular level.
  • The process of grief holds many graces, but that unmaking and remaking can also be hideously messy, says Richardson.
  • Richardson withdrew from public life after her husband’s death to explore in her studio, to write and make messes and weep.
  • Richardson’s husband was also her collaborator, her “creative co-conspirator.” They often traveled and presented together.
  • Richardson says she knew she needed time to discern what it would look like to offer public events on her own after Gary died.
  • Richardson had to stop making assumptions, she says. Nothing after Gary’s death felt like a foregone conclusion.
  • So when the invitation came from Annmarie Sanders, Richardson says she found it irresistible. The word “yes” bubbled up in her.
  • “I could not pass up the opportunity to stand up here with you and say thank you. Thank you for who you are in this world.”
  • “I will say about blessings that I am fascinated by them.”
  • “A blessing has the power to convey God’s desire for our well-being and wholeness.”
  • “A blessing has the power to transform us even when, or especially when, the path has become difficult or dark or dangerous.”
  • “What does it mean to be the presence of love when the love that has been presented to us seems to have left us?”
  • “There is a deep, deep, deep river that connects all our losses and that links us together in all the sorrows that we carry.”
  • “When absence erupts in our lives, how do we call upon the presence of love that goes deeper than our loss?”
  • “How do we open ourselves anew to the presence of love that endures far, far beyond death?”
  • “When the wall between the worlds is too firm, too close, when it seems all solidity and sharp edges…”
  • “…then, then, may you be given a glimpse of how weak the wall and how strong what stirs on the other side.”
  • “A blessing has the power to work within time and within chronology, but a blessing is not a particularly linear thing.”
  • “We sometimes ache with that sense of separation between this world and the next world, between now and eternity.”
  • “We have to learn how to live with those places where the wall feels most present and painful.”
  • “This is not a problem to be solved with intellect. The instinct is to lean into the wall, to listen for presences.”
  • “The wall might not be a wall, but maybe a veil, or a threshold that we will never fully cross in this life.”
  • “It has been crucial to me to attend well to the grief, to give it time and space to say what it needs to say.”
  • “We grieve because we love. And though we can try to hurry the grief along…we risk missing the presence of love.”
  • “One of my prayers has become: May my love be more fierce than my grief.”
  • “It is this love that calls us to this life, that enables us to keep living this life, that is so much wider than we ever knew.”
  • Richardson shares another blessing: “Now, Beloved, we live.”
  • “When Gary died, I lost my relationship with pronouns. I could no longer say ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘us’ in the way I once had.
  • “I also lost my relationship with tenses. Trying to speak of Gary in the past tense has been…heartbreaking.”
  • “When our hearts break and loss comes, where can we say ‘we’? Where can we still say ‘now’?”
  • “I loved living in that ongoing conversation that became so crucial, so integral to the way that Gary and I both created.”
  • “Over time, I began to move my studio into Gary’s studio. It’s a process that I’m still feeling my way into.”
  • “Where can we still say ‘we’ in a way that enables us to feel that we’re not alone?”
  • “Blessing for the Brokenhearted: Let us agree for now that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger.”
  • “Let us promise we will not tell ourselves time will heal the wound when every day our waking opens it anew.”
  • “Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating.”
  • After Gary’s death, a nurse said, “His heart beats in you now.” Many nights, Richardson says, the beat of her heart is a prayer.
  • “[It’s] as if something in me knows the only way to meet an endlessly deepening love to is to have an endlessly expanding heart.”
  • Richardson says she finds herself fascinated by Mary Magdalene and the threshold she found herself upon.
  • “She knows what it means to let go in a way that will change her on a cellular level.”
  • The Magdalene’s Blessing: “You hardly imagined standing here. Everything you ever loved suddenly returned to you.”
  • “Now you do not know how to abide this ache in the center of your chest as this door swings open and shut at the same time.”
  • This is an invitation, a choice, a threshold, a gate. This is your life calling to you from a place you could never have dreamed.
  • “So let the tears come, as anointing, as consecration, and then let them go. Let this blessing gather itself around you.”
  • Richardson shares a video that she created with her husband Gary, “The Hours of Mary Magdalene“.
  • Richardson offers final words: “May we carry these blessings. May we live these blessings. May we be these blessings.”
  • “I hold your heart that you hold in my heart. Bless you.”

8/10/17 afternoon – Presidential Address: The future enters us long before it happens – Opening space for the emerging narrative of communion – Mary Pellegrino, CSJ

  • FULL TEXT of presidential address by Mary Pellegrino
  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/10 Assembly sessions.
    • It’s high time for women religious to take ownership of the narrative that has dominated their vocation for the past half-century, said St. Joseph Sr. Mary Pellegrino.
      As president of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious, she made an emphatic call to almost 800 women religious Aug. 10 to begin shifting the focus from diminishment to communion. The address, which was both challenging and comforting, was part of LCWR’s annual assembly, held Aug. 8-11 in Orlando.
      By highlighting the power of storytelling, Pellegrino noted the need to make room for emerging, more accurate information and experiences that are disrupting the age-old stories surrounding religious life.
      “This is hard work, long work, and undefined work,” she said, but, “I can think of no other time in my life when the need to be honest toward reality has been so urgent.”  More on the presidential address
  • TWITTER: Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets below. 
  • We’re back: this afternoon, @LCWR_US outgoing president Mary Pellegrino is delivering her presidential address. Stay tuned.
  • “Stories are the glue that hold societies and cultures together.” – Mary Pellegrino
  • Think of the narratives that shape us, says Mary Pellegrino. These narratives create a certain reality for us.
  • For example, Pellegrino believed she was named “Mary” because of a promise her parents made to God after the birth of her brother.
  • Pellegrino wanted so badly to believe in the drama of the story about her name, she says. It was a great story!
  • “I had to allow a former narrative to pass in order to be able to create space for a newer, fuller story to emerge.”
  • In many ways our culture, our church, and our country are living in this space in which narratives are being interrupted.
  • Narratives like American exceptionalism, Western dominance, and moral leadership are passing, says Pellegrino.
  • The work ahead of us is to assist passing narratives about ourselves to pass in order to open space for what’s emerging to arrive.
  • How do we help “patient re-elaboration” to happen? How do we live and lead at a time like this?
  • One way is that we allow incomplete or former narratives to be disrupted by new experience and information.
  • Consider the presence of Dr. Shannen Dee Williams at last year’s assembly, says Pellegrino. Hard truths about racism disrupt.
  • Williams’ research demands that women religious reframe the narrative around their actions toward POC.
  • The “problem of honesty toward reality stems from the problem of being honest toward one’s one reality.” – Jon Sobrino, SJ
  • “I can think of no other time in my lifetime when the need to be honest toward reality has been so urgent.” – Pellegrino
  • It seems that the diminishment narrative about religious life is being disrupted by a narrative of deepening communion.
  • Pellegrino offers her assessment of the diminishment narrative: A post-World War II boom led to increased vocations.
  • Sisters left schools after Vat. II, but this renewal led to the end, says the narrative. The corrective is a return to the past.
  • This narrative is reductive, says Pellegrino. The diminishment narrative sees death as punishment for perceived infidelity.
  • Nearly every challenge currently facing vowed religious can be traced back to the lives and labors donated to the people of God.
  • The diminishment narrative reflects our fears and our uneasy and unresolved relationship with death, says Pellegrino.
  • This narrative of diminishment created undue conflict which led to the Apostolic Visitation and Doctrinal Assessment.
  • The emerging narrative, one of communion, is being shaped by new information and experience, both liberating and challenging.
  • This emerging narrative of communion expands its focus to the vitality of consecrated life and the eruption of spiritual energy.
  • Messages written by men and women religious to Pope Francis and the wider church speak eloquently of communion.
  • These messages, gathered during meetings hosted by CICLSAL during the Year for Consecrated Life, speak about the need for healing.
  • These gatherings, these messages offer a powerful witness to the catholicity of our church and to global communion and solidarity.
  • Consider what it means to make visible intercultural diversity and inclusion when nationalist movements are threatening societies.
  • International Catholic sisters in the United States are coming from 83 countries across six continents.
  • International sisters add to and complement the already growing cultural and ethnic diversity of religious life in the U.S.
  • “Consider what God and humanity are asking for today.” – Mary Pellegrino
  • There are currently 150 emerging lay movements and communities of consecrated life in the United States.
  • “The congregations of our conference have centuries of experience in discernment, spirituality, human and religious formation.”
  • Consider what it might mean to bring the historical depth of centuries-old spiritualities and charisms to bear on new communities.
  • Collaborations and gatherings taking place in this country signal a deepening communion into which we are being drawn.
  • Men and women entering religious communities are already living elements of the emerging narrative of communion.
  • For example: Consider an upcoming book, written by 13 women religious under the age of 50, coming from @litpress in February.
  • The book, “In Our Own Words,” is written in collaboration, with intentional attention to diversity and inclusivity.
  • Similarly, the @Young_Nuns gathering in New York last month represented the growing diversity of religious life in North America.
  • These emerging realities disrupts some dimension of the diminishment narrative which we need to help pass.
  • The source of our deepest communion with God and the world is the deep, unrelenting grief that marks our lives and communities.
  • The emerging narrative of communion is essentially a paschal narrative, shaped by the pattern of Jesus’ life.
  • “We’ve vigiled at the deathbeds of far too many of our sisters. We’ve buried far too many of our elders.”
  • “We’ve wept far too many tears or we’ve simply grown numb from the almost daily reminder that life certainly has changed.”
  • Our communal sorrow and sadness goes deeper each time we transition one more cherished ministry, divest of a beloved institution.
  • “Please consider whether these great sadnesses have not gone through the center of yourself?” – Rainer Maria Rilke
  • “All of our sadnesses are moments of tension…because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing.”
  • “Signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens.” – Rilke
  • “Our future has already entered us, is already transforming itself in us.” – Pellegrino
  • Inviting others to tend our grief with us is one of the most generous & generative acts of service that we could possibly render.
  • “Our own grief is a gateway to grace, not only for ourselves, but also for our world.”
  • “The grace that will come from embracing this paschal narrative of communion will be costly but it will not diminish us.”
  • “While our grief is remaking us, we will remake the world.” – Mary Pellegrino
  • “Let’s remake the world with words. Not frivolously, nor To hide from what we fear, But with a purpose.” – Gregory Orr
  • That concludes Sr. Mary Pellegrino’s presidential address to the LCWR assembly.
  • Standing ovation for LCWR President Mary Pellegrino as thoughtful, sensitive address concludes on religious life emerging as “communion”

8/10/17 afternoon – Conversation with Christopher Pramuk and Jan Richardson, facilitated by Liz Sweeney

  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/10 Assembly sessions.
    • “…The two discussed how each other’s different approaches to the subject moved or provoked the other, each having bared their soul differently: Pramuk at the piano, Richardson with the poetic blessings she wove through her address….”
  • TWITTER: Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets from the session, below.
  • In the last session of the day at #LCWR2017, we’ll hear again from Chris Pramuk and @JanLRichardson as they come together in conversation.
  • “I almost took my shoes off before I came up…it’s a little like Moses approaching the burning bush.” – Chris Pramuk
  • Pramuk says he’s been reflecting on the word “conspire,” which means to breathe together.
  • The root of “conspirare” is what we’ve been doing here together: breathing and loving and asking difficult questions.
  • The radical call of the Gospel is subversive, says Pramuk. We’re in a moment that calls for a certain degree of risk in our work.
  • “Despite how important they are to our hearing one another, engaging one another, words can only carry us so far.” – Richardson
  • “If we’re to descend to practice whatever God is calling us to, words will sometimes fail us.” – Richardson
  • “What is the work we need to do between the words? What is the work we cultivate to move into nonverbal places?”
  • Richardson asks Pramuk how the practice of playing music has shaped him and his work.
  • Playing the piano takes Pramuk out of his head and back into his body in a very generative way, he says.
  • “I had a lot of shame around the body. I was taught to separate the spirit and the body. Implicitly, mostly.” – Pramuk
  • Pramuk says that the piano and the black church gave him permission to use his body, to celebrate his hands and feet.
  • “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate that I am an embodied spirit.” – Pramuk
  • Pramuk refers to Philip Glass’ “4:33” and how revelatory it was in revealing our discomfort with silence.
  • “I think the more that we can model comfort with silence, to young people especially, then a kind of music emerges out of that.”
  • Jan recalls the gift friends gave to her after Gary’s passing: “We give you extravagant permission to do what you need to do.”
  • On stage: @JanLRichardson, Chris Pramuk, and Liz Sweeney join in conversation.
  • “What we need in our grief can change, does change, needs to change.” – @JanLRichardson
  • “I had to get over the compulsion to apologize for not answering emails promptly and not showing up where people expected me.”
  • Richardson says seeking solace and comfort and also getting into the stretched-out places of fear are all a part of grief.
  • Pramuk says that Richardson’s witness has helped him gain some insight into parenting adopted children from Haiti.
  • “I never thought about his emotion in terms of grief. It occurred to me that I think he’s grieving a family he never knew.”
  • “Henry grieves because he loves and because he desires to be loved, to know and to be known.”
  • Pramuk recalls Richardson’s earlier quote of Henry David Thoreau: “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
  • Richardson remembers the Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue: “Absence is the sister of presence. The imagination loves absence.”
  • Richardson asks Pramuk how he experiences absence and presence living together.
  • Pramuk often took his kids to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. “I’ve always felt a palpable presence in spaces of absence.”
  • “[In this room], there is a fierce commitment to love and to tell the truth and to write your story,” says Pramuk.
  • “You have cell memory in this room that extends back centuries and the courage to move forward. I urge you to trust it.” – Pramuk
  • “Listen for the heartbeat,” Richardson says.
  • “This feels like the celebration of a new moment, of our hearts burning within us,” says Liz Sweeney.
  • “Where are you sensing a synchronization of hearts?” Catherine Bertrand sends sisters out at the end of day two of #LCWR2017.

8/11/17 morning – Our Commitment to be the Presence of Love: A Conversation Among Religious Life Leaders including Yesenia Fernandez, MSGsP; Virginia Herbers, ASCJ; Ann Jackson, PBVM; and Alba Letelier, SP

  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/11 Assembly sessions.
  • Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets.
  • Good morning, #LCWR2017! We’re starting the third and final day of the assembly with a panel of women religious speaking on the future.
  • The panel is asked: After the experience of this assembly, what do you see as you look ahead?
  • Ann Jackson: “Some days I live this call, and some days I pray that this call to religious life is living me.”
  • Ann Jackson: “The future begins in this very moment, by me allowing that Spirit of this life to live me.”
  • Yesenia Fernandez: “The future is in front of me. It’s all of you. We are admiring one another in our charisms.”
  • Fernandez: “By living the present in loving presence today, we are making our future.”
  • Alba Letelier: “I cannot imagine the future, and that is my problem. I discovered some years ago the future is coming to us.”
  • Letelier: “How can we be one? How can the Spirit help us to be in communion with all of the world?”
  • Virginia Herbers: “I was very taken by the notion of vision. We can all look at the same thing and see very different things.”
  • Herbers: “To be able to come into communion with a diversity of thought is beautiful.”
  • Herbers: “In listening, together we can say, ‘Do you hear that? It’s beckoning, let’s follow that and move toward it.’
  • Letelier: “I don’t want to be a voice for the voiceless. I want to give the voiceless the opportunity to use their own voice.”
  • The panel is asked: What do you want the members of LCWR to come away from this assembly with?
  • Fernandez: “We need to trust, to let go of the old narrative so that we can live the narrative that God is creating for us.”
  • Herbers: “We have to trust that future that is already coursing in our veins.”
  • Letelier asks the assembly to stand and look around the room. More than 780 sisters rise and turn to their neighbor.
  • Jackson: “It’s no longer ‘our motherhouse.’ It’s a center of mission wherever we are, our responsibility to steward collectively.”
  • Liz Sweeney asks the assembled to reflect on this conversation, on how LCWR is being drawn forward.
  • After a period of reflection, the panel is asked to again respond: What do you see here? What do you want members to take away?
  • Hernandez: “To move forward, we have to bring the diversity of cultures, of backgrounds together to form a beautiful bouquet.”
  • Herbers: “We were told, ‘Don’t prepare. Listen. It will be a response to what happened that hasn’t yet happened.’
  • Herbers: “We have become co-conspirators in accompanying whatever is. It’s scary. It’s filled with question marks.”
  • Herbers: “But in time, as we move forward and listen to the Spirit, we are building something we could have never imagined.”
  • Jackson: “Sometimes the margins are as close as the tip of my consciousness.”
  • Letelier: “We are very good at expressing a lot of ideas. We need to go from [head] to [heart].”
  • Letelier: “Sometimes we forget how to lose ourselves in time. We need to be counter-cultural in wasting time, to listen deeply.”
  • Letelier: “It’s not knowing, it’s loving what you are. That’s the thing now: how we love each other enough to waste time.”
  • Assembly listeners are now asked to reflect on the panel so far. One says: “This is a very unique LCWR, and I’ve gone to many.”
  • Listeners express gratitude for the panel speakers, for the reminder that “the future is coursing through our veins.”
  • One listener said she was surprised. She expected to hear stories of burden, which she’s used to hearing.
  • Instead, she hears to call to be drawn into an even deeper diversity.
  • “We are called widen and overlap our circles, to be big together, just as we become diverse, smaller parts of the holy whole.”
  • “[We are] to be good news in a world longing to hear even the faintest whisper of inclusive love, extravagant love.”

8/11/17 morning – Reflections from Deepening Sessions after morning panel

  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/11 Assembly sessions.
  • Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets.
  • As the assembly comes back from a morning break, Catherine Bertrand asks leaders to remember Jan’s “synchronization of hearts.
  • Reflection: What do we want to be born right now? What future do we want to create? What questions do we want to explore?
  • After a period of discussion, group leaders at #LCWR2017 are sharing reflections from this morning.
  • One leader expressed the desire to expand dialogue and communion with @WomenReligious (CMSWR).
  • One group adopted the image of a bridge: a bridge connecting the old and new, with new listening skills and leadership skills.
  • Another group would like LCWR members to partner with members of the black and Hispanic sisters’ conferences and @Young_Nuns.
  • One table expressed the need to grieve the proliferation of violence in our country in order to be drawn to deeper action.
  • Like the @NETWORKLobby petition, what are the practical ways we can address the ills of the world with the influence we have?
  • A table of Spanish-speaking sisters focused on diversity: “It’s in stepping on each other’s toes that we learn to dance.”
  • “New congregations are being born in our midst. The ‘nones’ have discovered us. We want to find ways to enter into relationship.”
  • A table discussed how DNA tests at  reveal that there is no American DNA. “Think about that today.”
  • “Birth is painful and messy. We should push, but not push too hard.”
  • We’ll be back with live updates from #LCWR2017 at 2:00 Eastern for the concluding process and blessing of leadership.

8/11/17 afternoon — Committing to Be the Presence of Love: An opportunity to determine the commitments participants wish to make to better the world

  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/11 Assembly sessions.
  • Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets.
  • This afternoon we’re back in the ballroom to close the day’s portion of the assembly by reflecting on what we’ve heard this week.
  • Friday is Horizons: @sinsinawasister Christin Tomy on the importance of stopping, resting – Sabbath – in the garden.
  • Once more during the #LCWR2017 assembly, table leaders are invited to share reflections from the day’s conversations.
  • “We are called to create circles of communion for the sake of peace and for the earth, to be a fierce force for peace.”
  • Another table would like to implement ways that @LCWR_US and @WomenReligious can model the presence of love in the world.
  • “We are called to communion – a sense of communion that reaches beyond our congregational, national, and faith borders.”
  • “We believe it is time to take our contemplation to the public square, from a place of vulnerability with and among others.”
  • The communal fields of energy being created in this room are available to us beyond this moment, says Liz Sweeney.
  • Catherine Bertrand quotes Marie McCarthy “This does not mean that we sit back in some kind of pious fog and hope for the best.”
  • McCarthy: “The love we are called to demands extraordinary discipline and extraordinary engagement.”
  • McCarthy: “We must think more than ever before and we must act more boldly than ever before.

8/11/17 afternoon — Installation of LCWR officers 2017-2018

8/11/17 evening — LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award: Tribute to Sister Constance FitzGerald and her acceptance speech

  • ACCEPTANCE SPEECH by Sister Constance FitzGerald
  • This ARTICLE by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report covers all 8/11 Assembly sessions.
  • TWITTER: Thanks to Brittany Wilmes of Global Sisters Report @sistersreport for tweets below.
  • Tonight, as the #LCWR2017 assembly draws to a close, the conference honors Sr. Constance Fitzgerald with the Outstanding Leadership award.
  • Fitzgerald’s classic 1984 essay “Impasse and Dark Night” changed the path of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
  • Fitzgerald, born in Utah, has the expansive and adventurous spirit of the American West, say fellow sisters.
  • At the age of five, Fitzgerald met a Carmelite nun passing through town and vowed that she would one day become a Carmelite nun.
  • Fitzgerald recognized that her Carmelite formation would not give her what she needed, so she initiated her own course of study.
  • Led by her keen intellect and propensity to dream big, Fitzgerald soon become an innovative leader in the Carmelite community.
  • Thanks to Fitzgerald, the Baltimore Carmelites became known as visionary, prophetic risk-takers.
  • Fitzgerald took on a bold enterprise, collaborating with other communities to take on a rigorous course of theological discussion.
  • At age 36, Fitzgerald gave a presentation to the Woodstock meeting about opening mystic lives to the lay community.
  • Fitzgerald became a sought-after presenter worldwide, taking the stage in academic and theological circles as a peer.
  • Out of the Woodstock seminar came the Association of Contemplative Sisters, of which Fitzgerald was an early leader.
  • “An important mission was being handed to me, so for the sake of contemplative life, I was ready to [make a] sacrifice.”
  • Fitzgerald has become a leading speaker on the re-interpretation of the Carmelite lifestyle for the times in which we live.
  • Fitzgerald’s Carmelite lifestyle has made her “able to understand God’s life with us and share that understanding.”
  • “I deeply believe this is the era of contemplation, and the stakes are very high.” – Constance Fitzgerald
  • “Contemplation is a love experience.” – Constance Fitzgerald
  • “We carry the whole world within us.” – Constance Fitzgerald
  • Friends admire Fitzgerald’s “life in and for community…She lives in solitude, yet thrives on collaboration and friendship.”
  • “You have shown us that this dark time politically and globally is an invitation to pass over into the perspective of God.”
  • The LCWR leadership team gives Fitzgerald a print with Teilhard de Chardin’s words: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”
  • Fitzgerald tells her fellow sisters she wore a red shirt to show the passion “I have for you and who you are in the church.”
  • Fitzgerald says she has been privileged to “walk closely this journey since Vatican II” with many other sisters, “great women.”
  • Fitzgerald says she accepts this award as a sign of the value LCWR places on the lives and the contribution of contemplative nuns.
  • “In one way, I should just sit down, because everything I am saying, you have already said in some way.” – Fitzgerald
  • “I didn’t know you were going to say all of this, but I hoped. I hoped!” – Fitzgerald
  • “Now is the time…to live into a new evolutionary stage of consciousness, communion.” – Constance Fitzgerald
  • “This [moment] is breathtaking, sisters. It means being drawn into the…communion that constitutes trinitarian life.”
  • “The great mystics offer us this astounding hope and promise…they have carved into evolution a pathway for us.”
  • Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Ignatius have deepened and widened the channels of human consciousness.
  • “We have got to open ourselves to the challenge of living through Jesus Christ into the vibrant life of trinitarian communion.”
  • “Read as much as you can. Grab a hold of these writings. Let it underpin your prayer.” – Fitzgerald on trinitarian study
  • “We don’t know how long this emergence will take, nor how long-reaching the turbulence will be.” – Fitzgerald
  • “This union, this gift, is the goal of contemplative prayer, for which you all long.” – Fitzgerald on communion with the Trinity.
  • “Prophets of communion: This is my dream for us, my sisters.” – Constance Fitzgerald accepts the Outstanding Leadership award.

List of exhibitors at LCWR 2017 Assembly

Order audio or video of LCWR 2017 Assembly sessions now.


Other News and Commentary

8/9/2017 – LCWR’s 2017-18 president Sister Teresa Maya is a passionate educator, a bridge-builder and change-agent, a woman of contagious high energy, great personal warmth, and deep compassion, who asks herself and others to  embrace ever bigger realities. Meet her in “Sr. Teresa Maya brings bicultural perspective to LCWR presidency” by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report.

LCWR’s 2017-18 past president, Sister Mary Pellegrino, is a learner, a visionary, a strategic thinker, and a source of energy, who has buoyant and realistic hope as she looks toward the future of religious life. Meet her in “Sr. Mary Pellegrino leads in a time that’s not ‘business as usual” by Soli Salgado in Global Sisters Report.

8/6/2017 – Sr. Helen Garvey, former LCWR president (1986-1989) and champion of collaborative leadership, died at age 82. This tribute in Global Sisters Report by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins reminds us of her clear insight, personal warmth, deep and practical wisdom, and merry humor that added so much to our 2014 Spiritual Leadership conference at Catholic University. Catholic News Service’s article in Crux cites LCWR’s honor to her as “a woman who knows who she is, and where she stands, and what she believes; who listens to all opinions and finds consensus in divergent voices; who builds up everyone around her by expecting the best and acknowledging excellence; whose humor and charm open doors, rally troops, and disarm enemies; whose depth of knowledge in so many subjects, and understanding of human nature, empower her to connect with people from all walks of life.”

June 2017 — Archbishop John Quinn‘s capacity for listening, clarity, dialogue, honesty, and courage was pivotal when he served as the Vatican’s investigator of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious back in the 1980s. Ken Briggs remembers this time in National Catholic Reporter, when then-LCWR president Margaret Cafferty called him “the best friend we could have had.” In bringing the sisters’ concerns to the Vatican, Archbishop Quinn also presciently “included a ringing appeal for improved treatment of women both in society and the church, noting that many Catholic women chafed at being excluded from “policy and decision-making roles in the church. He linked this exclusion to the drop in vocations, writing: “In light of this [lack of] potential, candidates find other modes of service and hesitate to enter religious life.” Tom Roberts’ obituary of him in NCR gives a broader view of an important church reformer, through to his final years. “Quinn tells of running into Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio outside a Rome coffee shop in April 2012, less than a year before Bergoglio would be elected pope. At that chance meeting, the cardinal told Quinn he had read his book about papal reform and told him he hoped the changes would be implemented.”
In May 2017, theologian Mary E. Hunt received a major honor (the Peter J. Gomes Award) from Harvard Divinity School. As the co-founder of the D.C.-area nonprofit Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), Hunt has worked tirelessly and creatively for justice, and, with her partner Diann Neu, has spent nearly 35 years building a welcoming, grace-full educational/spiritual space that brings together feminism, faith, and justice. Check out their online, phone-in, and in-person events for great richness. This fine profile lets us see the shaping and growth of Mary’s wisdom in action, and concludes very powerfully:
“I don’t think that resistance alone is sufficient,” Hunt says. “I think that creativity always goes hand in hand with resistance. And so, while we’re certainly resisting the ways in which, for example, immigrants and refugees are being treated, the ways in which environmental protections are being dismantled, the effort to undo reproductive justice, turn back queer gains and so forth, we need also to create alternatives, and really live those out. We have to live out a different vision, even if it’s in a small way.”Looking forward, Hunt says that her perspective is increasingly influenced by the fact that she and Neu have a 16-year-old daughter. She thinks a lot about how the world is for young people—and about the future they will inherit.
“I see the great failings of my own generation as well as the great achievements,” she says. “We’ve made a deep impact among a small circle of friends, but the broad base of our impact was certainly not felt in the last election. Now it’s our responsibility as religious leaders to keep ourselves together and do the work that’s needed. That means creating livable, habitable, welcoming, embracing spaces, where people and animals and other parts of creation can be nurtured and can thrive. That’s what we at WATER have always tried to do. It’s work that’s more necessary and urgent than ever.” This wonderful Philly Magazine story about The Nuns of Philadelphiabreaks old stereotypes by offering vivid, engaging, inspiring human portraits, really well done.
LCWR is working on a leadership book that the world needs now. Women religious who led LCWR during the years of the doctrinal assessment and mandate will share their insights. “Led by their concern for the increasing presence of violence and conflict throughout the world and in this nation, the leaders concluded that articulating what they had experienced and learned may indeed be of help to others charged with leading organizations through situations of conflict and polarized thinking. They committed to writing reflections on what they believe are key factors for successfully navigating such situations, drawing upon their collective experiences leading LCWR at the time of the assessment.” LCWR is seeking funding for this new writing project. (From the January 2017 LCWR newsletter Updates). 100 Days of Prayer for the New Administration from the Sisters of St. Joseph. The daily intentions “encourage unity and reconciliation and offer support to people who may be vulnerable to policy changes.” The sisters, inspired by Pope Francis’ January 1 call for all of us to be artisans of peace, offer the 100 Days of Prayer in installments “in order to remain flexible and have the ability to adjust to what may actually be happening.”

Our Prayers for Challenging Times page has new additions written between November 8, 2016, and January 30, 2017, from Sisters of St Joseph Lyn Symkiewic, Sally Witt, and Pat Bergen.
3/4/2017 – Missionaries of Charity Sisters Anselm, Reginette, Judith, and Marguerite, were martyred in war-torn Yemen, along with 16 others, including volunteers from Ethiopia and Yemen. They were serving 60 to 80 elderly and infirm patients at their home care center in Aden. Salesian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who was with them, is still missing after his reported abduction. No residents of the nursing home were harmed.

Inspired by Sister Pat Farrell’s keynote address at the 2016 LCWR Assembly, LCWR is offering a new book, The Intimate Nearness of God: A Reflective Journal Exploring Contemplation and Transformation. Thirty sisters offer insights. Order now ($6 plus S&H; discounts for larger orders). LCWR also has some copies remaining of its beautiful Winter 2017 Occasional Papers journal, “Living into Love” ($5 plus S&H).

Remember the letters from the Vatican that some US congregations of women religious received in 2016, calling them to Rome or asking for written clarification about their responses during the Apostolic Visitation? A few congregations spoke about their visits, with Dan Stockman of Global Sisters Report. Said Sister Mary McKay: “The conversation really did feel respectful and gracious. They didn’t just talk at us. They really listened and asked us if there were other things we wanted to talk about. We were pleased by the experience and felt it was an experience of grace.”

In LCWR’s February 2017 Update newsletter, Sister Marcia Allen reflects on “cultural sin” and invites us to ask (for ourselves, our community, our nation): “What is our weakness-become-habit, the flaw that obscures the creeping subversion of a people into being less than they are meant to be: contributors to devolution rather than to evolution?”

In LCWR’s March 2017 Update newsletter, LCWR president Sister Teresa Maya reflects on the fact that “one stitch at a time” is the only way to repair the social fabric of our country.  “The social fabric that has held our lives is tearing — the principles of citizenship, the values of our democracies, the common good that holds us together. We are experiencing an intensification of the breakdown of the institutions we have known. This has been coming for a while…. Yet our hearts know that this time of tearing is also a call to reweaving…. The social fabric is being recreated everywhere one stitch at a time — in a block party, being a kindly neighbor, with a clean street, when we plant trees, fixing a playground, or planting a city garden. This going forth, reaching out, listening, engaging, befriending, is part of the DNA of all our religious communities. Evangelization is that simple, one stitch at a time we witness to Jesus’ hope of the Reign of God which called us to be a community with a mission. The apparent simplicity should not fool us — all big things start
local, one stitch at a time.”

Sister Nancy Sylvester invites us to be “cosmic sentries” and “lightning rods of divine compassion” as the new administration works to dismantle longstanding programs and policies. She also offers a valuable, longer reflection on finding our balance during these times, including an introduction to the “5 Why’s” process.

Sister Linda Romey writes in NCR about the future of religious life. “My dream is to recognize that the movements we see emerging in the world around us — new ways of being community, finding spirituality and engaging in social responsibility — could also lead to the emergence of new ways of living religious life…. I want to actively create our future.”

An interview with Sister Jessica Kerber, age 35, offers a Millennial perspective on consecrated life in today’s church, by Dan Stockman in Global Sisters Report.

Recognizing that they no longer need the large buildings and properties of the past, some sisters’ communities are partnering with each other and with nursing homes and other kinds of organizations. Sisters face the emotional challenges and focus on mission and ministry, as Dan Stockman reports in Global Sisters Report.

Sisters collaborate within the US and worldwide to rescue the victims of human trafficking and to stop human trafficking systemically. In 2014, 21 million people were victims of forced labor worldwide — 51% women and 20% girls. Of the total, 68% were exploited for labor, 22% were sexually exploited, and 10% were victims of state-imposed forced labor. Michele Morek reports in NCR about sisters’ worldwide collaboration. Sisters’ work in the USA is boosting awareness that fosters hope, as reported by J. Malcolm Garcia and Soli Salgado in NCR.

LCWR has announced its keynote speakers for the 2017 LCWR Assembly in Orlando, FL (August 8-11). Dr. Christopher Pramuk teaches theology and spirituality at Xavier University, and has particular interest in the intersection of spirituality, race, the arts, theology, and social justice. Jan Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United
Methodist Church who serves as director of The Wellspring Studio and has traveled widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker.

1/30/2017 – LCWR issued a statement voicing its objections to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugee resettlement, and vowing that Catholic sisters will continue to welcome refugees and minister to immigrants. LCWR will send the statement to President Trump and other legislators and urges us to voice our own concerns to our elected officials and in our local media.

A major resolution of LCWR is to work against human trafficking and child slavery. On February 8, join the worldwide church in the annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking, on the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita. St. Josephine was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. She learned from Canossian nuns that she was created in the image of God and possessed human dignity. She later became a Canossian sister and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000. Here are resources we can use (thanks to Sister Ann Scholz of LCWR):

100 Days of Prayer for the New Administration from the Sisters of St. Joseph — The daily intentions “encourage unity and reconciliation and offer support to people who may be vulnerable to policy changes.” The sisters, inspired by Pope Francis’ January 1 call for all of us to be artisans of peace, offer the 100 Days of Prayer in two-week installments “in order to remain flexible and have the ability to adjust to what may actually be happening.”

Greeting the New Year with compassion” by Sister Nancy Sylvester. “I picture us standing with arms outstretched bracing to be lightning rods for Divine Compassion.”

Take action to welcome the emerging future of religious life” by Sister Linda Romey – Brief, informative, sobering, and grandly exciting: “How can religious women today be spiritual trailblazers for our times in the ways that the founders of our communities were in theirs and that our elders, the women who guided the church through the renewal of Vatican II, were in theirs?…This is where we need to see what is really in front of us — where we need to see the hunger for spirituality that pervades our society. Where we need to see the poor and victims of injustice and violence and those abused and beaten down. Where we need to see young women longing for deep connections and to make their lives matter. Where we need to see older women looking for a community and a way to respond to the needs around them. Where we see new forms of religious life already emerging in their seeking, in their connecting, in their commitment.” Plenty more, in concise form. I love this article.

Q&A with Kimberly Ritter, fighting human trafficking with a smartphone app” by Rhonda Miska — Ritter’s work with Catholic sisters led to Exchange Initiative. “Exchange Initiative has created the TraffickCam app, which allows smartphone users to take photographs of their hotel rooms and add it to a photo database.” Authorities match hotel info from the database with hotel-room photos often used to advertise or sell underage human-trafficking victims online. There have been 92,846 total downloads of the app from the App Store and from Google Play in the first four months. We can help.
A perfect upcoming book for this polarized time! LCWR leaders during the years of the doctrinal assessment and mandate will share their insights. “Led by their concern for the increasing presence of violence and conflict throughout the world and in this nation, the leaders concluded that articulating what they had experienced and learned may indeed be of help to others charged with leading organizations through situations of conflict and polarized thinking. They committed to writing reflections on what they believe are key factors for successfully navigating such situations, drawing upon their collective experiences leading LCWR at the time of the assessment.” LCWR is seeking funding for this new writing project. (From the January 2017 LCWR newsletter Updates). 

Speaking of polarization – Read LCWR president Sister Mary Pelligrino’s reflection on “Standing in the ‘Tragic Gap.'” She describes her transformative experience of a “deep and honest conversation…to build solidarity among what had once been divergent voices.” On page 2 of LCWR’s January 2017 Update.

Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK’s public Letter to Mr. Trump’s Transition Team emphasizes that “our economy grows when all share in our prosperity” and offers to be allies in working for this goal in housing and in healthcare. Sister Simone also notes the value to the economy of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap proposals for tax justice and for family-friendly workplace policies. She expresses deep concern about Mr. Trump’s stated immigration policies and says, “We urge you to support a way forward that recognizes the true importance of their service to our nation and our economy.”

Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, 2017: Nonviolence, A Style of Politics for Peace. Excerpt: “Violence is not the cure for our broken world. To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, ‘For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the Christian revolution’”. The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.

Fifty years ago, in 1967, Pope Paul VI established the first January 1 World Day of Peace (1/1 is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God). Here are some great resources — prayers, printable stuff, activities for kids… — that LCWR recommended in its recent newsletter.

LCWR encourages us to commemorate National Migration Week January 8-14. “For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week. It is an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and survivors of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter and, in doing so, to look
beyond personal and parochial needs to those of others.” (From January 2017 LCWR newsletter.)

This stimulating, illuminating, timely article about conscience is a good foundation for 2017. Boston College professor James F. Keenan, SJ, gives solid ground for reflection in his article on the arrested development of the American conscience in America magazine’s 1/2/2017 issue.

A fine bio of Sister Maura Clark, worth reading and sharing as a start for 2017: “In her book A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura, the investigative journalist Eileen Markey sets about reclaiming one such martyr from the remoteness of the pedestal: Maura Clarke, who along with two other nuns, Dorothy Kazel and Ita Ford, and a laywoman, Jean Donovan, was murdered by National Guard troops in El Salvador in early December 1980. Well written, well paced, and well researched. Long after the last page is turned, Markey’s story resounds in the reader’s heart as a deeply felt and profoundly stirring affirmation of life, of a singular life. She succeeds brilliantly at transforming the martyr Maura, symbol of ultimate Christian commitment, into a recognizable human being—incarnate, immediate and arresting in her individuality. And in doing so, Markey opens up all sorts of possibilities for us.”  – from Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill’s “Portrait of a Martyr” in the 1/2/17 issue of America.

A brief remembrance of two recent “Martyrs of Charity” — Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, murdered in Mississippi on August 25, 2016. Written by Fr. James Martin in America.

At Betty’s blog – “Merry Christmas, in the mess! — inspired by LCWR and the refugee Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Iraq.

Older News:  2016  –  2015  –  2014  –  2013  –  2012

From our webmistress:The links above take you to complete archives for each year. We’re gradually deleting the duplicate material below. We’ve created archives to shorten this page of current News in order to make your browser happier. Doing that was a pretty quick job. Deleting is a slow, boring job. So we’re doing that bit by bit in order to keep me happier. 🙂

5/15/15 – LCWR speaks out after 30 day silence:

4/27 – Dr. Margaret Susan Thompson, historian of US women religious matters, reflects on the end of the mandate in The Tablet

4/24 – Theologian Mary E. Hunt on the Vatican-LCWR settlement, the Vatican-LCWR relationship, and systemic equality for women in the church. This is nuanced, solid, and important. Worth reading the whole thing.

4/23 – The bishops of India are working “to achieve gender equality” at every level of the Catholic church in India. By Christine Schenk in NCR.

4/23 – Ten great quotes from women religious, and a 1-minute video of women religious at work around the world, from NCR’s Global Sisters Report on its first anniversary. (GSR welcomes your stories and story ideas.)

4/23 – The Guardian asks women religious to tell their stories. 4/21 – LCWR book Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times is named finalist for 2015 Excellence in Publishing Awards of the Association of Catholic Publishers, in the category Resources for Ministry. The awards will be made at the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, Illinois, on May 26-28, 2015.
4/20 – The CDF and the LCWR: Postgame Analysis by Mollie Wilson O’Reilly in Commonweal provides her own fine analysis as well as thoughtful commentary on negative and conservative reactions to the Joint Final Report. She concludes: “That the mandate has concluded in a way that allows all sides to walk away with no mortal wounds is something to be happy about. But if these gentle reforms, so hard to distinguish from “Keep up the good work,” are what the CDF sought all along, who can defend the hostility of their initial assault on the conference? If a conversation held in an atmosphere of mutual respect with the goal of greater understanding was the desired outcome, then simply initiating such a conversation would have been a good way for the CDF to start. That the whole episode did not end with another polarizing show of authority is a good thing for everyone. It would have been much better, though, if it hadn’t started out that way.” 4/20 – The Spoiled Victory of the LCWR by Ken Briggs in NCRonline: “While it doesn’t please me one bit to see this outcome as strengthening the status quo, I believe that’s what it amounts to.” [My view: Mr. Briggs’ views are tempting because they’re familiar. LCWR’s way invites us to join them in transformation that’s bigger than politics of confrontation that the Vatican started with. To the extent that we learn and use LCWR’s way, we can keep those seeds growing.] 4/20 – LCWR leaders call Vatican meetings “rich,” conversational – story by NCR’s Joshua McElwee about LCWR’s meetings last week in Rome – “very rich” conversations – “impressed at the universality of their concern” at the various Vatican congregations they met with – “unbelievable experience” of meeting with Pope Francis.
4/17 – Timeline: The long and contentious duel between Rome and American nuns, by David Gibson. Summarizes the story from April 2008 through April 2015.
4/17 – Sylvia Poggioli audio on NPR reports on the sudden end of the Vatican mandate 4/17 – The truest reflection on LCWR anywhere:  Anne Regan in our blog
4/17 – Going Forward: LCWR and the Doctrinal Assessment Dan Stockman, Global Sisters Report

DC info: Sunday 4/24 2-5 pm at Trinity Univ., DC: film will honor 10-year anniversary of Sr. Dorothy Stang’s murder in the Amazon rain forest

Thoughtful reflection on Papal silence and the role of women in the Church (and more) by Anne E. Patrick 4/16 – Strong support, good insights in New York Times, endorsing LCWR’s way of conteomplative, communal reflection as powerful choice. Also – a related Betty’s blog4/16 – 4 reasons “Why the Vatican’s crackdownon nuns ended happily” by John L. Allen at Crux: it was generated by US cardinals in Rome and quickly became a PR nightmare for the Vatican and bishops; Pope Francis emboldened moderates; LCWR chose to work within the system; and Archbishop Peter Sartain “has a pastoral streak a mile wide.”
4/16 – Video of Pope Francis greeting LCWR officers today at their 50-minute private meeting in his library4/16 – Nun Justice’s statement praises “the dogged determination of LCWR sister-leaders to persevere in dialogue with those who unjustly maligned them.” 4/16 – Rose Marie Berger’s insights on the conclusion of the Vatican mandate, including the reminder that those in leadership these past 3 years “have suffered terribly.”
4/16 – Solidarity with Sisters’ statement on the conclusion of the Vatican mandate4/16 – Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s eloquent view of the end of the mandate, in America. LCWR officers Sisters Joan Steadman, Janet Mock, Carol Zinn, and Marcia Allen with Pope Francis 4/16/15. 4/16 – Pope Francis meets with LCWR officers and expresses appreciation for sisters’ lives and ministries.

4/16 – Vatican ends the 3-year oversight of LCWR.NCR storyLCWR statementVatican statement USA DIOCESES WANT INPUT FOR SYNOD ON THE FAMILY. Is yours asking? If not, maybe reply elsewhere? Many have short deadlines, so act quickly.
12/16/14 – Vatican report on the apostolic visitation of women religious: everybody wins. It evidences respect and appreciation for US nuns, encourages continued dialogue with bishops and priests, and invites continued reflection on Vatican concerns like declining numbers, communal life, Christ-centered prayer. Lots and lots of good reporting, like this summary and this article.

12/16/14 – Illuminating interview with LCWR president Sister Sharon Holland may hint at more news after the report above – re not the apostolic visitation but re the LCWR doctrinal assessment:
“…And I would say we’re working very well in close collaboration with the delegates, especially Archbishop Sartain who is sort of the lead person in that. I’m very hopeful that we’re going to move forward to a good resolution to that. The statutes of the conference, I think that’s known, will be revised and are being approved. I think they’re still over in an office there somewhere waiting for the final approval but they’ve been busy with the visitation. But I feel like we’re working together well and that we’ll be moving toward a conclusion on this. Obviously, I can’t say when or exactly how.”

Solid discussion of the validity of women religious not wearing or wearing habits – a “both/and” not “either/or.”

12/10/14 – 10 women religious leaders spoke about
how the apostolic visitation of women religious changed their congregations and their sense of unity across congregations. They are authors and editors of the important new book, Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation. E.g.: “It was about all of us together. . . . It created a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. And the same was true with our relationship with the laity – we discovered a communal vision for the church and the world.” “It started out to be a horrendous thing. But we learned to walk through the darkness together. . . . It was a powerful time.”  Also, the church teaches the equality of women — “But when women talk about this idea, try to develop and explore this idea, it’s called radical feminism. It seems that in Rome, there’s only one form of feminism, and that’s radical feminism.”

Sisters’ History is Women’s History” – meaty, illuminating glimpses of women religious who have been pioneering leaders for hundreds of years, in context of four recent books – essay by Syracuse University professor Margaret Susan Thompson in Journal of Women’s History, Volume 26, Number 4, Winter 2014, pp.182-190. 12/1/14 – Pope Francis: changing times may call for changes in religious orders. Sounds very consistent with what LCWR and others have been doing for the past 50 years.

11/30/14 –
“Three surprising leadership lessons I learned from nuns” by Jo Piazza – an article in non-religious media – getting the word out! (PS – We’ve sent her a message to urge use of modern photos.) 11/16/14 – Sunday TV updates re Card. Sean O’Malley & Bishop Blase Cupich: (1) In Norah O’Donnell’s interview (video and transcript), Cardinal Sean O’Malley, friend of Pope Francis since 2010 Argentine visit, emphasized Vatican determination to demonstrate no tolerance for sex abuse, “urgent” need for Vatican to act re Bishop Robt Finn. The perception of LCWR issue as Vatican males attacking women religious was “a disaster.” Women can’t be priests because Jesus didn’t have women apostles, period. (2) Ann Curry and Fr. Matt Malone’s interview with incoming Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich gave a strong sense of who he is; in Sister Mary Ann Walsh’s summary, he “reveals what formed him growing up as one of nine children in a Croatian family in Omaha, his vision for the church where people, especially the poor, need help, and his assessment of Pope Francis. He sees the Francis era as a renaissance moment for the church, perhaps, he said, bigger than the Second Vatican Council.” (3) What touched me most was Fr. Matt Malone’s podcast interview of Ann Curry about the imprint of Catholicism on her life. As a “fallen Catholic” in “deep struggle,” she expresses the core with tremendous beauty and clarity.

11/5/14 – LCWR offers new pastoral support to the smallest congregations – While some congregations are growing, others have declined in numbers. NCR reports that Dominican Sister Mary Hughes, recently named as the first LCWR Director of Transitional Services, will provide pastoral help to small congregations in transition, asking the questions that will help congregations to make decisions. NCR notes that “Many congregations in recent years have merged, others are ‘covenanting’ – creating relationships that are less involved than a merger and play to each organization’s strengths…. There are also less formal ways of sharing resources.” Sister Mary says, “I view my role primarily as helping the community recognize all the lives they’ve touched over the years and all their work…. I would hope there’s great peace that comes out of it. I remember when my parents did their will – it’s not something you want to think about or deal with, it’s not fun. But it was also a relief that all the things that were important to them were provided for, and that’s what this is. They can have some assurance those things are taken care of and go about the living.”

11/3/14 – Incoming LCWR exec director brings strong experience, thoughtful style. Good choice, says America magazine. When Sister Joan Marie Steadman takes the role 1/1/15 at the end of Sister Janet Mock’s term, the transition will be smooth, writes Sister Mary Ann Walsh (until recently the communications director for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops). Sisiter Joan Marie has “no learning curve before her” because she’s been active with LCWR for over 15 years. She brings background and personal qualities that will help LCWR address both Vatican issues and the needs of the congregations it serves.

Welcome to newly appointed LCWR Executive Director Sister Joan Marie Steadman!
She will assume the position on Janaury 1, 2015, after Sister Janet Mock’s historic term ends. Sister Joan Marie, a member of the Sister of the Holly Cross of Notre Dame, Indiana, has served in leadership of her community, the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame, Indiana, as well as in many other ministries and on boards of directors. LCWR’s announcement gives a glimpse: “associate director of healthcare ethics at the Markula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University; vice-president for mission at Holy Cross Hospital, Salt Lake City, Utah; regional executive team member at Holy Cross Health Services of Utah; pastoral associate at St. Therese Parish, Fresno, California, and St. Elizabeth Parish, Richfield, Utah; novice director for her community, and administrator and teacher in several elementary and secondary schools. Sister Joan Marie holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from Saint Mary College, Notre Dame, Indiana, and a master of arts degree in spirituality from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
Fall 2014 report from Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate describes how congregations have responded to declining numbers (reorganizing, merging, etc.), and gives a much more complete and nuanced look at the numbers. The numbers do show overall decline, but the patterns vary by congregation. Similar numbers of new members are coming to LCWR congregations and to the congregations of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. This picture is quite different from the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has presented the situation. Previously we provided the link to NCR’s coverage of the report, like “Three stats and a map.”

10/24/14 – US Catholic Mission Association presents its 2014 Mission Award to LCWR. Photos, more.

10/9/14 – Dec. 1 trial is scheduled for rare allegations of sexual abuse by women religious. The case involves 11 Ursulines of the Western Province who were at the St. Ignatius Mission church and school on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana from the 1940s to the early 1970s. It alleges that they “exposed themselves to children, fondled and molested them and forced them to commit sexual acts,” committing physical, mental and emotional abuse. “The suit makes similar allegations against 18 priests and brothers, alleging all of the above, as well as rape and sodomy.” Former LCWR president Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell on “Sustaining Transformation” – address delivered April 25, 2014, at the Conference of Religious of Ireland. “[M]assive breakdown and loss can herald approaching transformation…. The paschal mystery we have just celebrated coaches us to approach transition primarily as a birth, not death…. Within us and within all of creation there is an impulse toward greater life, greater complexity, greater wholeness…. [yet] it is also true that very few people like change…. Allowing ourselves to be disturbed and confused is ultimately how we are able to become aware of and to break patterns that can keep us stuck…. Our role as leaders is to call people to something greater and higher through a relationship of affection.  The more tumultuous the situation, the more we are in need of one another’s support and affection.  Community is critical.  Ray Dlugos also points out that “we need to give members the time, space, permission, and guidance to go into their own emotional life and see what it is really revealing about themselves.”  Resistance is not to be judged.  Change has its own timing.  It is like the bud of a rose, gathering energy to open.  When the bud has not yet accumulated the energy necessary to open, to try to hurry the blooming does violence to the process.  However, once the bud has gathered the energy to open, there is nothing that will stop it…. [A] useful skill to cultivate is non-violent communication.  It involves being non-judgmental toward others while also accepting the judgment of others non-violently.  In my leadership of LCWR I was so aware of the need for creating an atmosphere for complex conversations that don’t further divide.  I found myself exploring more in depth the skills of non-violent communication.  Like most of you, I’m sure, I was aware of the basic practice of communicating feelings and expectations without judgment.  I knew how to use “I” statements and to choose words carefully.  There were two additional principles that I found particularly significant.  I learned that non-violent communication often breaks down when the speaker moves into self-judgment.  When I begin to judge myself negatively in the conversation, when I disconnect from self-compassion, my ability to communicate non-judgmentally with the other usually begins to fall apart as well.  Self-compassion is as important as compassion for the other.  The other principle I found helpful was that of non-violent listening in addition to non-violent speaking.  When another person speaks verbally attacks or condemns me, non-violent listening tries to hear not the judgment but the feelings beneath it and the possible source of those feelings…. The transformation that happens in us is, again, more like allowing, being available, surrendering to the reshaping that the Spirit brings about, usually through life as it comes to us.  We can be tempted in times of loss and chaos to try harder and to do more, but what is needed is the opposite.  We need to slow down and to go deeper, to carve out space and time, to be with the fertile but difficult emptiness, the deep power of letting go from which hope arises.”  

Oct. 2014 – Former LCWR president Dominican Sister Mary Hughes joins LCWR staff as Director of Transitional Services for congregations whose ministerial contributions may be drawing to completion. She will provide pastoral and creative practical support for congregations in their last generations.

Aug. 2014 – LCWR’s video tribute to executive director and St. Joseph Sister Janet Mock is both love-letter and, taken thoughtfully, a how-to guide for inspired, inspiring leadership. Catching up – 9/23/14 – Pope Francis names 5 women to International Theological Commission. Max before has been 2 women on 16-person group. One of the women is from the USA: Sr. Prudence Allen, RSM, was a prominent contributor to the book Foundations of Religious Life by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious; Sr. Prudence is former chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, now a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University, England. The other women are Tracey Rowland (Dean, John Paul II Institute for Family and Marriage, Melbourne),  Moira Mary McQueen (Director of Canadian Bioethics Institute, St Michael’s University), Marianne Schlosser (University of Viena), Slovenian Sister Alenko Arko (Loyola Community, now in Russia). (Thanksk to Sr. Laurel M. O’Neal for that info.) 10/9/14 – Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL, in this blog post, writes with bold and loving wisdom about LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, starting with the 3rd paragraph. He honors LCWR’s quiet dignity in contrast to CDF’s outbursts. He notes that if Pope Francis could bring Israel and Hamas together in mutual respect in the Vatican gardens, surely the church can find a way to address this “family feud.” He proposes empowering Archbishop Peter Sartain, “a good, fair, nonideological man,” to come up with a truce that the pope can embrace, rather than Archbishop Sartain simply being a delegate of the CDF. As Bishop Lynch says, “If the battle continues, there will be no winners, and I would opine that the Church may well lose more respectability and credibility.”
10/9/14 – As we await the Vatican’s report on its 2008 investigation (visitation) of US women religious congregations, a new book tells the story from the perspective of the leaders of the congregations that experienced the visitation. Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation,” published by University Press of America, was initiated by a group of women religious who were the elected leaders of their communities during the Apostolic Visitation. The book reports on their qualitative and quantitative survey of presidents or major superiors whose communities had undergone the visitation. Order through the publisher for a 30% discount through 12/31/2014. Sr. Jan Cebula reports on the book in NCR’s Global Sisters Report. I’m grateful to women religious leaders whose witness to their own story is also in many ways the story of everyone in solidarity with them. Their story is our story.

10/9/14 – An exploring-religious-life experience, and a very important message, from a young woman, Rhonda Miska, who just returned from a mission in Miami as part of her sojourn with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary (an LCWR congregation): How history could repeat itself

9/30/14 –A different way to explore religious life: a new reality-TV show follows 5 young women as they consider becoming women religious (but none in LCWR-member congregations). It will begin on November 25 on the Lifetime network.

9/24/14 – US women religious congregations are becoming increasingly international. At the same time, some prominent women religious of other countries are sounding a lot like LCWR (but without Vatican reprimands, so far). Spanish Benedictine Sister Teresa Forcades is a forthright and effective force throughout Europe. 9/22/14 – Sr. Mary Ann Walsh (until she took a new job in August, she was spokesperson for the US Bishops): “How Should the CDF Treat the Nuns? ‘Just Say Thank-you.'” As she says, ” The latest controversy between the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) may be the most ill-fated controversy ever launched across the Tiber. For sure, the Vatican is in an awkward position” – which she then details, beautifully.

Good intro to the Religious Formation Conference on 7/10/14. RFC is celebrating 60 years of support to the formation of women and men religious with “From the Center to the Periphery: Relocating the Prophetic Witness of Religious Life.” Dawn Cherie Araujo’s story in NCR’s Global Sisters Report notes that “Few Catholics have even heard of it. But since 1954, the conference has been steadily tackling the biggest challenges in formation for religious life… stressing a focus on both initial and lifelong formation, taking on topics such as aging well and living in an intercultural environment, which religious may experience both as their missions expand and as their congregations merge and condense.”
9/18/14 – Sr. Elizabeth Johnson & Jesuit Fr. James Martin talk about Jesus tonight – 6:30PM ET – will be live-streamed at

9/17-10/22/14 –
Meet up with Nuns on the Bus, riding for “We the People, We the Voters” – see schedule for Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Colorado. Read blog from the bus by Sr. Jan Cebula.

9/18/14 – Three women religious are awarded 2014 Lumen Christi award from Catholic Extension Society
for their work building a vibrant Catholic community in one of the most impoverished places along the Mexican border. In honoring Sister  Carolyn Kosub, Sister Emily Jocson and Sister Fatima Santiago, the Catholic Extension society notes, “When people understand that they are more than their circumstances, true change becomes possible. With their deep devotion to the poor, the sisters have vividly demonstrated how faith communities can transform society. As one Penitas resident said, ‘Having this church, the community center and these sisters here with us is to have the presence of God among us.’” 
9/2/14 – Cardinal Muller says Vatican must “help LCWR rediscover identity.” David Gibson of Religion News Service reports: “‘Above all we have to clarify that we are not misogynists, we don’t want to gobble up a woman a day!’ Cardinal Gerhard Müller told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, in the edition published on Monday.” Cardinal Muller seems to characterize LCWR as a minor organization rather than the conference whose members (leaders of their congregations nationwide) represent 80% of US women religious. He said LCWR orders “have no more vocations and risk dying out.” Gibson notes that “Conservative critics of the LCWR point to steep declines in the ranks of their member congregations and say their progressive approach in recent decades is to blame. The LCWR communities are aging rapidly and drawing few new members, and critics say that is not the case in communities belonging to a rival, conservative umbrella group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, that was established by Rome in 1992 as a counterpoint to the LCWR. But research shows that in fact the LCWR and the CMSWR, which represents about 20 percent of women’s religious orders in the U.S., are drawing about the same number of new postulants and both face similar challenges of a declining and aging membership.”

9/2/14 – New book “If Nuns Ruled the World” by Jo Piazza stories of “10 sisters on a mission” – sounds like a great read about women religious who inspire in many ways. Get a quick look via Nicholas Kristof column “Sister Acts.”

9/2/14 – New report has
fascinating stats re nun trends by country, openness to being a nun by over/under age 30, much more. About the same percentage of LCWR & CMSWR* institutes have no one in formation right now. (CMSWR – Congregation of Major Superiors of Women Religious)

9/1/14 –Examples of Integrity: Leadership lessons from Roman Catholic nuns” by Karen Vernal in Milwaukee Biz News. Great that business news is covering this radical way of leadership!

8/31/14 –The Great Nunquisition: Why the Vatican Is Cracking Down on Sisters – by Jo Piazza in TIME. “Today’s generation of nuns are progressive women, two things the Church isn’t used to.”
8/30/14 – “It is certain, many have reached their breaking point and despair is setting in,” write the Iraqi Dominican sisters

August 30th 2014                                                         Weakened and Impoverished

We entered the fourth week of displacement. Yet, there is nothing promising at all. The Iraqi government has not done anything to regain the Christian towns back from the IS. Likewise, the Kurdish government, apart from allowing us to enter their province, has not offered any aid, financial or material, leaving us in the streets, and making the church take full responsibility of us all. Thanks to the Church of Iraq in Kurdistan, who opened their halls and centres to provide shelters. Yet, the number of refugees was so large that the Kurdish government had to face the stark reality and open their schools to provide additional shelter for refugees. 

We hear a lot about world governments and organizations sending financial aid to Iraq, but the refugee gets the least –we do not know or understand why. People lost almost everything; they cannot even afford to buy milk or formula for their children. What saddens us most is that, only one month ago, these people were the most educated in the country and among those most likely to build a life for themselves and their family, and now they do not have enough money in their pockets to survive the day. Christians became accustomed to investing their money in businesses, shops, fields, buildings…etc, to build their communities. Leaving their towns meant leaving everything they had been working for all their lives. Yet, amidst losing everything, accepting their lost dignity, is the most difficult loss they may experience. Some have found shelter in tents, others in schools, still others in church halls and gardens. They wait to be fed, or given food to cook; elderly are not being taken care of properly; children are living in unhealthy conditions; families have lost their privacy; women are exposed in these places; men have no jobs in a culture where a man is expected to support his families. Refusing to live without dignity, more and more people think of immigrating. Whoever owns a car or gold, sells them to buy a plane ticket out of the country. Needless to say, the buyers in Kurdistan are taking advantage and do not take into consideration the devastation these refugees face. 

Christians in Iraq are known for their faithfulness and peaceful way of living among others…. more

Is the world deaf and blind? …It is certain, many have reached their breaking point and despair is setting in.  Maybe immigrating is the only way to stop living in such a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. People cannot endure this persecution, marginalization, contempt, and rejection anymore. If there is any other way, besides immigration, please let us know. Otherwise, please help people get out of the country, by seeking asylum, according to the UN law. 

Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena –Iraq.

8/28/14 – “We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our [non-governmental organization] team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it’s staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!” – an email to someone in Solidarity with Sisters from a friend doing humanitarian assistance work in Iraq
8/28/14 – “The very existence of Christians is at stake in several Arab countries — notably in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.” Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs from the Middle East met outside Beirut with the United Nations’ special coordinator in Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the Middle East denounced attacks on Christians and called upon the international community to work toward eradicating terrorist groups.

The patriarchs met Aug. 27 at the Maronite Catholic patriarchate at Bkerke, north of Beirut, for a special summit to address the crisis in the region. They were later joined by the United Nations’ special coordinator in Lebanon and the ambassadors of the five permanent member-countries of the U.N. Security Council.

“The very existence of Christians is at stake in several Arab countries — notably in Iraq, Syria and Egypt — where they have been exposed to heinous crimes, forcing them to flee,” the patriarchs said in a statement after the summit and meeting with diplomats.

They lamented the indifference of both Islamic authorities and the international community over attacks against Christians, who have been in the region for 2,000 years.

“What is painful is the absence of a stance by Islamic authorities, and the international community has not adopted a strict stance either,” the patriarchs said.

“We call for issuing a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) that forbids attacks against others,” they said. 8/28/14 – Why are we silencing women (and lay) preachers? asks Sr. Christine Schenk in NCR. Did you know that some dioceses have 40-yr traditions of routine preaching by lay ministers, including many women? And that some of them have recently abolished this tradition?  8/27/14 – Raymond A. Schroth on “The Battle of the Nuns” in America magazine – Nuns are now part of USA consciousness in a new way, recognized as leaders intellectually and on social justice issues. Their style and substance is similar to Pope Francis’ – but he still hasn’t lifted the mandate for LCWR reform. Schroth quotes the Harper’s article below by Mary Gordon:In fairness to Francis, she says, the church’s male leadership and its women religious have clashed throughout history. In a fascinating two pages she summarizes the relationship.” Examples include Hildegarde of Bingen and foundresses of women’s congregations. Why do sisters stay, in the face of all this? Again quoting Mary Gordon: she asked “a leading nun” who replied, “Why would I leave a way of life that has been so fruitful for me, that’s given me so much. That allows me to live in a way that is so right for me? We offer community, we offer a real spirituality, we know how to listen, we know how to be with the dying. It’s very precious. I wouldn’t let it go. And I’d much rather focus on that than on the famous ‘dwindling numbers’ It’s not about numbers. It’s about who we are, what we are and can do in the world.”

August 2014 Harper’s magazine: “Francis and the Nuns: Is the new pope all talk?” by Mary Gordon – available on newsstands, also online and in print to subscribers. 8/26/14 – LCWR Assembly resolutions are now online. – (1) In its resolution on Transition to Renewable Energy Sources, LCWR committed “to use our spiritual, social, and educational resources and our public credibility to promote the national transition from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.” (2) In its resolution on the Doctrine of Discovery, the Assembly acted in solidarity with indigenous peoples and asked Pope Francis to formally “repudiate the period of Christian history that used religion to justify political and personal violence against indigenous nations and peoples and their cultural, religious, and territorial identities.” August 2014 – LCWR receives $1.125 million grant to plan for religious life into the future. The Resource Center for Religious Institutes received a related grant, both from the GHR Foundation. As LCWR executive director Sister Janet Mock said in the organization’s monthly newsletter, “LCWR has a responsibility to support its members in navigating these next years – to downsize in order to become what religious institutes have been through the centuries: small, liminal groups seeking God, serving the needs of society at the margins, and raising up for the church unaddressed needs.” The newsletter reports that “Currently, there are more than 200 women’s religious institutes that have fewer than 100 members and have a median age of 75 or older. Additional institutes will reach this stage in the near future.”
8/23/14 – A new letter from the Dominican Sisters in Iraq shares the awful situation that they and their fellow refugees face, and asks for prayers from us and from the world. Please share this widely. The Home page lists other recent changes to the website, besides the news here.

After you read the news, consider spending 5 minutes exploring why LCWR is what it is. Use our website resources on contemplation, community, dialogue, prophetic hope, more.

2014 LCWR Assembly & Board meeting – events and speeches (8/12-19/2014, Nashville, TN)

8/19/14 – From Assembly: New LCWR Call 2015-2022: LCWR’s statement of identity and mission for coming years – “As we live the years ahead, we remain inspired by the radical call of the Gospel, filled with hope, and committed to discerning together the leading of God’s Spirit. Affirming LCWR’s mission and setting direction for the coming years, we embrace our time as holy, our leadership as gift, and our challenges as blessing.” – followed by sense of direction for LCWR as ecclesial women, in the world, in the church, leading congregations. 8/18/14 – LCWR press release from 2014 Assembly “…ongoing conversation with church leadership is key to building effective working relationships that enable both women religious and church leaders to
serve the world. It is our deepest hope to resolve the situation between LCWR and CDF in a way that fully honors our commitment to fulfill the LCWR mission as well as protect the integrity of the organization. We will continue in the conversation with Archbishop Sartain as an expression of
hope…” – more 8/18/14 – Brief lovely overview slide-show of key events of the LCWR Assembly photos, quotes, and little insights about LCWR. Do you know any other organization that has a formal “thanking and blessing of hotel employees” where they’ve been meeting? 8/15/14 – Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s address at LCWR Assembly as she accepted LCWR’s outstanding leadership award. I esp. loved page 5 onward. She puts everything in such clear context, including the LCWR-Vatican situation. She told the Assembly that “Both of us are caught in a tension not of our own making” with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found. From Dan Stockman’s report in NCR:

“’The investigation’s statements express a vague, overall dissatisfaction and distrust on certain topics, and judgments are rendered in such a way that they cannot be addressed,’ she said. ‘But your willingness to stay at the table and offer meaningful, honest dialogue is a powerful witness.’ Johnson said historically, there have always been tensions between religious communities and the hierarchy because one is based on a radical living of the Gospel and the other is based on administration, which requires order. The issue is also sociological, she said. ‘The church did not start out this way, but as an institution, it has evolved a patriarchal structure where authority is executed in a top-down fashion and obedience and loyalty to the system are the greatest of virtues,’ Johnson said. Finally, she said, the tensions are ecclesiastical because women religious have undergone the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council and the hierarchy has not.”

8/15 – Transfer of LCWR Leadership
  ·         Sisters Sharon Holland (current president), Carol Zinn (past president), and Marcia Allen (president-elect) will work together in the tripartite co-presidency.
·         Secretary – Sister Mary Beth Gianoli
·         Treasurer – Sister Pat Eck

8/15/14 – LCWR Assembly directs Board “to respond to the mandate.” See post-Assembly statement.
8/14/14 – Keynote speaker S. Nancy Schreck: However Long the Night – Holy Mystery Revealed in Our Midst – Her full, powerful keynote address of Aug. 14 is here. Her reflection at the Aug. 12 opening session is here. Also in Spanish and in French. Dan Stockman in NCR’s Global Sisters Report notes that Archbishop Peter Sartain was in the audience. He reports that “Schreck’s nearly hourlong [keynote] talk at many points drew murmurs of assent from the crowd; at others, outright applause.”

S. Nancy reflected on the long process of renewal that women religious undertook in implementing Vatican directives, and said that “What all this has done has brought us to a rather odd place in our world and church – and to a clarity of identity and purpose which we cannot expect those who have not taken the journey, and done the work ever be able to understand. Things like the slow and unglamorous miracles of change in both members and the congregation as a whole. The communal sense of longing. It is difficult for others to see that the journey narrows the range of possibilities open to us, and at the same time increases the intensity of the possibilities that are chosen. New paths open toward depth and outward to new horizons. There is an additional reality. Many keepers of the great religious traditions now seem frightened by what we have come to know, they seem to find it difficult to converse with the complexities and hungers of our vision.” She quotes Sr. Miriam Ambrosio CRB, at the 2013 meeting of international women religious in Rome: “Religious belong on the margins, with other marginated people…” S. Nancy continues: “The experience is like that of the biblical exile in which we have been so changed that we are no longer at home in the culture and church in which we find ourselves. This is not a bad thing – it is simply how God works at times. What is important is that we use well the wisdom we have gained in being so created, especially in solidarity with others in exile.” 

She describes the present as a “middle place” where “much of what was is gone and what is coming is not yet clear.” “What we try to do in the middle space is to describe events that shatter all that one knows about the world and the familiar ways of operating within it. What if from this place we simply witness to and provide testimony about this experience, with special attention to truths that often lie buried and are covered over.Stockman reports that “many LCWR members say privately they don’t know how the group can assent and maintain its integrity.” Scheck invites them to mature action: “The church and the world need our mature love. The journey through the mysteries of our time has carved too deep a path into the soul or essence of our lifestyle and our congregations for us to pretend to be other than we are…. we call attention to things, things others might bury, or are afraid to face….”

She returns to the theme of the Biblical exiles, where “The new context for faith was one of free fall without a discernible bottom. Now if the story were to end here it would be a tragedy. But what God creates among the people is a remnant, a small group who found themselves in a prophetic role as they related to the dominant powers of politics and religion. Their prophetic task was to articulate hope, the prospect of a fresh historical possibility assured by God’s good governance of the future even when the vision of what that will look like is not clear…”

“So this is our work now in religious life. To hold the radical dream of Jesus for our world: both by doing urgent advocacy for critical causes, and equally urgent is the nurture of our imagination in which possibility is uttered, thoughts beyond our thoughts are thought, and ways beyond our ways are known. In such a time, walking by sight is likely a return to old ways that have failed. Walking by faith is to seek a world other than the one from which we are swiftly being ejected.”

“Mature love is able to speak the truth, it does not pretend so as to impress, it cannot go back to holding things it no longer treasures. Mature love is courageous, it is not self righteous or rude, not boastful or arrogant. It does not lose itself in the other, it stands in its integrity and acts with courage for the well being of others. Mature love can claim when the old ways are not working any more. Mature love knows it’s true identity and acts on it. To do anything less would cost it its soul and reason for being.”

8/13/14 – Sister Carol Zinn’s presidential address  — After all listened to the song When I said ‘I do’ by Clint Black, Sr. Carol said, “All our religious lives we’ve been singing that depth of fidelity, haven’t we, since we said our ‘yes’, til the end of all time? We gather here as faithful women of the Gospel, disciples of Christ and daughters of the Church whom we love. We’re faithful citizens of this country and the planet. We’re faithful contemplatives in action, carriers of our founding charisms and faithful partners with our Trinitarian God. This Assembly comes at a time when our consciousness is increasingly heightened to the lamentations of our world, country, Church, and vocation. And we are called to stand in those lamentations singing the music in God’s Heart.” She used “five elements of music as metaphor for the song we’re called to sing.” Reflecting on melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and silence, she raises core questions about how to sing God’s song, and how well women religious (and we, I would add) currently do this. Eloquent and inviting contemplation, it’s powerful context for the questions that LCWR faces. Also in Spanish and French.

8/14/14 – LCWR chooses S. Marcia Allen as president-elect –  LCWR chose S. Marcia Allen, a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, KS, as its president-elect. She will serve in the LCWR tripartite presidency team with past president S. Carol Zinn and current president S. Sharon Holland. In her presentation to the Assembly, she reflected on US women religious on the US western frontier: “As we women religious moved west we moved away from the norm for women, especially the norm for women religious. There, where no structures for decorum, no mores for correct behavior or attitudes for women existed, religious women were forced to make up their religious life as they went. It was a matter of survival in order to proceed with the work to which they were sent. Moving west meant creating religious life outside church and congregational structures and expectations. They, like other frontier women, had to reinvent themselves in order to do what they had to do. We are the beneficiaries of these women – frontier women who had to think for themselves, achieve their mission in unfriendly circumstances and keep their charism’s spirit alive by inventing new ways to be religious. This is one of the enormous factors for why women’s idea of obedience is so different from that of the ecclesiastical church for and in which we live and work.”

Lovely video titled Pleiades, used at LCWR Assembly. (Assembly began on the night of the annual Pleiades meteor shower; also feast of St. Clare.)

Lively, thoughtful video titled Where Is Matt?, used at LCWR Assembly. You can read the beautiful lyrics but you need to watch the Where is Matt? video to get the point. 

2014 LCWR Assembly & Board meeting – Media Coverage, Blogs, Tweets

8/22/14 – NCR summary of entire Assembly, reported by Dan Stockman and Dawn-Cherie Araujo: “LCWR: business as usual despite cloud of Vatican mandate”
8/16/14 – Nicholas Kristof: We may have found the best superheroes yet: NunsGreat column, titled Sister Acts. Introducing the upcoming book If Nuns Ruled the World by Joanna Piazza, Nicholas Krisfof writes in the New York Times (and the links are his): “One of the most erroneous caricatures of nuns is that they are prim, Victorian figures cloistered in convents. On the contrary, I’ve become a huge fan of nuns because I see them so often risking their lives around the world, confronting warlords, pimps and thugs, while speaking the local languages fluently. In a selfish world, they epitomize selflessness and compassion. There are also plenty of formidable nuns whom even warlords don’t want to mess with, who combine reverence with ferocity, who defy the Roman Catholic Church by handing out condoms to prostitutes to protect them from H.I.V. (They surely don’t mention that to the bishops.)” Piazza’s book will profile ten nuns, including profiles is Sister Megan Rice, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Sister Madonna Buder.

Kristof concludes: “Forgive us for having sinned and thought of nuns as backward, when, in fact, they were among the first feminists. And, in a world of narcissism and cynicism, they constitute an inspiring contingent of moral leaders who actually walk the walk. So a suggestion: How about if the Vatican spends less time investigating nuns and the public spends less time mocking nuns — and we all spend more time emulating nuns?”
8/16/14 – No coverage of the Assembly by Catholic News Service?? – If it’s out there, I can’t find it. CNS is an editorially and financially independent part of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

8/16/14 – Another take on the Assembly, from Religion News Service The Religion News Service report, by Heidi Hall, spends little time on the Assembly itself. It quotes Sister Elizabeth Johnson (“…the waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable.”) and Jesuit father Bruce Morrill (“It’s unlikely the sides can come to a solution. As far as the U.S. bishops and Vatican officials are concerned, this is not a debate. The hierarchy expects the women religious to obey their directives.”) Hall comments that “At the conflict’s heart is a difference in approach to hierarchical chain of command: the top-down, morals-emphasizing Vatican versus the collegial, social-justice oriented nuns.”
8/15/14 – LCWR passes renewable energy resolution, sees urgent need for change — As reported by Dawn Cherie Araujo of NCR’s Global Sisters Report: “‘We feel that the congregations of Catholic sisters in the United States — which are 55,000 people — have a good deal of experience with education and social change on many fronts,’ said Claire McGowan, a Dominican Sister of Peace from Bardstown, Ky. “’If that group were to exercise its leadership to involve all of the sisters in educating the public about the crisis that we’re in,’ she said, ‘that would be a significant contribution to the movement that’s going on to awaken our country and the world to the absolute necessity of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We have a very short window — five to six years — to change directions away from fossil fuels and toward renewable fuels. If we go any longer than that, there are irreversible feedback loops in the climate that we will not be able to undo.’” [We will add the resolution itself when LCWR publishes it.]

8/15/14 – NCR reports on new LCWR leaders, has quotes from Archbishop Sartain & sisters — Sister Marcia Allen is now LCWR president-elect as Sister Sharon Holland becomes president and Sister Carol Zinn becomes past president, in the LCWR three-part presidency. The report from Dan Stockman of NCR’s Global Sisters Report adds comments from those at the Assembly (more in his report):

“While [Archbishop J. Peter] Sartain said he and LCWR have an agreement to speak only to each other about the doctrinal assessment, he did tell NCR he is always impressed by the warm, personal relationship he feels at each assembly he attends. ‘I’m very pleased with the gracious welcome I’ve received,’ Sartain said. ‘It really is a pleasure to get to know sisters individually and learn about each of their communities. And I’m always struck by how many I know personally from my years in the ministry — it’s great to be able to see them again and check in with them and see how they’re doing.’”

“We listened to each other, we prayed, we reflected, we laughed,” said Sr. Kathleen Phelan, a Dominican from Sinsinawa, Wis. “We were deeply touched, but I think we’re determined as women religious in the United States to be together in moving forward.”…

Sister Mary Johnstone: “I’ll certainly take back some of the challenges they gave us,” she said, “The call to be leaders — to really look at that from a contemplative stance — to be presence to those that are marginalized.”

8/15/14 – LCWR Assembly drew one demonstrator protesting handling of sexual abuse by nuns

8/14/14 – Conscience, “Sensus Fidei”, and LCWRby S. Christine Schenk – In June 2014, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a document on “the sense of the faithful” (sensus fidei) as an important factor in recognizing truth. S. Christine Schenk writes, “Surprisingly, the Vatican statement provided more encouragement for laity to engage in dialogue with each other and with church leaders than has been the case for a long time. Too often, Catholics raised in our ‘pay, pray and obey’ Catholic culture are unaware that it is not only our right, but sometimes our duty to speak about matters concerning the good of the church (Code of Canon Law 212.3).” Her excellent article gives a brief tour of the new document and older statements. She includes S. Elizabeth Johnson’s guidelines for theological dissent. She notes the irony in the fact that the head of the same CDF that issued this Sensus Fidei document “harshly criticized” LCWR and S. Elizabeth for acting in ways consistent with it: “Insofar as both LCWR and Johnson have ‘differed with institutional authorities’ in a way that is clearly ‘for the church, for the present and future growth of the whole community in truth and love,’ we are greatly in their debt. They are showing the rest of us how to ‘promote the truth in love’ with teaching offices in the church.” She concludes, “Do you want to tell Cardinal Müller, or should I?”

Related to Christine Schenk’s post – Also note Robert McClory’s illuminating recent series of short articles on the Vatican document. Wildly thought-provoking. Each article (one, two, three, four) does something illuminating, different and valuable.

8/15/14 – Eugene Cullen Kennedy says difference in leadership ways is real reason for Vatican-LCWR situation — Referring to Cardinal Muller’s blunt criticism of LCWR when LCWR met with his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome in April 2014, Eugene Kennedy says: “It might have been better — and more expressive of his deepest reactions — if Cardinal Müller had simply said, ‘We just don’t like the way you decide things.’ And perhaps he could have added, ‘We never went along with you women thinking for yourselves, and I’m reasserting our male hierarchical control over you.'”
8/14/14 – From Seoul, sisters’ message to LCWR — NCR publisher Tom Fox, in South Korea to cover Pope Francis’ visit, met with two Little Servants of the Holy Family who clearly knew names and details of the Vatican-LCWR situation. “I told the sisters I would be reporting our conversation while LCWR is meeting and asked them if they wanted to send a message. At first they said that they wanted to offer a message of support. Then they got more specific. Kang then said I should tell LCWR that the organization’s decision would have a personal impact on her life. ‘It will affect me,’ she said. ‘Tell them that I think that LCWR is a breakthrough group,’ Jin said, ‘and, as such, it is for all the sisters in the world. It has shown us a way forward, a way to think and to act in a proactive – not reactive way. That’s what I want them to know.’

8/14/14 – Learning from a different definition of leadership — Thoughtful reflections from Dawn Cherie Araujo, reporter with NCR’s Global Sisters Report. E.g., “When I interviewed for my position at GSR, Sr. Jan Cebula, our U.S. sisters liaison, told me that religious life was not a club – it was a way of life. I thought I understood what she meant, but listening to Conway yesterday made me realize that I hadn’t quite gotten it yet. These countercultural choices are not the result of adhering to a philosophy or a leadership model; they come from a reality paradigm that is fundamentally different.”
8/13/14 – Report on the 8/13 Assembly session — Dan Stockman of NCR’s Global Sisters Report summarizes the first full day of the 2014 LCWR Assembly. This includes a presentation on discernment; Sister Carol Zinn’s presidential address; and a panel on leadership and the contemplative process. Stockman writes, “Wednesday morning’s session began with an examination of the decision-making process LCWR uses: contemplation, observation and exploration, reflection and dialogue, and finally, decision and action. The process is in stark contrast to the hierarchical decision-making process used by the Catholic church. Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain listened intently as facilitators Catherine Bertrand of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Mary Jo Nelson of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters explained how truly listening to others and reflecting on their thoughts can change your thinking from individualistic to what is best for the community. Failure to listen, they said, leads to judgment, cynicism and fear.” Sister Carol Zinn invited members “to use the principles of music to contemplate how to listen to God.” used musical principles as metaphors for the call to contemplative life. In the panel discussion, Sister Nancy Conway commented, “I learned that when we come from a place of deep integrity, it matters to people outside this room. It matters to the dignity of those outside this room who find themselves without a place at the table.” In the afternoon, LCWR met in executive session, not open to reporters.

8/13/14 – A bit of the “feel” of the LCWR Assembly — Dawn Cherie Araujo blogs about the opening session: “…This feeling of gratefulness was reinforced as I sat in the assembly’s opening ceremony last night. To say the experience was surreal would be an understatement: The lights in the ballroom were dimmed…”

8/13/14 – Vatican official gives LCWR Assembly 8 reflection questions — From NCR’s Global Sisters Report from the 2014 LCWR Assembly, by Dawn Cherie Araujo — “Oblate Fr. Hank Lemoncelli, an undersecretary from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, presented U.S. women religious with a series of questions the Vatican is asking all religious congregations, male and female, to reflect on over the next year….
1.       At what point are we … to return to the source of every form of Christian life and to the founding charisms of our institutes?
2.       Are our institutes adapting in an evangelical way to changing conditions?
3.       Is following Christ, as taught by the Gospels, the fundamental norm?
4.       Are we faithfully observing the spirit and names of our founders and foundresses so as to preserve their charism?
5.       Is Sentire Cum Ecclesia, linking with the church, a strong feature of our institute? Are we seeking to realize the goals of the church in biblical, liturgical, dogmatic, pastoral, missionary and social fields?
6.       Are all members of our institute made aware of the condition of our times and the needs of the church in such a way as to awaken in them the commitment to living in community with others, animated by a spirit of faith and ardent apostolic zeal?
7.       Is each member of our community loved personally, taking into account their physical, spiritual, psychological and cultural conditions?
8.       Are obedience and authority dimensions of a life true fraternity amongst us, or do they remain instruments of power and enslavement, perhaps disguised by unhealthy spirituality?”

8/13/14 – At LCWR Assembly, Archbishop Sartain is there “as brother and friend” — NCR report on the 8/12 opening session, by Dan Stockman of Global Sisters Report. Good background in this report; complements tweets below.
Interview with Sr. Simone Campbell – re LCWR starting at 11:00 on video

8/4/14 – “Cry out, sisters; cry outsay Sisters Joan Chittister and Mary Lou Kownacki in NCR

8/8/14 – “Stakes are high as LCWR heads into annual Assembly – solid context, lots of quotes; reported by NCR’s Dan Stockman & Dawn Cherie Araujo

8/6/14 – “Outside control of LCWR is unacceptable” says Sister Maureen Fiedler in NCR

NCR review of LCWR’s book of its presidential addresses: “The sister presidents grapple with ambiguity, menace, promise and survival in their approach to the podium. It’s a tall order, well done, and these speeches are superb.

8/5/14 – Re LCWR Assembly 8/12-16:”The women coming to Nashville appear to be of at least two minds,”says NCR editor Tom Fox in a thoughtful analysis and background piece.
Tweets from LCWR Assembly – by NCR’s Global Sisters Report 8/12/14 – Tweets from LCWR Assembly opening session in Nashville, TN – This information is drawn from Twitter on Tuesday evening, relying on tweets from @Dawn_Cherie Araujo of Global Sisters Project:

The 2014 Assembly began about 8:30pm. The theme is “Holy Mystery Revealed in Our Midst.” The opening was full of creation images, Genesis, music, dance. Everyone was welcomed by LCWR’s current and incoming president (Sisters Carol Zinn & Sharon Holland) and Sister Sharon Sullivan, chairperson of the local LCWR region.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was introduced in the opening session; he is the head of the team of three bishops appointed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to oversee and reform LCWR. He was warmly received in coming to the stage; he said he is there “as a brother and a friend.” Also from the stage, an official from the Vatican Congregation for Religious (officially the Congregation for Institutes for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, headed by Cardinal Braz de Aviz) suggested some reflection questions for LCWR.

LCWR executive director Janet Mock got a standing ovation as she came to the stage. LCWR president Sister Carol Zinn introduced Thursday’s keynote speaker Sister Nancy Schreck, “highlighting her appropriateness as #LCWR revisits its long-term mission.” (Sister Nancy also happens to be a former LCWR president.) She used Biblical images of light and darkness, emphasizing that darkness is not always evil; e.g., when God tells Abraham and Sarah they will begin a great nation, God tells them to go outside and count the stars. 

The evening closed at 9:30. Sister Carol Zinn will give the presidential address tomorrow at 8:45 a.m.

8/13/14 – Tweets from LCWR Assembly in Nashville, TN – Sr. Carol Zinn address, panel reflections
All from NCR’s Global Sisters Project – all but two from Dawn Cherie Araujo (@Dawn_Cherie)

Today’s agenda: Zinn’s address and then a panel discussion. Executive sessions are in the afternoon but are closed to the press. #LCWR2014
Loud applause when @sr_simone is introduced as a presenter. Sharon Holland said to hold applause so Zinn can have time to speak.
Catherine Bertrand, an assembly facilitator, says she hopes #LCWR’s move toward contemplative decision-making will be evident.
Bertrand also says this year’s assembly has the potential to be “transformative.”
Bertrand could be referring to Vatican relations, two proposed assembly resolutions or both.
Lots of language now about dialoguing with an “open heart” and “open will,” as well as tapping into the holy mystery.
The sisters are now getting a refresher on deep listening, for “new wisdom and inner clarity.”
#LCWR president Carol Zinn is being introduced and is about to take the stage.
The proposed resolutions are on a transition to renewable energy sources and the repudiation of the doctrine of discovery.
In opening remarks, Zinn highlights the “obscene” accumulation of wealth as poverty widens.
Laughs as Zinn describes #PopeFrancis as either a “Jesuit Franciscan” or “Franciscan Jesuit.”
Regardless of how you phrase it, Zinn emphasizes #PopeFrancis‘ status as a brother in religious life.
Now we’re listening to @Clint_Black’s “When I Said I Do” as a reflection on mystery revealed. Country music and theology, ya’ll!
#LCWR2014 morning session has Pres. Carol Zinn, SSJ drawing parallel between Clint Black song and fidelity to God, Church and the world.
Zinn: “we’ve been singing that depth of fidelity haven’t we, since we said our ‘yes,’ ’till the end of all time?
Zinn is now talking through five elements of music that are a metaphor for the song sisters are “called to sing.”
The first element is melody. Zinn: “Maybe we’re merely humming the evolution of human consciousness as a holy sign of the times.”
The second element is harmony. Zinn notes appreciation that sisters are no longer in competition with each other
The third element is rhythm. Zinn: All life is an ongoing series of transformations. We must decide how to participate in change.
Fourth element is timbre. Zinn: As consecrated religious, our timbre is a commitment to community.
Zinn continues: What if our commitment to community broadened to include the full diversity of human community?
Silence is the fifth and final element. Zinn: As we welcome silence, are we ready for new paths of conversion?Zinn: Discernment is a way of life, relationships come before anything and everything else.
A standing ovation for Zinn who closed with a Rilke’s “The Unspeaking Center.”
After a break, the assembly is reconvening for a panel discussion on experiencing holy mystery.
The panel: Nancy Conway, CSJ; Margaret Ormond, OP; and Ana Lydia Sonera Matos, CDP.
Matos: God is calling us from the future. We have a connection to an evolutionary process
Matos: Questions and answers belong to all sisters.
Ormond: This type of sharing is difficult for me, but who can say no to Janet Mock?
Ormond: We’re taught in scripture that Lady Wisdom is an “unfailing treasure.”
Ormond, quoting Saint Catherine: Wisdom has the ability to contribute more than orthodoxy and doctrine.
Ormond: I pray that discernment and wisdom will be with us throughout this meeting.
Conway: Today, I feel less competent and less driven to lead from a place of competence. Instead, I lean on discernment.
Conway: Rather than focusing on individual problem-solving, sisters are about “love and loving lavishly.”
Conway: The apostolic visitation taught me that our acting with integrity matters to others around us.
Of the speakers so far this week, Nancy Conway has been the most direct in addressing #LCWR’s struggles with the Vatican.
The panel addressed how leaders can discern holy mystery. Nancy Conway, CSJ, was by far the most direct re: the Vatican.
Okay. Press is done for the day. I’m done tweeting until tomorrow morning … unless something spectacular happens.

8/14/14 – Tweets from LCWR Assembly on keynote by S. Nancy Schreck & presentation on Renewable Energy resolution — Thanks to @Dawn_Cherie Araujo of NCR’s Global Sisters Report: (Just from the tweets, I decided to order my copy on CD. Betty)

It’s a few minutes from go time. Nancy Schreck gives the keynote first, and the p.m. is devoted to discussing renewable energy.
Schreck takes the stage. The title of her address is “However Long the Night.”
Schreck: religious often focus on diminishment in congregations, but various forms of diminishment are happening everywhere.
She cites breakdowns in global peace, U.S. politics as examples.
Schreck’s address will focus on three eras: 50 years after Vatican II, today — the middle space — and the prophetic task.
Schreck: Post-Vatican II sisters “shed protective layers” and immersed themselves in the darkness of life on the margins.
Schreck: Sisters are not yet brave, focused, free enough. But we are faithful.
Schreck: Have not religious orders moved too far to the middle, being “tamed” by the institutional church?
Schreck get applause for saying sisters cannot backtrack from their prophetic truth to a place of darkness.
“We cannot un-know what we know,” she said.
Schreck: We will sell our souls if we stay in a place of wanting to be in the mainstream.
Schreck: Through conformity, we would be misunderstanding the tradition of exile.
Schreck: What if, from this difficult place, we simply witness to and provide testimony about this experience?
To clarify, by “difficult place,” Schreck means a time of diminishing organizations, structures and changing worldviews.
Schreck: In today’s middle space, we are to call attention to what others may bury or are afraid to face.
The sub-head of the third section of Schreck’s speech: The church deserves our mature love and commitment.
There’s hope in a biblical tradition of God creating prophetic remnants apart from “dominant powers of politics and religion.”
Schreck: Walking by faith is to seek a world other than the one from which we are swiftly being ejected.
Schreck: Growing in times of difficulty creates mature love, which is neither righteous nor rude.
Schreck: We are coming through this night of mystery and can say, “We are no longer girls.”
Schreck: Mature love can claim when the old ways are not working anymore.
Shreck’s speech ends with a standing ovation and the loudest applause of the week.
Right now, #LCWR members are silently answering reflection questions based on Schreck’s address.
I won’t tweet the questions word-for-word, but the general idea is to do an evaluation of their prophetic identity.
We’re on break until 4:45 EDT, but if you miss me, you can read my thoughts on yesterday’s #LCWR2014 here:
#LCWR releases a statement about sexual abuse, expressing hope for justice. It also mentions a @caracatholic inventory used in ’05-’08.
#LCWR member congregations were encouraged to use the inventory to “evaluate” policies and procedures.
A presentation on renewable energy is about to start. Full disclosure: I am eating gelato whilst tweeting. The sisters approve.
Loretto co-member Susan Classen: is God’s love present in a flourishing earth or in a destroyed earth?
Sr. Claire McGowan: The climate news in just the last four months should be enough to cause a drastic change in direction.
McGowan: We are here to say that #climatechange is the largest crisis ever faced by humanity.
Sr. Maureen Fiedler: Fracking is dangerous to local communities and local ecologies. We all lose.
A KY landowner has taken the stage to talk about her personal experience with the Bluegrass Pipeline.
For background: I wrote about the Loretto community and the Bluegrass Pipeline in May: 
Classen and McGowan are back on stage talking hope and solutions.
McGowan: Dozens of religious congregations have already adopted renewable energy technologies.
McGowan: Who better than #LCWR members to face this challenge?
The sisters are now reflecting on how to respond to the presentation when they return home. But that’s it! See you tomorrow!

8/15/14 – Tweets from LCWR Assembly on LCWR strategic plan and Transfer of officers – Thanks to @Dawn_Cherie Araujo:
Good morning! A discussion of #LCWR’s seven-year plan is about to commence. Stay tuned for details!
In other news, I won’t be here for Elizabeth Johnson’s speech tonight. But @DanStockman will have a full report for you tomorrow.
#LCWR president Sr. Carol Zinn is on stage to present the seven-year strategic plan. All LCWR regions contributed to the plan.
Zinn: This statement is the result of six years of thinking.
Sisters are at tables, and each table is discussing the plan right now. Afterward, each table will be invited to comment.
One table says the plan isn’t exciting on paper but will be exciting to flesh out.
Several tables have expressed a desire to adapt the plan for their congregations. They’ve also applauded its theme of solidarity.
The plan was accepted.
Sr. Nancy Schreck is now presenting her final reflections.
Schreck: Living in faith is about always moving in a process of maturing love. 
Schreck: My advice to all of you is to keep listening to the voice of the holy mystery. 
Schreck: One of the most critical things we can do as leaders is enter the cave of darkness where wisdom is found.
Schreck’s examples of wisdom in darkness: Jonah, Jesus in the tomb, Paul’s blindness is Damascus. 
Schreck: Don’t only be a visitor to suffering. Find a way to make true connections with those who are suffering.
Schreck: We should send the sisters in Missouri, sisters who know how to be peacemakers, to #Ferguson
Time for lunch! There’s a closed concluding process later (no press!), but I’ll be back at 2:40 for the transfer of power.
#LCWR just thanked regional chairs and board members who leaving their positions and now are welcoming new leaders.
Now on stage: former prez. Florence Deacon, outgoing prez. Zinn, new prez. Sharon Holland and new president-elect Marcia Allen. 
Marcia Allen, @CSJ_Kansas, accepts her nomination as president-elect, and now everyone is being dismissed for a break.
And now I’m headed home! It has been a pleasure sharing with all of you! Keep in touch at !
And remember to look for a write-up of Elizabeth Johnson’s speech at .

Older – LCWR is searching for Exec Director starting January 2015. Sr. Janet Mock will complete her term 12/31/14.

As you read the news, consider spending 5 minutes exploring why LCWR is what it is. Use our website resources on contemplation, community, dialogue, prophetic hope, more.

8/13/14 – At LCWR Assembly, Archbishop Sartain is there “as brother and friend”

NCR report on the 8/12 opening session, by Dan Stockman of Global Sisters Report. Good background in this report; complements tweets below.

Christians in Iraq in crisis – here are letters from Dominican sisters in Iraq

Most recent, August 8, 2014: “Help us stop the evil.

Assembly prep: Deeper roots of LCWR-Vatican theological issues – Robert McClory

Part of the Vatican’s issue with LCWR is that its Assembly speakers are sometimes theologians who are exploring God’s presence in nontraditional language. Can only the hierarchy examine doctrine? Can doctrine ever change? In a short 5/28/14 summary in NCR, Robert McClory reviews several important 2011 articles and responses by John E. Thiel, past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, in Commonweal, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, in America. He then looks to Vatican II for further insight.

McClory also has an truly excellent series of short articles on the Vatican document on “The Sense of the Faithful” (Sensus Fidei) issued in June 2014 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the same Vatican organization that mandated LCWR to be “reformed” under the oversight of three bishops). Wildly thought-provoking. Excellent documentation of the strong traditional role of laity in helping the church to discern what is theologically true. Each article (one, two, three, four) does something illuminating, different and valuable.

7/3/14 – Vatican appoints woman to head one of the 7 Pontifical Universities in Rome

NCR reports that “The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education has appointed a woman to lead one of Rome’s seven pontifical universities, the special academic institutions established directly under the authority of the pope. Franciscan Sr. Mary Melone has been appointed rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum, the Roman university run by one of the main orders of male Franciscans, the Order of Friars Minor. The appointment was announced Thursday on the Friars website.” On the role of women in the church, in 2011 Sister Mary Melone saw “a sign of the times from which there is no return. It is no pretense. I believe this depends a great deal on us women too. It is us who should get the ball rolling…. A great deal more can be done but there is change, you can see it, feel it.” Does the Church need gender quotas?  “No, it doesn’t need quotas, it needs collaboration. And collaboration needs to grow!”

7/3/14 – Map shows where child immigrants to USA are coming from

LCWR’s recent statement highlights the crisis of 90,000 unaccompanied children crossing the USA border in 2014 – with increasing numbers of girls as gender-based violence increases in Central America, and with total child immigrants doubling each year since 2011. The US Department of Homeland Security says they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, per Pew Research Center’s new analysis and map of where children flee from.

6/17/14 – Retired Archb. Fiorenza hopes for LCWR “dialogue,” meeting with Pope

In an interviewwith Faith in Public Life, retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston was asked about Pope Francis’ continuance of the oversight of LCWR directed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 4/18/12. Archb. Fiorenza replied: “I think if Pope Francis had stopped the process it would have been perceived as him disagreeing with Benedict so I’m not really surprised the oversight (of LCWR) continued. But my hope is there is much more dialogue going on, and I hope they have a chance to meet with Pope Francis. Hopefully, there will be more voices coming forward among bishops who want to get this issue resolved. The Church has grown and been strengthened in this country because of women religious. They have been doing what Pope Francis has been talking about in the streets of the world, in the prisons.  They have done that far more effectively than anyone else in the church.”

6/13/14 – Pope Francis interview in Spanish paper La Vanguardia

Pope Francis was asked about diverse subjects – Middle East peace, the rich and the poor, the World Cup, how he wants to be remembered, more.

5/27/14 – Pope Francis extensive interview on flight home from Holy Land

Pope Francis spoke about his historic meetings in the Holy Land, Vatican embezzlement, abuse of minors, priestly celibacy, emarried divorced Catholics, reform of the Curia, and more.

6/12/14 – Assoc. of US Priests supports LCWR in letter to Pope Francis

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests wrote to Pope Francis on June 2 to express “sadness and dismay” at the release of Cardinal Muller’s bluntly negative opening comments from the annual meeting of his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with LCWR officials. by a Vatican official regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The letter, signed by the AUSCP president, Father David Cooper of Milwaukee, and also by the AUSCP board members, was not released until June 12 to provide “ample time” for Cardinal Muller to receive it. The letter says, “Because the Cardinal Prefect’s remarks were self-confessedly blunt, their release without any reference to LCWR’s views or any inclusion of the subsequent dialogue seems to us to have been a disservice to the process.”  It concludes “We pray that abuse of process and persons will not continue in this case or others, but that a genuinely dialogic process, conducted with gentleness and reverence, will bring this issue to a conclusion more in keeping with Acts 15, Vatican II, and your own pastoral approach.”

6/9/14 – NCR report on our conference Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times

Dawn Cherie Araujo of NCR’s Global Sisters Report and other NCR staff came to our full-day conference on Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times at Catholic University on June 7, 2014. Araujo’s report in Global Sisters Report gives an overview of the day with quotes from organizers, speakers, and participants. “If you ask lay supporters their thoughts on how the Leadership Conference of Women Religious handled the Vatican’s 2012 statement that it was guilty of undermining church teachings – not to mention the subsequent appointment of Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to oversee the group’s activities – they’ll tell you how inspired they were by the LCWR’s prayerful, respectful response. That response, many supporters will also tell you, is far from an anomaly, but is rather a manifestation of Catholic sisters’ little recognized style of leadership.” The day explored the deep roots of this way of leadership, its congruence with modern science and with new theories of leadership (which it pre-dates), its origins in the 1960s and ’70s response to Vatican directives, its current practice in US congregations, and concrete ways that everyone can apply this way of leadership in their own contexts. The conference drew from LCWR’s 2014 book, Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times (reviewed 6/9 in NCR).

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly in Commonweal – thought-provoking perspectives on LCWR & Rome

5/29/14 and 6/3/14 – Mollie Wilson O’Reilly in Commonweal: “US Sisters & Holy See: A Culture of Encounter in Action?” and “Reasons to be hopeful about LCWR and CDF” —

  • Why hasn’t Pope Francis stepped in to get the Vatican off the nuns’ backs? …The fact that he hasn’t, and the scolding the LCWR took from CDF head Cardinal Gerhard Müller in April, has led some to grumble that Francis is all talk. But to wish for the pope to cut short a process that began under his predecessor is to wish for him to play the autocrat, albeit on the side of the angels. Out of shrewdness, indifference, or agreement with the nuns’ critics, Francis seems inclined to let the negotiations continue. And the awkward conversation between the LCWR and the CDF may turn out to be just the kind of encounter the church needs.
  • If the CDF is operating on the assumption that everything coming out of the USCCB’s doctrinal office is trustworthy, they need someone to tell them otherwise. And if the sisters are going to examine their organization through Rome’s eyes, it will be important to clear up whatever is preventing Rome from seeing them clearly. Archbishop Sartain may indeed help the LCWR in their discernment processes going forward. But discernment is not the sole province of the ordained, and the CDF can certainly benefit from the sisters’ help, too.

Re “conscious evolution” concern raised by Cardinal Muller: excellent responses by Sister Ilia Delio 5/8/14 and Margaret Susan Thompson 5/16/14

In NCR’s Global Sisters Report on May 8, 2014, Sister Ilia Delio, distinguished professor and Director of Catholic Studies at Georgetown University, addresses Cardinal Muller’s concern about LCWR giving focused attention to “conscious evolution.” In her article “Renewing the conversation between faith and science,” she puts Muller’s concern in context of the historical nourishment of faith that comes through reflection on current science. With renowned Jesuit Father Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), she defines conscious evolution as integral to who we are. Teilhard wrote, “We are the universe become conscious of itself”; we are homo sapen sapien, the ones “who know that we know.” Delio notes, “Teilhard described the process of evolution as fundamentally a rise in consciousness”; “we are co-creators of an unfinished evolutionary process.” She quotes extensively from John Paul II, e.g.: “Might not contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections upon creation? Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Christology – and even upon the development of doctrine itself? What, if any, are the eschatological implications of contemporary cosmology, especially in light of the vast future of our universe? Can theological method fruitfully appropriate insights from scientific methodology and the philosophy of science?”

In the major British Catholic periodical The Tablet on May 16, 2014, Margaret Susan Thompson, professor of history at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University with a special focus on US women religious, addresses “What do the US nuns see in conscious evolution?” She writes, “Many women religious are bemused by Cardinal Müller’s apparent belief that the presence of a controversial speaker at an LCWR meeting denotes either endorsement of all the speaker’s ideas or a serious possibility that merely by listening to controversial ideas audience members may be persuaded to ‘think dangerous thoughts.’ …The average LCWR member holds one or more postgraduate degrees and is familiar with theoretical and theological complexity. She comes from a culture that celebrates both free speech and academic freedom, and welcomes the challenge of exposure to new concepts, but does not automatically or easily buy into them… Essentially most women Religious in the US, and those who support them, have a very different understanding of ‘Church’ – and of ‘speaking for or with the Church’ – than do Cardinal Müller, Archbishop Peter Sartain (the prelate charged with formal oversight of LCWR for a five-year period), and other involved members of the hierarchy. Sisters are used to broadly participatory consultation and consensus-building, not to edicts issued from authority figures, even those they have elected…. Most sisters I has consulted believe that not only hierarchy but patriarchy plays into the current dispute.”

5/13/14: “Pope Francis agrees w doctrinal assessment of LCWR” – Jamie Manson in NCR

Columnist Jamie Manson reviews various papal statements and sources to conclude that it’s “Time to face facts: Pope Francis agrees with the doctrinal assessment of LCWR.” Excerpt:

“Pope Francis and the women of LCWR share a deeply sacramental understanding of their calling to serve those on the margins of our world. They agree that it is in ministering to the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable that they touch the wounded body of Christ.

Where they seem to disagree sharply, however, is in their understanding of religious life as a prophetic life form. When women religious touch the wounded body of Christ in their work, it breaks open their hearts in a way that compels them to ask deeper theological questions. It gives them the eyes to read the signs of the times and recognize the prophets in their midst. It gives them the courage ask bold new spiritual questions.

Like most popes before him, Francis sees the church as a prophetic voice to the outside world but is far less enthusiastic about the prophetic voices that cry out for justice inside the church. As he told the International Union of Superiors General last May, women religious should put themselves “in an attitude of adoration and service” and find their “filial expression in fidelity to the magisterium.” It is an “absurd dichotomy,” he said, to think “of following Jesus outside of the church, of loving Jesus without loving the church.”

Pope Francis believes women religious should continue to do the work of the church while remaining obedient to the voice of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Women religious, on the other hand, believe their work and their faith demand that they remain radically obedient first and foremost to the voice of God….”

5/13/14: Is LCWR “gnostic” as Card. Muller claims? Barbara Marx Hubbard responds.

Cardinal Muller’s opening remarks in his April 30, 2014 meeting with LCWR leaders outlined his current major concerns. One is that “For the last several years, the Congregation has been following with increasing concern a focalizing of attention within the LCWR around the concept of Conscious Evolution [particularly] since Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed the Assembly on this topic two years ago…. Again, I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language. The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.”

Barbara Marx Hubbard responds in NCR that “meeting with so many women religious through LCWR, I see conscious evolution in action. They have been evolving the church and the world for hundreds of years through deep gospel living, a mystical presencing, faithfulness in serving unmet needs, solidarity with Earth, building community as “whole-makers,” risk-taking for the sake of the mission, genius for cooperative self-governance and decision making, and above all bringing love and hope for the future into the lives of millions. For me, the most vital source of meaning of conscious evolution is the Catholic understanding of God and Christ as the source of evolution, as its driving force as well as its direction. As Ilia Delio puts it, we experience in evolution the Emergent Christ and God Ahead.” Marx Hubbard cites the foundational and current works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, Ilia Delio, OSF, Father Thomas Berry, and many others. She concludes, “the meaning and direction of conscious evolution is, for me, coming to us most clearly from the great modern Catholic theologians and thinkers, And most fundamentally, of course, directly from the New Testament.” 

5/8/14: courageous, faithful LCWR statement reinforces commitment to dialogue

“…The meeting with CDF must be viewed within the context of LCWR’s entire visit to Vatican dicasteries.  In our first visit on April 27 to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Monsignor Paul Tigue, Secretary, shared that Pope Francis insists upon creating, as part of the New Evangelization, a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment. We experienced this culture of encounter in every Vatican office we visited in the Curia, an encounter marked by genuine interaction and mutual respect….

“In our meetings at CDF [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which issued the April 2012 mandate], LCWR was saddened to learn that impressions of [LCWR] in the past decades have become institutionalized in the Vatican…. During the meeting it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed. What created an opening toward dialogue in this meeting was hearing first-hand the way the CDF perceives LCWR. We do not recognize ourselves in the doctrinal assessment of the conference and realize that, despite that fact, our attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings. This is a very complex matter, yet LCWR was heartened by the attempt of both CDF and LCWR to find a way through that honors the integrity and mission of both offices.

“Passion for all that the Church can be deepens our commitment to stay at the table and talk through differences. We want to be part of the universal Church rooted in the Gospel, a Church that hears the cry of the poor and is united in its response. At the same time, we cannot call for peace-making in Syria, the Middle East, in South Sudan, unless we too sit at tables with people who hold varying views and work patiently and consistently for a genuine meeting of minds and hearts.

“In some ways, for LCWR, nothing has changed. We are still under the mandate and still tasked with the difficult work of exploring the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral, and ethical concepts together as a conference and in dialogue with the Vatican officials. This work is fraught with tension and misunderstanding.  Yet, this is the work of leaders in all walks of life in these times of massive change in the world.

“At our meeting with the CDF officials, we experienced a movement toward honest and authentic conversation on some of the matters that lie at the heart of our faith and our vocation. We have come to believe that the continuation of such conversation may be one of the most critical endeavors we, as leaders, can pursue for the sake of the world, the Church, and religious life. ” 

5/6/14: NCR publishes overseer-Archbishop Sartain’s 5/2 statement that meeting was “frank… open… respectful… helpful” and “I am in full agreement” with Card. Muller’s concerns

“Cardinal Müller’s opening remarks invited a frank and open discussion by those present, and that is what took place in very respectful conversation…. I am in full agreement with the issues raised by the Cardinal and over the past two years have frequently discussed them with LCWR leadership. I look forward to ongoing collaboration with the LCWR in addressing these issues. Over the past two years, the Presidency and I have developed a very good relationship, and it is in the context of that relationship that we will continue to address the important matters raised by Cardinal Müller. Just as he, the other CDF officials, and the Presidency participated in last week’s meeting in a very respectful and forthright manner, I know that the continued discussions I and the other Bishop Delegates will have with the LCWR will be undertaken in the same spirit. At the conclusion of our meeting, everyone who took part expressed gratitude for both the frankness and breadth of our conversation, adding that it had been a very helpful meeting….”

5/6/14: Cardinal Kasper, the “pope’s theologian,” downplays Muller remarks, favors dialogue

Pope Francis has turned to German Cardinal Walter Kasper for a number of important roles. Asked about Cardinal Muller‘s remarks to LCWR (see 5/5 below), Cardinal Kasper said U.S. Catholics shouldn’t be overly concerned, commenting “I also am suspect!” according to NCR. He also said, “If you have a problem with the leadership of the women’s orders, then you have to have a discussion with them, you have to dialogue with them, an exchange of ideas. Perhaps they have to change something. Perhaps also the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith) has a little bit to change its mind. That’s the normal way of doing things in the church. I am for dialogue. Dialogue presupposes different positions. The church is not a monolithic unity.”

5/5/14: A personal perspective on the Vatican-LCWR news (Betty’s blog)

“If Cardinal Muller began with a genuine intention for ‘frank and open discussion,’ as he said, then was it appropriate for him to start with his honest views, even if they were misunderstandings? I think so. How else can LCWR know what they’re dealing with? They’ve been waiting for two years for this clarity. It seems like a necessary step, in fact. And LCWR leaders know how to meet him with loving candor and how to help the conversation to progress. They know how to create space for the Spirit…. I hope Cardinal Muller will IMMEDIATELY issue an endorsement of the LCWR statement and its report of ‘respectful and engaging dialogue.’ That would nudge the door open a bit wider for the Holy Spirit.”

5/5/14: LCWR responds to publication of Vatican remarks critical of LCWR

LCWR’s brief statement about the April 30, 2014 meeting between LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concludes: “Cardinal Muller’s opening remarks issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accurately reflect the content of the mandate issued to LCWR in April 2012. As articulated in the Cardinal’s statement, these remarks were meant to set a context for the discussion that followed. The actual interaction with Cardinal Müller and his staff was an experience of dialogue that was respectful and engaging.”

5/5/14:  Vatican website publishes the Opening Remarks of Cardinal Muller during the April 30, 2014 annual meeting between LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he heads. 

4/1/14: Sister Simone Campbell on the Pope Francis-President Obama meeting: “Cause for hope”

3/22/14: Pope Francis: The Church needs lay people, they should not be “clericalized”
La Stampa article, Domenico Agasso

Catholic sisters and new Vatican actions to “follow the money” –
NCR article by Phyllis Zagano, 3/12/2014

DC-area: “Band of Sisters” will show at AFI Silver Fri., 4/11, 7:15 pm –
Let’s go see this engaging documentary of how US sisters transformed themselves in the past 50 years!

LCWR “Spiritual Leadership” book is now available! Intelligent, inspiring, good for all leaders and our personal lives, too!
With discussion questions by Solidarity with Sisters.

 Intricate harmonies for Lent from the nuns at Mary Queen of Apostles – article, samples of their new CD

“Contemplation as a way of being-in-the-world” – an invitation and article from LCWR

Vatican office says its report on the apostolic visitation of US women’s congregations will be public soon

First National Catholic Sisters Week will be March 8-14 as part of women’s history month

How do Catholic sisters work to influence the United Nations? A Sister of Mercy’s role

Major new survey shows sharp doctrinal differences, by region and country, in the global Church – article, survey

Pope Francis’ quotes & homilies – he often lifts up the same themes that LCWR & sisters live

2/23/2014 – Homily for new cardinals: “The Holy Spirit also speaks to us today through the words of Saint Paul: ‘You are God’s temple … God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are‘ (1 Cor 3:16-17). In this temple, which we are, an existential liturgy is being celebrated: that of goodness, forgiveness, service; in a word,the liturgy of love. This temple of ours is defiled if we neglect our duties towards our neighbour. Whenever the least of our brothers and sisters finds a place in our hearts, it is God himself who finds a place there. When that brother or sister is shut out, it is God himself who is not beingwelcomed. A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God’s service and given over to another use.”… More

“Feminism at 50” – a Catholic women’s view; and response by 3 America editors

Two very good articles. Brief excerpts:

12/2/13 – Sidney Callahan: “Roles and leadership can hardly be decided simply by gender, since the Spirit blows where it will. God is no respecter of persons. Consequently I am uneasy with talk of “the eternal feminine” or “a theology of women” since it seems to imply that women should differ in their capacities and roles in church and society. Do we talk of “the eternal masculine” or a theology of men? Should there not be a theology of the human person?… gratitude for the gift of mothering and nurturing new life should not be over-glorified, since men and single women also generate life for others in many creative ways. Although nothing in our culture may be as imperative as supporting women and protecting those who are mothers from violent harm and neglect, I resist reviving any form of a Catholic feminine mystique. Let us support children, women, men, families and the poor as the first work of Catholic feminism. Surely She Who Is approves.”

12/3/13 – responses by 3 America magazine editors – excerpts
        – Olga Segura: “in the last 50 years the feminist movement has become more aware of the problem of poverty as the major obstacle for women’s advancement. The retreat from providing subsistence, childcare, healthcare and opportunities for women to get an education is the greatest social handicap women face. Other developed countries have solved these problems and the U.S. can too.”
        – Ashley McKinless: “A theology of women, standing alone would have the danger of isolating women once again. The assertion that men and women are complementary in nature does not seem scientifically or morally valid to me. When Pope John Paul II speaks of a “Petrine ministry” complemented by “a Marian ministry” my theological alarm bells go off. All baptized Christians are called to holiness with different vocations to serve the kingdom and it seems doubtful that gender determines ministry, with the exception of childbirth, and that is not a universal call. I doubt that a male-led clerical move to determine a theology of women would counter male-centric assumptions. Clerical romantics are a danger.”
        – Kerry Weber: “Women can build up the cause of Catholic feminism by living the Gospel as fully as they can in their unique circumstances. The social gospel and the life of worship and prayer should be equally important to American Catholics. Women can keep emphasizing the Gospel’s demand for equality while preparing themselves to lead, educating themselves as theologians and continuing to stay in the church and loyally raise their voices.”

Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium) – how to be church!

 “With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” [paragraph 1]

11/26/13 – In his’ usual engaging and personal style, Pope Francis gives us a major document inviting us to live and to share Gospel joy as persons and as a church, open always to the freshness that the Holy Spirit offers in order to enable us to renew our missionary spirit, our solidarity with the poor, and our church.  Full text from the Vatican, in wonderfully readable and often colloquial English.

Women religious ask pope for world day of prayer against human trafficking

NCR reports that in late September 2013, Sister Eugenia Bonetti and three other sisters from different religious congregations talked informaly with Pope Francis about human trafficking. They urged him to call for an international day of prayer and fasting to raise awarness. He asked them to suggest a date, and they told him Feb. 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who found freedom in Italy and became a nun in the late 19th century.

On November 2-3, 2013 Sister Eugenia participated in a Vatican-led working group on trafficking. Pope Francis has specifically asked the Pontifical Academies to study the problem of new forms of slavery, including the trafficking of people and human organs. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he actively supported work to fight human trafficking and assist victims.

Worldwide, at least 21 million people are victims of forced labor, including sexual exploitation, and traffickers bring in an estimated $32 billion annually because of their illicit activities, the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons report said. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking at any given time, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

LCWR inspires events-organizer to become award-winning anti-trafficking activist

Kimberly Ritter, a senior account manager for Nix Conference and Meeting Management, has worked with LCWR to plan its annual Assemblies since 2005. Inspired by LCWR, her work to end human trafficking was recognized with the 2012 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award and other honors. Interviewed by NCR, she says, “As I began to work for the women religious, my life began to change. I realized how powerful you could be as women and how effective you were when you communicated with love and compassion. I was constantly surrounded by strong, intelligent, loving women who allowed the Holy Spirit to move them into their decisions. What an amazing revelation that you can fully and freely give yourself to God and allow him to direct you. The U.S. Catholic sisters have made me a better woman, a better mother to my daughters, and have given me a new vision on allowing the Holy Spirit to lead my life.”

LCWR seeks abandoned religious living in the US

Following their Assembly resolutions in 2010 and 2011 to “strengthen bonds with women religious throughout the world,” LCWR is undertaking a “coordinated search for often struggling and sometimes even abandoned women religious who have come to America only to see their sponsors withdraw support over time.” They are often from the global South. On Nov. 11, 2013, in the Philippines, Presentation Sister Joyce Meier met with 80 sisters at a meeting of AMOR, the Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious, to seek their engagement in this effort.

Women are already in dialogue with Vatican about increasing roles – Kerry Robinson

10/28/13 – Kerry Alys Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, writes in America magazine about “Opening Doors: Women in Dialogue with the Vatican.” “Five women colleagues in Catholic philanthropy and I have had the rare privilege to meet privately with prefects of pontifical congregations and presidents of pontifical councils. The purpose of our meetings with the cardinals in Rome, the highest ranking leaders in the Catholic Church, is specific in its simplicity: to discuss the role of women in the church and opportunities to elevate women to positions of meaningful leadership in the Roman Curia… In October 2007 we embarked on our first weeklong series of private meetings with cardinals in Rome to advocate for women… As evidence of the cardinals’ receptivity, we have been invited back on several occasions. The most recent meeting took place this month. We have been received with genuine warmth and interest in our analysis of the challenges and concomitant recommendations.” Excellent article: clear statements of how church policies impact women and “impoverish the church,” and clear proposals.

Sister Mary Hughes, OP, on “Hardball with Chris Matthews”

9/20/13 – Chris Matthews interviewed former LCWR president Sister Mary Hughes, OP, in relation to Pope Francis’ efforts to change the church. She expressed appreciation for his emphasis on the gospel, and commented on his calls for social justice and for solidarity with the poor as entirely consistent with the historical and current work of religious congregregations, including his own Society of Jesus.

Pope Francis invites editor of Italy’s largest newspaper to come over. Amazing conversation.

 10/1/13 – Pope Francis called Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist founder of Italy’s biggest daily newspaper, La Repubblica. Francis invited Scalfari to come by for conversation on 9/24/13. Worth reading in full! (On July 7 and August 9, Scalfari had published questions for Pope Francis; Francis surprised him by writing in reply on September 11.) Some highlights from Pope Francis 9/24:

     “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

     “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

     “The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. I will show you the way, he said. Follow me and you will find the Father and you will all be his children and he will take delight in you. Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.”

     “Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is…more.

America magazine apologizes for a missing sentence in translation of Francis interview

9/25/13 – NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano discovered a missing sentence in the earlier English translation: “Francis replied, ‘It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church.'” It was present in the original Italian and in other translations. The English translation has been corrected.

Sister Simone Campbell on Pope Francis and women

9/24/13 – In TIME newsmagazine, Sister Simone Campbell shares the overall positive response to Pope Francis and his interview, but: “Will Pope Francis follow through by actually including women in the decisionmaking as he moves ahead with reforms? Or will the temptation to placate women by idealizing our gender remove us from consideration in wrestling with change in church politics? If we are indeed brought into the currently male process, I worry that our own freedom of Spirit and witness to the Gospel could be undermined by our desire to ‘belong.'” And she recalls Pope Francis’ earlier comment that “The door is closed” to women’s ordination, but recalls Jesus’ parable and says, “Women need to keep knocking on this closed door and eventually the change will come.”

Jesuit suggests female cardinals, asks for names via Facebook

9/24/13 – According to Joshua McElwee in NCR, Jesuit Father James Keenan used his personal Facebook page to “ask his friends and associates to propose names of women around the world who should be considered as possible cardinal candidates.” I find no reference to this on his public Facebook page, but he quickly accepted my “friend request” and now I have that thread.

McElwee reports: “As cardinals are not ordained into their ministry, some have suggested that it would be possible for the church to name women as cardinals without changing the church’s teaching regarding the ordination of only men to the priesthood. While canon law currently specifies that a cardinal must either be a priest or a bishop, some have also wondered whether the appointment of female cardinals might be a reform Pope Francis is considering.” Among those already on Keenan’s list are: “Linda Hogan, a professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin; Holy Child Jesus Sr. Teresa Okure, a theology professor at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria; and Maryanne Loughry, the associate director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia… According to U.S Catholic, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan said in an interview last year it was “theoretically” possible for the pope to name female cardinals.”

America: “No one can be a spectator in Francis’ fresh vision of church.”

9/23/13 – “After the Pope’s Interview: Three Hard Things” by Jesuit Father Francis X. Clooney. in America magazine. “First, Francis expects us actually to discern, to find the will of God out there before us, in the large and small, easy and difficult things before us… Second,…A call to discernment as the church’s way forward requires tremendous effort at every level, a free and grown-up search for the will of God, and not determining the future by what had seemed best in the past… Third, Francis is giving us a lot to do… Where there are such great needs, there the church must be.” Bottom line: “No one can be a spectator in Francis’ fresh vision of church.”

The Nation: “Is the pope getting on board with the nuns on the bus?”

9/20/13 – John Nichols writes about the similarities between Sister Simone Campbell and Network’s “Nuns on the Bus” campaigns, and the social-justice themes in the Jesuit interivew of Pope Francis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on CNN: “The pope is starting to sound like a nun”

9/22/13 – Wonderful soundbite (00:59)!

Pope Francis’ astonishing interview – Reports and full text (In the News)

9/19/13 – Pope Francis made headlines internationally with an interview that was published simultaneously in multiple Jesuit periodicals around the world. Every major newspaper seems to have covered it, including NY Times and NCR. America magazine was the publisher of the full text in English. Blog posts offer diverse valuable perspectives, including Mary E. Hunt.

Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, conducted the interview in person, in Italian, over three days in August. Editorial teams at La Civiltà Cattolica, America, and several other major Jesuit journals around the world had proposed questions to Father Spadaro. After Pope Francis approved the Italian text, America commissioned a team of five independent experts to translate it into English.

Father Spadaro described his experience interviewing Pope Francis: “The pope had spoken earlier about his great difficulty in giving interviews. He said that he prefers to think rather than provide answers on the spot in interviews. In this interview the pope interrupted what he was saying in response to a question several times, in order to add something to an earlier response. Talking with Pope Francis is a kind of volcanic flow of ideas that are bound up with each other. Even taking notes gives me an uncomfortable feeling, as if I were trying to suppress a surging spring of dialogue.”

Some quotes from Pope Francis follow – but please read the whole interview. It is truly worth your time.

“In my experience as superior in the Society [of Jesus, the Jesuits]… I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person.”

“I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

“The Lord has allowed this growth in knowledge of government through my faults and my sins. So as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I had a meeting with the six auxiliary bishops every two weeks, and several times a year with the council of priests. They asked questions and we opened the floor for discussion. This greatly helped me to make the best…”

New Vatican Secy of State Parolin on celibacy and on “a more democratic spirit” in Church

9/11/2013 – On August 31, 2013, Pope Francis named Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin as the new Secretary of State, the oldest and traditionally most powerful position in the Curia. In an interview with the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, reported today by John L. Allen in NCR, he said that celibacy “is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition.” He also noted that “It has always been said that the church is not a democracy. But it would be good during these times that there could be a more democratic spirit, in the sense of listening carefully, and I believe the pope has made of this one of his pontificate’s objectives. A collegial movement of the church, where all the issues can be brought up, and afterward he can make a decision.”

Pray for Syria!

Pope Francis’ homily in St. Peter’s Square closing the Vigil for Peace – I wish this could be read at every liturgy everywhere on Sunday!
Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer for Syria
LCWR‘s prayerful statement on Syria
Prayer of a 28-year-old Syrian Jesuit
When it’s too big (reflections on Syria)” by Rachel Held Evans

Contact your NBC station – they have option to show Women & Spirit Sept ’13-March ’14!

Here’s a concrete way to help LCWR right now! Women & Spirit is an excellent hour-long show about the contributions of Catholic sisters in the USA, from 1727 to today. NBC stations have the option to schedule it, between September 2013 and March 2014, as an episode in the Horizons of the Spirit series. CONTACT YOUR NBC AFFILIATE NOW and let them know you want them to schedule it. Ask your friends to do the same. Put a notice in your parish bulletin and diocesan newsletter. Let’s help the light of Catholic sisters to shine bright!

DC area: 202-885-4000 or use the station’s email form.

Perspective: Outgoing LCWR president Sister Pat Farrell on the past year

“As I write my last presidential letter, my own words from last summer’s assembly come back to me, contextualized differently: ‘They can crush a few flowers but they can’t hold back the springtime.’ So what about that springtime now in 2013? There are some who would call the moment we are experiencing ‘a Catholic spring.’ None of us could have imagined a year ago a Pope Francis, bringing fresh air to an ecclesiastical environment gone stale. Church reform movements are proliferating, networking, flourishing. Clearly there is observable movement. Could it be that spring is upon us? Perhaps. There are some signs. But spring comes slowly, by fits and starts. Think March. Think mud and wind and the messy in-between stage of the late-winter, early- spring time of year. Spring is heralded by great turbulence and fluctuating temperatures. It storms its way forward, groaning and labored. But it does come. Always.

“…By conversion I don’t mean an inappropriate and submissive “mea culpa” to accusations which misrepresent who we are and what we are about, but a genuine desire to allow the events confronting us to knead us into bread to be broken and shared.

“We can change only our own consciousness and choices, so we focus our energy there. I do see this moment of conversion as a process of becoming more malleable to God’s reshaping of us for purposes beyond our current awareness, beyond dualisms and separateness, in readiness for God’s in-breaking of newness.”

August-September 2013 LCWR Newsletter, page 2

Orbis to publish book of LCWR presidential addresses: “Spiritual Leadership…”

In Spring 2014, Orbis Books will publish Spiritual Leadership in Challenging Times: Presidential Addresses of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. From the presidential addresses of the past 50 years, LCWR has chosen ten to explore the challenges of providing spiritual leadership in light of the pressing issues of the day. The audience is anyone interested in leadership, particularly spiritual leadership. From the LCWR Newsletter: “the book illustrates how LCWR presidents have led from a foundation that has steeped them in the practice of reflection and contemplation. Their addresses demonstrate a leadership that is deeply rooted in God and that strives to connect the soul of an organization with the soul of the world… [and] show how to live and lead with an integrity and humility for which the world at large yearns and hungers.”  

“Misguided LCWR mandate lumbers onward” – NCR editorial

Worth reading. An excerpt:

“By a wide consensus of the larger church, women religious have been modeling a more attractive vision of the Catholic faith than have the bishops in recent decades. The prelates have much to learn from the women if they could only stop the cheap “women are special” platitudes and truly open their eyes.

“LCWR meetings are far more spirited and far less crafted than comparable meetings of the U.S bishops.

“The fact is that few organizations anywhere are as democratic and representative as is LCWR. In contrast to the bishops, all members have been voted to leadership by their communities and represent those communities locally, regionally and nationally. LCWR presidents rotate yearly. LCWR changes, develops, but also maintains continuity. Past presidents are valued and are invited to annual assemblies to add their perspectives. Our church is blessed with an articulation of the Gospels by women who can access multiple means of communication and no longer need to filter their words through the male clerical culture.

“LCWR’s work should be celebrated, not demeaned.”

NCR gets $2.3 million to help congregations tell their stories!

From NCR’s announcement:  “The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded a grant of $2.3 million over three years that will allow the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co. to embark on a groundbreaking project to give greater voice to countless Catholic sisters around the globe. With the use of the Hilton Foundation grant, NCR plans to build a network of editors and reporters not only to write about women religious, but to help them develop their own communication skills by working with them as columnists who report their own missions and challenges.”

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has a long-term fund to “strengthen congregations of Catholic sisters” worldwide and to “enable Sisters to advance human development more widely and effectively.” Its strategy envisions “Vital congregations of women religious whose members advance human development through their spiritual witness and service to those in need.” Its current focus is in Africa and the USA.

8/19/13 – LCWR Assembly reports and speeches, including statement on Board meeting

The 2013 Assembly‘s theme was “Leadership Evolving: Graced, Grounded, and Free.”

LCWR created a brief, beautiful video of Assembly highlights.

LCWR’s press release summarizes each session, including private sessions. Highlights:

– Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio gave the keynote address, titled “Religious Life on the Edge of the Universe.” “We need a new way of being in the world that broadens diversity, deepens interiority, and strengthens the bonds of relationality.”

– Three sessions during the Assembly, and the Board meeting afterwards, focused on the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, lead of the three bishops appointed to “reform” LCWR following the doctrinal assessment, participated in the Assembly and met with the LCWR board after the Assembly. Afterwards, the LCWR Board issued a statement appreciating the “profound and honest sharing of views” and noting that “Clearly… he had been listening intently and heard the concerns voiced by the members, and their desire for more information. The extraordinarily rich and deeply reverent conversation during the board meeting gave us a greater understanding of Archbishop Sartain, and we believe he now also better understands us. Although we remain uncertain as to how our work with the bishop delegates will proceed, we maintain hope that continued conversations of this depth will lead to a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of LCWR and is healthy for the whole church.”

– Sister Florence Deacon’s presidential address, “A Delicate Weaving,” reflected on what it means to be a faithful woman of the church as a framework for continuing dialogue with the appointed bishops.

– Sister Pat Farrell’s speech accepting the Outstanding Leadership Award reflected on the present situation, which calls LCWR “to really see another person and to really allow ourselves to be seen.” “We keep calling ourselves and one another to truthfulness and integrity, to a thoughtful sorting out of what that looks like concretely.”

– Presentations by Hope CommUnity Center, Apopka, FL, and by Sister Ann Scholz shared experiences and current information about the need for justice for immigrants, including comprehensive reform legislation.

– LCWR members adopted a resolution for a comprehensive set of actions to reduce violence, with particular focus on gun violence.

– At the conclusion of the Assembly, the 2013-14 officers assumed their new roles:
  The three-member presidency:
     Current president Sister Carol Zinn, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania
     Past president Sister Florence Deacon, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
     President-elect Sister Sharon Holland, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe Michigan
  Secretary: Sister Barbara Blesse of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois

Press report on LCWR Assembly and Board meeting

Joshua McElwee of NCR – report headline: “LCWR: ‘profound sharing’ with Sartain; ‘uncertain’ of progress.

Mark I. Pinsky of Religion News Service – report headline: “US nuns strike a positive note on Vatican investigation.” RNS includes a comment by Fr. Tom Reese, SJ, senior analyst at NCR:  Things could have been much worse after the meeting, and that clearly didn’t happen. From their press release, they’re saying that things improved slightly — which is good news. Because both sides seemed to have listened and understood each other during the meeting. Initially, the nuns “didn’t feel that they were treated with respect, as adults. Now it’s no longer a food fight. They’re talking; they’re having a conversation. It’s like couples counseling. … That’s a big step forward from where they were in 2011.”

America mag. article highlights financial crisis facing many congregations, no clear options

In the short article “Save Our Sisters,” Fr. James Martin, SJ, cites examples of and reasons for the financial crisis that many US congregations are facing – even including bankruptcy. He looks at often-suggested solutions and finds them unlikely or infeasible. Although “prospects are bleak,” he offers a few possibilities.

8/16 – NCR says Archbishop Sartain offered few details, S. Sharon Holland new pres.-elect

Joshua McElwee reports that Archbishop Sartain’s 37-minute speech to the LCWR Assembly was mostly about Jesus and religious life in general. He seemingly didn’t speak about how to move forward with regard to the April 2012 Vatican mandate for LCWR “reform” that he has been appointed to oversee. About 50 sisters asked questions afterwards, including sharp questions and comments about how the Vatican mandate has damaged sisters’ reputations, and about frustrations with inadequate communication from the Vatican and perhaps from the three “LCWR reform” appointees that Archbishop Sartain leads.

Both before and after the session with Archbishop Sartain, the 825 LCWR members met privately. NCR reports that the meeting preceding the archbishop’s talk was the first opportunity members have had to hear directly from LCWR leaders about what has happened regarding the mandate during the year since the 2012 Assembly. NCR says that:
“According to knowledgable sources, LCWR members were told Thursday that their leadership had met with Sartain four times over the past year: Once following last year’s LCWR assembly in St. Louis, once in November in Baltimore during the annual U.S. bishops’ meeting, once in May during the group’s annual visit to Rome, and once more this summer. Each time, the LCWR leaders told their members Thursday, Sartain did not detail the Vatican’s specific concerns with LCWR.”

The article also says that canon lawyer Sister Florence Deacon, IHM (Monroe), has been elected as LCWR president-elect and will serve in that role 2013-14 as part of the LCWR three-member presidency.

McElwee also notes that “LCWR members were asked by the group’s leaders not to discuss Thursday’s meetings with members of the press.”

8/15 – CNS reports “a tenor of openness & conciliation” & contemplation at Assembly

From CNS: “The president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said organizers of this year’s assembly hope attendees would find it to be a contemplative experience because ‘it is imperative to view religious life within the context of our faith and in an evolving world.’ ‘We have included an hour and a half of contemplative prayer at all meetings to determine what the signs of today are calling us to and we hope that the entire experience of this assembly will be an act of contemplation,’ said Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon.

The story reports warm and respectful remarks by Archbishops Vigano and Sartain,the Papal Nuncio and the Vatican-appointed LCWR overseer, respectively. CNS also interviewed Donna Fyffe, a consultant who worked with LCWR to plan the meeting; she noted “a tenor of openness and conciliation at the assembly was clear.”

8/15 – Social-media posts say that Sister Sharon Holland, IHM (Monroe), is LCWR president-elect

Sister Sharon Holland received LCWR’s outstanding leadership award in 2009. From the LCWR website write-up:  “Sharon Holland is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan. A canon lawyer with degrees from the Gregorian University, she served for 21 years at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and was one of the highest-ranking women in the Vatican. In this position she offered wisdom and knowledge to congregations of religious all over the globe. She also taught at The Catholic University of America, Regina Mundi, the Pontifical Urbaniana, and other schools.

“Her extraordinary understanding of ecclesial life and global needs has contributed to her reputation as a renowned speaker on consecrated life. Numerous congregations of religious can attest to her attentive and helpful counsel with the complex issues of shaping constitutions as well forming, merging, and dissolving institutes.

“Her writings on religious life have appeared in many professional journals, as well as in The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary.”

LCWR has a three-member presidency. After the Assembly, the presidency will include past president (2012-13) Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon, president Sister of St. Joseph Carol Zinn, and president-elect Sister Sharon Holland of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

8/15 – Archbishop Sartain spoke, answered questions, behind locked & guarded doors

At the Assembly, LCWR took extra precautions to keep private the 37-minute speech by Archbishop Sartain, Vatican delegate to “oversee” and “reform” LCWR, and the Q&A session that followed. Doors were locked and security guards were in place outside them. The IT set-up avoided wireless microphones to make sure nothing was overheard. Joshua McElwee’s report in NCR gives more details on security, but none are available on the session itself.

8/15 – Vatican’s delegate, Archbishop Peter Sartain, gave homily at Mass today at Assembly

From the NCR report: “Mary… pondered the words of God and let them turn over in her heart — over and over again, as the Gospel tell us. Without, in a sense, any desire or a need to figure things out in the way that we normally think of figuring things out — or resolve them to her own personal satisfaction… — seeing them as joined to God’s will for her, recognizing that of these things that she witnessed, all of these things of which she was a part, will be resolved in the love of God just as her own call came from the heart of God.”  “…she shows to us what the grace of God, what God himself desires to do in us all and through the church when we let the grace of God overtake us without placing an obstacle between ourself and that grace.” “…May it be the same for me and for you. Amen.”

8/14 – Sister Ilia Delio’s keynote address at LCWR Assembly

NCR reported on the address. Some beautiful quotes, e.g., “A dynamic universe provokes the idea and the understanding of a dynamic God. This is not a stay-at-home God. This is a God who is deeply immersed in a love affair with the beloved, the creation which flows out of his divine heart.” Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio is director of Catholic Studies at Georgetown University.

NCR’s Joshua McElwee tweets from the Assembly. So moving! A glimpse…

From @joshjmac :  Too many AND TOO MOVING AND WORTH READING to condense, so read all here for a glimpse of what 825 sisters are experiencing and praying. A few favorites from his mini-reports:

“Women of conscience are made, not born. They are formed by the realities of life.”
“We know that the decisions facing us are enormous.”
Ambassador from #Vatican to US tells #nuns facing #Vatican criticism: You are “so full of joy and the desire to serve the Lord.”
Archbishop appointed by #Vatican, Sartain of Seattle, to oversee US #nuns tells assembly he is “here as your brother and friend.”
800 #nuns pray: “We are tinder and flint, graced, grounded, and free awaiting the new spark of your Spirit.”
Sisters’ prayer involves repeated reciting of phrase: “We are in the right place.” “The place where kindness and truth meet.”
825 sisters now prepare fo keynote of Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio, noted theologian, on “Religious Life on the Edge of the Universe.”
825 sisters extend hands over Sr. Delio, praying: “May the blessing of God be upon you; may God be all you know.”
Sr. Delio talking about cosmology and theology: “To see how those two work together to form a whole consciousness of being.”
Much more

8/14 – Vatican representatives (Archbishops Sartain & Vigano) spoke at LCWR Assembly

According to NCR: Archbishop Peter Sartain (lead for the three-bishop team appointed by the Vatican in April 2012 to “oversee” and “reform” LCWR) told the Assembly today that the past year has held “numerous opportunities” to meet with LCWR leaders and some “very significant conversations.” “We have developed a wonderful respect for one another,” said Sartain. “And yes I would say a friendship with one another.”  “I am here this week with you yes as the apostolic delegate …and as the representative of Pope Francis,” Sartain continued. “But I am also here as your brother and friend.”

Sartain later told NCR that he felt “very welcomed” by the sisters and that he thought he had “maneuvering room” from the Vatican to best determine how to handle the doctrinal assessment.

Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio, or ambassador, to the U.S. told the Assembly, “I especially want to convey to you the heartfelt wishes of the Holy Father who is always in a special bond of spiritual communion to you and is most thankful to you for all the good you have been doing throughout the years. By the sacrifice of your own lives you have been deeply touching other people’s lives, bringing hope and healing, helping to form minds and hearts in the image of Jesus.”

8/14 – Background for Assembly: Archbishop Sartain, Cardinal Braz de Aviz

Jason Berry reports in GlobalPost on the context in which the Assembly began.

8/8, 8/9 and 8/12 – Full version of previously reported Vatican comments re LCWR, more

In May 2013, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican Congregation for Religious (formally known as the Congregation for Institutes of Consecreted Life and Societies of Apostolic Life), spoke with warmth, care, and freedom to the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), a membership group for approximately 2,000 leaders of Catholic sisters around the world. NCR published his full 80-minute talk in three segments, on August 8, August 9, and August 12. Some excerpts from the NCR reports:

A “new attitude” of cooperation and equality must govern relations between the Vatican and Catholic sisters around the world. That attitude must be grounded in the understanding that both the church hierarchy and the sisters “are two dimensions essential in the church…. Neither is greater than the other. Both the prophetic and the governing dimensions form the church.”

If LCWR wants real dialogue with the Vatican over a mandate requiring them to place themselves under the authority of a U.S. archbishop, they must understand that the “central point” of dialogue is upholding church doctrine. The doctrinal problems that the Vatican identified with LCWR are “extremely important.” Cardinal João Braz de Aviz said. “This is the central point of the dialogue,” Braz de Aviz said. “I have no idea how it will be resolved.”

Gender inequality exists in the Catholic church because men and women forget they cannot be “fully human” without one another. “Man without woman is not fully human,” Cardinal João Braz de Aviz said. “And woman without man is not fully human either. Each without the other is a piece of humanity, incomplete…. Throughout history, we have had many difficulties in this area. History became a primarily masculine enterprise. For many reasons — political, anthropological — this mode also dominated religion.”

7/31 – Sister Simone Campbell will testify on poverty before Sen. Paul Ryan’s committee

NETWORK press release

Sister Simone Campbell on Pope Francis’ comments on women, gay people, pro-life

On 7/27/13, on the plane trip back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Pope Francis spent 82 minutes freely answering questions from the press. On 7/29/13, Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC interviewed Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, and Fr. James Martin, SJ, about the pope’s comments. Listen or read the transcript. E.g.:

Sister Simone: “I think the pope’s statements evidence, one, that he knows that women are smart, are educated, have a lot to offer, and commented on many roles that women could play in the church. I think on the issue of ordination, however, he did say that that door is closed. But just on Sunday we had the reading from the gospel of the story of the man who went and pounded on the door of his neighbor and kept pounding until he got what he wanted, which was food for another person. and so I sort of feel like, well, if the door is closed then maybe that alludes to the scripture where… if you’re persistent something good will happen.” Fr. Jim: “I think actually what he’s looking at is more the theology of women as leaders in the church. How can we make them sort of more involved in leadership? Can they be heads of Vatican congregations? Do you have to be ordained in order to be a leader in the church? I think that’s an interesting comment. And I think, as you point out, to say that we need a deeper theology of women means that he feels like the theology of women we have is not sufficiently deep, which is a big thing for a pope to say.”

O’Donnell: “On the issue of homosexuality he said the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well, it says they, meaning gay people, should not be marginalized because of this orientation but that they must be integrated into society. Sister Simone, that’s a big change in rhetoric at least for a pope.”  Sister Simone: “Oh, absolutely, Lawrence. And i think what it indicates is his pastoral approach, the fact that Pope Francis knows people and is willing to engage as Jesus did with the struggles of our time. I mean, Pope Francis speaks often for the poor, the marginalized, the folks who are pushed out. And this is another example that within the church structure certainly gay people have been pushed to the margins and he’s saying that that’s the wrong way forward. It’s a consistent story for him.” … Fr. Jim: “He’s even used the word ‘gay’ which has not been used before. They’d always use words like homosexual, same sex attraction, very clinical words…. When you see him speaking, it’s a very pastoral tone. He’s saying, as you said before, who am I to judge? Which we have not heard ever. And the other thing is, he has not sort of appended that statement with something negative. He hasn’t said, well, gays are welcome in the church but — it was a purely positive, welcoming argument. and he quotes the catechism by saying they shouldn’t be marginalized. I was stunned. And i think most of the reporters on the plane were stunned too.

O’Donnell: “Sister Simone, he apparently deliberately chooses not to talk about certain things because he knows that they — it’s very hard to make positive-sounding statements about them. Specifically, he said he avoided talking about abortion on this trip, he avoided talking about same-sex marriage, and although the church officially opposes those things the choice of a pope to avoid certain subjects is almost in a certain kind of way a matter of, in local law enforcement, how tightly are we going to enforce the speed limit and that sort of thing. it does give people a sense of what this pope thinks is important.” Sister Simone: “Well, i think it shows what he thinks is important, but I also think it shows that he’s highly attuned to what are very painful, divisive issues within the catholic church in that overemphasis on a couple of very narrow points. And what he’s really working hard at doing is revealing the whole gospel, working from the whole gospel, that affirms all of life, including folks that are gay. it was a very pro- life stance that he took, to say that he’s not judgmental, he welcomes everyone. I mean, that is where the fullness of life is. And it’s just refreshing to hear it.”

World Youth Day in Brazil – Pope Francis upholds “solidarity”, says “I want a mess!”

7/25/13 – “I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!” – at a spontaneously scheduled meeting with Argentine youth

7/25/13 – “No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!” Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. “No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.” – to residents of Varginha, a violent slum area in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

According to John L. Allen, Jr. in NCR, Pope Francis “also argued that in the fight against poverty, offering material assistance isn’t enough. It’s also critical, he suggested, to build up the moral fiber of a society by defending certain core values:

  • “‘Life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted’;
  • “‘The family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation’;
  • “‘Integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit’;
  • “‘Health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension’;
  • “‘Security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.'”

Sister Helen Prejean: her answers to five questions

To recognize the planned release of a 20th-anniversary special edition DVD of the acclaimed film Dead Man Walking, USA Today asked the book’s author five questions. The brief, important article, by Bob Minzesheimer, looks at what has changed and what hasn’t.

E.J. Dionne: Pope Francis’ saintly politics [Will there be implications for LCWR?]

7/5/13 – In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne says that “Pope Francis is proving himself to be a genuinely holy man, a brilliant politician and a leader who knows that reform requires a keen understanding of how creating a better future demands sophisticated invocations of the past.” [Ed.: Is it possible that this combination of qualities will enable him to embrace LCWR as his natural ally in holiness, social justice, and faithful reform based on contemplation and communal discernment?]

Snapshot: how a congregation changes & preserves ministries, to carry mission forward

News report: a sister’s perspective on the sale of an Erie hospital – continued ministry – and moving toward the future.

NCR reports “Pope downplays threat of Vatican scrutiny of religious orders.”

6/6/13 (reported in NCR 6/11/13) – In a meeting with officials of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR), NCR reports that Pope Francis told the nuns and priests “not to worry if they fo und themselves under similar scrutiny” to the investigations of US nuns. NCR cites the website Rorate Caeli’s synthesis of the pope’s comments based on reports by those present. he pope’s purported remarks came during a meeting with top officials of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) on June 6. E.g.:

“They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward… Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up…”

The fairly short Rorate Caeli “transcript” includes fascinating quotes related to his election, his pastoral actions since then, solidaritiy with the poor and needy (“Money is not image and likeness of God. Only the person is image and likeness of God. It is necessary to flip it over. This is the gospel…. The poor are the gospel.”), and more.

He says he has “concern” about two “currents” in the church today: a “restorationist” current – “One feels as if one goes back 60 years!” – and a current of “Pantheism: “I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that… They concern me because they ignore the incarnation!”

On reform of the Curia, he said, “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The “gay lobby” is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do… I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward. [He cites three specifically, saying] they are very organized…. They will move it forward.”

Sister Anne Patrick receives major award from Catholic Theological Society of America

6/9/13 – The Catholic Theological Society of America awarded to Sister Anne Patrick its 2013 John Courtney Murray Award. The Society’s highest honor, each year this award honors a society member for a lifetime of distinguished theological scholarship. Sister Anne Patrick’s work has focused on feminist theology and religion and literature. NCR’s report on the awards ceremony includes her personal reflections. Sisters Sandra Schneiders and Elizabeth Johnson are prior award recipients.

An interesting glimpse of one of the three bishops charged with “reform” of LCWR

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois agreed to speak at a 5/31/13 Arizona gathering on “Two Catholic Views of Gay Marriage” organized by Jesuit Alumni of Arizona. Bishop Paprocki and Sr. Jeannine Gramick gave opening remarks, then took questions from the audience.

5/30/13 – Sister Simone Campbell meets with President Obama at the White House

The White House reports that “Sister Simone Campbell dropped by the Oval Office on day three of the latest ‘Nuns on the Bus’ tour, which is focusing on the need for commonsense immigration reform. The “Nuns on the Bus” launched their tour from Ellis Island in New York City and will culminate on June 17th at Angel Island in San Francisco, highlighting the coast to coast beacons that have welcomed immigrants to our shores since the early days of our Nation’s founding.” Photos, more.

Sisters launch multi-state united effort against human trafficking (modern slavery)

NCR reports that LCWR and twelve congregations of women religious are uniting in a nationwide effort to oppose human trafficking. They will focus on education about sex- and labor-trafficking, advocacy for stricter laws, and support for victims. Individual congregations have long and impressive track records in working against trafficking, but the problem is huge and widespread and warrants united action to share knowledge and increase effectiveness. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking at any given time, according to the Justice Department. Worldwide, about 21 million people are trafficked in an industry that nets traffickers $32 billion annually, the State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons report said. This 2011 resolution by the US Catholic MIssion Association (LCWR is a member) includes brief background on the enormous and terrible problem.

National award goes to film about New Orleans sisters after Katrina

The film “We Shall Not Be Moved” recently won a Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy of Communications Professionals for media that “entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and a true vision of life.” After Hurricane Katrina, sisters’ homes, lives, schools, and hospitals were devastated along with the lives and homes of the people the sisters served. The sisters organized support and personally cared for New Orleans people, while dealing with their own losses and deciding whether and how to continue their former ministries. It’s a heroic and powerful story. Available for DVD purchase and for showings.

Be part of Nuns on the Bus 2013 – events from Connecticut May 28 to California June 17-18

NETWORK lobby announced that NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus for immigration reform will travel 6,500 miles across 15 states and have 53 events in 40 cities. You can join the Nuns on the Bus at events in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. See full schedule of stops; register for events and updates from the bus; and learn more about why this trip focuses on immigration reform. Quick summary: “Our nation needs an immigration system that reflects our faith values and the needs of the twenty-first century. Such a system reunites families and allows workers the opportunity to come forward without fear to pay taxes and earn legalization. A functioning system will serve the needs of our entire nation.”

5/20/13 – Thoughtful editorial on LCWR and on international sisters and the future

NCR’s editorial gives helpful perspective on the early-May meeting of 800 sisters for the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General. NCR highlighted the “deeper relationships and congregational ties” between North American sisters and women religious from the global South, “where vocation numbers are booming but material resources are scarce…. Some of the most dynamic discussions on the future of religious life followed talks from voices out of Africa and Central America. Discussions and feedback and further questions are an essential makeup of the assembly’s programs, which are laced with time for liturgies and other prayerful reflections.”  

In meeting with the international sisters, the leadership of the Congregation for Religious – particularly Brazilian Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz – showed a “pastoral bent” and a spirit of “inclusive, mutual respect” that “lifted” the sisters. NCR noted the “warm and gracious” persional interactions of Pope Francis and the sisters at the assembly, despite his “tired metaphors” of women religious as “mothers and sisters” rather than “the professionals they are.” The editors say, “It is not clear if Francis yet understands” that “the misrepresentations in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s findings against LCWR have pushed many women religious to a precipice.”

“Although its members are graying, LCWR embodies a breadth and depth of experience as well as a fidelity, history and wisdom regarding religious life that is vital to the church. U.S. women religious are, in many ways, well ahead of others in re-imagining what the church of the 21st century should look like and what a religious vocation and ministry will one day mean. More than any other group within the church they have been working for decades in the very “peripheries,” where Francis says the work of the church must now be done.”

5/18/13 – New secretary of Vatican’s Congregation for Religious (Pope Francis’ first appointee) knows LCWR well

The new secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious has been supportive of LCWR in the past and now offers all sisters “hope” and says “Ask what you need. We are there to serve you because we love you, the way you are.”

The first appointment made by Pope Francis (April 6) was to name then-General Minister of the Franciscan Order Brother Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, as Secretary of the Congregation for Religious. Today Brother Jose is being ordained a bishop at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. He participated in the April 15, 2013 meeting between the Congregation for Religious and LCWR in Rome. He will assume his new job full-time on May 22.

Archbishop Rodriguez Carballo was already deeply aware of LCWR issues. After the 2012 mandate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Franciscan Provinces of the United States were one of the few groups of men who publicly supported U.S. sisters and LCWR. Their letter said in part, “The efforts of LCWR to facilitate honest and faithful dialogue on critical issues of our times must not result in a level of ecclesial oversight that could, in effect, quash all further discernment.  Further, questioning your adherence to Church teaching by your “remaining silent” on certain ethical issues seems to us a charge that could be leveled against many groups in the Church, and fails to appreciate both the larger cultural context and the particular parameters of expertise within which we all operate.  Finally, when there appears to be honest disagreement on the application of moral principles to public policy, it is not equivalent to questioning the authority of the Church’s magisterium.”

In his first interview with an English-speaking news outlet (May 8, during the meeting of the International Union of Major Superiors in Rome), now-Archbishop Rodriguez Carballo told Joshua McElwee of NCR that “In the moment of least hope, the sun could shine — and I can see it. I invite [the sisters] to prayer, discernment and dialogue — communion. These are the three words that the consecrated life always has to have present.”

To the sisters, he said, “The congregation is there at your service, do not doubt. Ask what you need. We are there to serve you because we love you, the way you are. We love you…. I’ve had the possibility to visit the world three times over. In the most forgotten corners … in the most arid spiritual deserts, there I always found a community of sisters who gave courageous witness to the Gospel, as little ones among the littlest ones, teaching healing, accompanying all kinds.”

California group has held monthly vigils for LCWR outside the cathedral since May 2012

In Santa Rosa, California, up to 50 people gather monthly outside the cathedral for a prayer service in support of LCWR. In a May 13, 2013 article by Monica Clark, NCR reports that “During each hourlong vigil, the group highlights 20 LCWR members in a litany of remembrance….Vigil participants also sign a letter to all the congregations honored at each vigil.” Congregations have replied, with much appreciation. The idea of monthly vigils originated after the group “held a public viewing of the [LCWR] documentary Women in Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America in May 2012 and raised $1,000 for LCWR.” Bravo to this group for its prayerful, enduring support for LCWR!

5/11/13 – Cardinal in charge of Curia-reform panel wants more women in key Vatican posts

Tom Kington reported in The Telegraph (Great Britain) that “Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said he was backing more posts for women after the Pope named him this month to lead a task force of eight cardinals from around the world to reform the Roman Curia…. Women have taken on a number of key roles at the Vatican, including Sister Nicla Spezzati, the undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life [sometimes called the Congregation for Religious Life] and Flaminia Giovanelli, the undersecretary, at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s is run by a woman, Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella, who is the head of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the Vatican office in charge of the basilica.’But that is still very few,’ said Marco Politi, a Vatican watcher at Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano. ‘Look at Germany and the US, where women have many key positions in the dioceses.'” More background in the article.

5/8/13 – Pope Francis addresses international group of heads of sisters’ congregations

Pope Francis had a private meeting with the 800 sisters at the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General. He reportedly spoke for about 15 minutes, reflecting on the meaning of religious life. He told the sisters that, without them, the Church “would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness.” He encouraged them to “Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your institutes in sound church doctrine, in love of the church and in an ecclesial spirit.” He said, “We must never forget that true power, at whatever level, is service, which has its bright summit upon the cross.” In discussing the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the pope encouraged a poverty that “is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick and all those who are at the existential margins of life”, and a “fertile” chastity that leads sisters to be “mothers” who “generate spiritual children in the church.” More at Joshua McElwee’s NCR report and a brief (2 minute) video clip and Washington Post.

5/8/13- Vatican prefect of religious life disagrees w/ Vatican Press Office, says NCR got it right

First (5/5) NCR reported that Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, told  the International Union of Superiors General that he had been excluded from the April 2013 decisions by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and made other important comments about religious life and about women in the Church. Then (5/7) the Vatican Press Office issued a statement that the Cardinal’s remarks had been “misinterpreted” by the media. Today, at a press conference including AP and Catholic News Service, Cardinal Braz de Aviz affirmed that NCR’s 5/5 report was “very precise,” with the “tiny” exception of one clarification: “The word used for authority, the translation wasn’t accurate — just the first part. The matter on obedience, that part was OK. But the question on authority, that translation was not accurate. I was trying to stress that authority cannot be domination. It has to be a search for the will of God, after having heard what the other person has in his or her heart, because God is speaking in the other person’s heart. And then the authority says what one needs to do, and in that moment I need to obey, in faith. I don’t remember what the word you used was, but the word didn’t carry that feeling.”

Cardinal Braz de Aviz also commented, “Among men, women, among us consecrated people, we still have to mature a great deal. I said this to the religious: First, to protect ourselves, we stayed far away from each other, and this led to the point where we no longer knew each other. Consecrated men don’t know consecrated women, and vice versa. This leads us to mistrust; we condemn the other because we don’t know each other.” Also, “Our world is full of slippery territory. You say something; the other person interprets it to their own understanding of truth. This is difficult for us. We have to find a common point. We must always believe and work.” And “[The American sisters] must say what is in their hearts sincerely. Say it, but they must also find a way of clarifying in dialogue what does it means that doctrine is not their issue, their responsibility. There is something very difficult that still has to be worked out and clarified.” Further, “If we come back to the points of dialogue … we have to be serious in dialogue. If you say to the sisters of LCWR that they have to begin with the doctrinal assessment, we have to clarify that first, that they have to do with the archbishop of Seattle because we can’t interrupt there because it’s not our responsibility now. …”

5/7/13 – President of international organization of religious sisters defends LCWR

On Vatican Radio, Franciscan Sister Mary Lou Wirtz, the president of the International Union of Superiors General, has defended the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) with regard to the April 2013 doctrinal assessment and reform plans issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Catholic World News reported the story. “Ever since Vatican II, the understanding of obedience and authority has taken on new nuances or concepts,” Sister Wirtz reportedly said, “so I think it’s important for us to look at what does Gospel leadership mean today…. We’re very hopeful that we will have more open dialogue in the future. I think the LCWR are really using an approach of prayer and reflection, trying to open this channel of understanding from both sides.”

5/7/13 – Vatican denies internal rift over handling of US sisters, LCWR (per 5/6 item below)

The Vatican Press office issued a statement saying that Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, had been misinterpreted when he said that The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had not given him knowledge of its April 2013 doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The Press Office said, “The Prefects of these two Congregations work closely together according to their specific responsibilities.” NCR’s Joshua McElwee reported the story.

5/5/13 – Vatican prefect of religious life speaks out on his exclusion from decisions about LCWR, plus much more – powerful!

NCR reports that Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican congregation responsible for religious life, told the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) that he was excluded from discussion of or knowledge of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He said this caused him “much pain.” He called for growth of women’s leadership in the Church, and said, “Authority that commands, kills. Obedience that becomes a copy of what the other person says, infantilizes.” Cardinal Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life since 2011, spoke during an open dialogue session with 800 leaders of sisters’ congregations at the meeting of the UISG. He attributed CDF’s exclusion of him from the LCWR deliberations to internal Vatican political struggles, a “who will win?” style – and he affirmed that “the Holly Spirit” will win. Much more in article by Joshua McElwee.

5/4/13 – LCWR pres. Sr. Florence Deacon tells international sisters group of “serious misunderstandings” with Vatican

Sr. Florence Deacon, OSF, president of LCWR, spoke during the plenary assembly of the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome. According to NCR’s Joshua McElwee, “Deacon’s remarks constituted LCWR’s most public narrative of their relations with the Vatican.” She said that the Vatican’s April 2012 doctrinal assessment “held [LCWR] accountable for other individuals and for areas beyond our authority” and “beyond our purpose.” McElwee’s article cites specific instances. Sister Florence wondered how much knowledge of the LCWR situation Pope Francis had before his reported endorsement of the assessment, given that an earlier press release from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had not mentioned that this topic was covered in its first meeting with Pope Francis.

NCR columnist questions whether Pope Francis had enough info to “affirm” critique

Excerpt from Sister Maureen Fiedler’s 4/16/13 column in NCR: “First, I doubt this issue is on the top of the new pope’s agenda or that he had much knowledge of this when he was an archbishop in Argentina. And what does ‘affirm’ mean? Affirm what? Some general, vague report? Did Müller give him a full explanation, talk about the opposition to it among U.S. Catholics or give him an outline of the actions proposed? Did he talk about the accusation that says U.S. women religious spend too much time on social justice and not enough on other issues? I frankly doubt the new pope would ‘affirm’ that.”

4/15/13 – LCWR also met with Vatican congregation that oversees religious

The May 2013 LCWR newsletter reports that on April 15, LCWR officials in Rome also met with the Vatican congregation that oversees religious – the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL, sometimes referred to as the Congregation for Religious).  According to the newsletter (1st page, 2nd column, last 2 paragraphs), “At CICLSAL, the LCWR officers met with prefect João Braz de Aviz; the new secretary José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM; and seven other members of the dicastery staff including Hank Lemoncelli, OMI. According to Janet Mock, ‘LCWR was received with gracious hospitality and members of the dicastery listened attentively to the concerns of the LCWR leadership.’”

4/15/13 – Pope Francis is said to affirm the CDF critique of LCWR & reform plan

On April 15, LCWR met with Cardinal Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who told them he had “recently discussed” with Pope Francis the doctrinal assessment of LCWR and the plan for LCWR reform plan (which puts 3 US bishops as overseers of reform of policies and and operations). Cardinal Muller said that Pope Francis “reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform.” Joshua McElwee report, NCR.  Vatican statement.

4/15/13 – LCWR statement on meeting with Congregation for Doctrine of Faith

Excerpts from the LCWR statement: “On April 15, 2013 Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, LCWR president; Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR president-elect; and Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, LCWR executive director; met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF); Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of CDF; and other members of the CDF dicastery. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was also present…. In his opening remarks, Archbishop Müller informed the group that he had met with Pope Francis who ‘reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors’.

“The conversation was open and frank. We pray that these conversations may bear fruit for the good of the Church.”

LCWR’s Winter 2013 Occasional Papers features important articles

LCWR’s Winter 2013 issue of Occasional Papers features the important article “The Vow to Obedience” by Gary Riebe-Estrella, SVD, and the excellent “LCWR and Catholic Sisters: A Sign of Hope to American Catholics” by Linda Plitt Donaldson, Ph.D., a leader of Solidarity with Sisters. (We are proud of Linda and grateful for her article!) “The Vow to Obedience” is also available in Spanish and French.

LCWR and its officials are receiving many major honors, awards, and other recognition

6/10/2013 – The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) will honor LCWR past president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF on June 10 in Manhattan. ICNY is a secular educational nonprofit. ICNY said that the theme of the event, “The Courage of Conviction – Then & Now,” was chosen “as our awardees each in their identifiable way have taken extraordinary actions in their personal and/or professional lives that have contributed to a more peaceful, fair, and just society.”

5/19/2013 – LCWR past president Pat Farrell, OSF was among those receiving honorary degrees at the 63rd commencement ceremonies of Fairfield University.

5/11/2013 – Gwynedd-Mercy College (now University) in Pennsylvania honored LCWR with its Beacon of Mercy Award at its commencement ceremonies. LCWR president-elect Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ accepted the award on behalf of LCWR and delivered the commencement address.

April-June 2013 – TIME invited LCWR president Florence Deacon, OSF to submit an essay for a special commemorative book published after the election of Pope Francis. Entitled, “We’ve Waited Enough,” the essay reads in part: “Our experience with the doctrinal assessment of our organization reaffirms our conviction that that the church desperately needs to create spaces of authentic and candid dialogue…. Imagine if together, as men and women of various cultures, we could revision the church so it continues to be a beacon of light as it ap-plies the Gospel today.”The book, Pope for a New World, will remain on news stands through the end of June.

4/20/2013 – Pax Christi – Michigan awarded its 2013 Purple Ribbon for Peace to LCWR at a ceremony in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The local organization was among the signers of a letter sent to LCWR last summer by Pax Christi International that stated in part, “Women religious in the United States have been deeply committed to promoting the peace of Christ. They are at the heart of our movement, proclaiming with clarity and love the possibility of a world without war, a future beyond dehumanizing violence.”

4/14/2013 – The Herbert Haag Foundation for Freedom in the Church awarded its 2013 prize to LCWR and the women religious whom LCWR members represent. LCWR past president Pat Farrell, OSF traveled to Lucerne, Switzerland to receive the award.

Annunciation House, a ministry extending hospitality to the immigrants who come to this country through Mexico, awarded its 2013 Voice of the Voiceless award to women religious in both the United States and Mexico for their work with immigrants. Sister Mary Hughes, OP, represented LCWR in accepting the award, together with Sister Dolores Palencia, SJL, a former leader of the Conference of Major Superiors of Mexico.

4/5/2013 – The Franciscan Mission Service honored LCWR past-president Pat Farrell, OSF “for courageous and humble leadership during the organization’s assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We celebrate her commitment to gospel living and being a prophetic voice in the face of adversity. From her two decades of mission in Latin America to her recent work with the LCWR, she has remained unwavering in her commitment to service to the poor, advocacy for the marginalized, and radical spirituality. We admire the LCWR’s work toward open and honest
dialogue and toward the opportunities for the laity to have a voice in the Church. In presenting this award to Sr. Pat, we recognize and show our support for women religious and all those who stand up for justice.”

2/28/2013 – The Harvard Divinity School invited former LCWR president Sister Mary Hughes, OP, to deliver its annual Dudleian Lecture. The oldest and most distinguished endowed lecture at Harvard, the Dudleian Lecture was established in 1751 by alumnus Judge Paul Dudley. Sister Mary’s lecture, titled “Priesthood of the Faithful: Light in the Darkness,” offers insights and perspective on what it means today, after the Second Vatican Council, for a Catholic to fulfill his or her baptismal call.

2/26/2013 – Boston’s Paulist Center Community awarded its 2013 Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice given by Boston’s Paulist Center Community to LCWR. The first recipient of this annual award was Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, in 1974. The award is named for the Paulist Fathers’ founder and is given to a North American Catholic or Catholic group “committed to building a more just and peaceful world.”In remarks at the award ceremony Susan Rutkowski, pastoral minister at the Paulist Center, said, “The women religious of the United States have taught us to pray, educated us on how to live and work in our ever-changing world, nursed our sick and old, cared for our abandoned, reached out to all the marginalized, and taught us how to respect the dignity of all. They have, in sum, shown us how Jesus might live in our world today.”

2/10/2013 – The Association of Chicago Priests honored LCWR both on the national and regional levels with its Coordinating Board Award. The association represents 220 priests.

11/29-12/6/2012 – The SHARE Foundation honored LCWR during its annual commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the four church women killed in El Salvador. A delegation of more than 60 US participants traveled to El Salvador and, at the tomb of Bishop Oscar Romero, honored LCWR, in a gesture of solidarity with women religious.  LCWR past president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF accompanied the delegation, representing LCWR, with a number of other current and former LCWR members in attendance.

3/17/13 – CBS’s 60 Minutes featured LCWR: “American Nuns Struggle with Vatican for Change”

The segment’s video and transcript offered perspective and updates on LCWR’s experiences since the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment was issued in April 2012. The segment includes interviews with Pat Farrell and with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the delegate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed to oversee LCWR, as well as scenes from the 2012 LCWR assembly. CBS described it this way: “One of the pressing problems newly elected Pope Francis may want to address is the disillusionment among American nuns. Many were shocked last year when the group that represents most of them was reprimanded by the Vatican, which said the nuns’ liberal ideas were undermining the Church.” Produced by Tanya Simon and Andrew Metz.

Major media featured LCWR interviews & writings during the papal transition

3/17/13 – NPR’s Weekend Edition: Interview with Sister Pat Farrell, OSF – also transcript
3/14/13 – The Rothko Chapel in Houston invited LCWR past-president Pat Farrell, OSF to speak on “The Transformed Experience of Sisters Since Vatican II.” The lecture was a part of “Vatican II @ 50,” a series of programs recognizing the worldwide impact of the Second Vatican Council. The lecture is available in audio only or on video.
3/11/2013 – CBS This Morning: Interview with Sister Florence Deacon, OSF
3/11/2013 – The Guardian (British daily newspaper): Essay by Sister Florence Deacon, OSF

2/27/2013 NCR: Papal resignation puts Vatican LCWR mandate in question

Benedict XVI’s resignation automatically leads to the resignation of the heads of Curia departments like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which issued the mandate for LCWR reform last April. According to Thomas C. Fox in NCR, the CDF leaders “will have no authority to continue their work, pending a new dictate by a new pope. In turn, any authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who officially serves as ‘archbishop delegate’ to LCWR, ends as well.”           Come, Holy Spirit!

1/26/2013: LCWR accepts prestigious Hecker Award for Social Justice

Each year, Boston’s Paulist Center Community annually honors a North American Catholic or Catholic group “committed to building a more just and peaceful world” with the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice (named for the Paulist Fathers’ founder). The first honoree was Dorothy Day. The 2013 honoree was the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Susan Rutkowski of the Paulist Center Community said, “Like Isaac Hecker, they have worked tirelessly to foster the growth and development of American Catholicism, showing us what a socially just society could look like. Let us support them and follow their example in our own quests to model a more inclusive American society and church focused on justice for all.”

2/17/2013: “Up” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC features Sister Mary Hughes, OP

Interesting discussion of religion in contemporary society, hosted by Chris Hayes and including former LCWR president Sister Mary Hughes as well as Father Bill Dailey of the University of Notre Dame and Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter. Maybe this video link will work for you. If not, here’s a brief report.

The Valley Catholic 2/5/2013: Sisters’ congregations organize against human trafficking

Catholic sisters in California draw attention to hotels and human trafficking during major sporting events. A northern California coalition of Catholic sisters is encouraging travelers to ask hotels about their efforts to interrupt human trafficking.

NCR 1/22/2013: An ordinary day for an inspiring Sister of Mercy – and news of her upcoming film

An engaging and thought-provoking interview of Sister Carol Rittner, RSM, by Sister Camille D’Arienzo, RSM, in NCRonline, introduces  Sister Rittner’s scholarly and practical work to advance Jewish-Christian relations, describes her usual day, and highlights her upcoming film, “Sisters.” The film will show five sisters at work in diverse professions and share the deep spiritual roots from which their ministries flow.

CNN 12/30/12: How Catholic Sisters Changed American Health Care

CNN reports that sisters continue to innovate in areas like comprehensive-care clinics, preventive health-care services, traveling services, and more – rooted in the charisms and courage of the pioneering nuns who founded the congregations.

ABC News 12/27/12: Houston sisters squash stereotypes with successful careers

A doctor, a lawyer, and a social worker live the gospel in the world, rooted in their communities and charisms as sisters.

Fordham conference 12/11/12: How American Catholic Sisters Shaped the Church

Fordham University in NYC is offering a free public conference that sounds great! “Catholic sisters have had a dramatic impact on the Church for generations. They built a massive parochial school system in the nineteenth century, sponsored women’s colleges long before the women’s movement, and founded hospitals and social services that still allow the Church to reach millions each year. Responding to Vatican II’s call for renewal in the 1960s, they expanded beyond these ministries—embracing social activism and missionary work, exploring fresh currents in spirituality and theology, and championing human dignity and rights. How has sisters’ ministry changed the face of the Church? What do they see as their primary calling today?”

Featuring Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, vice president, Catholic Health Partners and former president, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Maria Theotokos Adams, SVMM, director of studies, Immaculate Conception Province, Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará; Miriam Ukeritis, CSJ, psychologist and CEO, Southdown Institute; Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, sociologist, Trinity Washington University; Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, theologian, Catholic Theological Union; Christine Firer Hinze, professor of theology, Fordham University.

US sisters guided him out of tragedy; now he’s archbishop. Support retired nuns!

Archbishop Harry Flynn was orphaned as he began 7th grade. Sisters stepped in with skillful love and care and gave him the support needed to make it through the tragedy – all the way through high school. Consider a contribution to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’  Retirement Fund for Religious, or to the independent 25-year-old Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR).

Nuns have been radical since their beginnings. Support them now in retirement!

Political commentator Cokie Roberts reminds us of the radical actions of women religious in what became the USA – to educate girls, African Americans, Native Americans, poor immigrants; to create school systems and hospitals for needy people; to walk with and lift up people on the margins. “This country is a far fairer place, a place closer to fulfilling its promise for all its people because of the contributions of these determined and dedicated religious.” Because many sisters work with people with few resources, they don’t amass riches to support their retirement. Consider a contribution to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’  Retirement Fund for Religious, or to the independent 25-year-old Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR).

LCWR to receive prize for religious freedom in 2013

LCWR will be awarded the 2013 Herbert Haag Prize for Freedom in the Church.

The entire brief announcement is a cogent recognition and amplification of LCWR’s prophetic voice. E.g., “[This award to LCWR] reflects the energy and initiative with which the women religious renew and shape a Church open to the future. This award also wishes to give weight in Europe to the strong voice of these women, giving encouragement to those resigned to silence. If the Church wants to give hope to the coming generations, then it finds expression in the voice of Sr. Pat Farrell when she said at LCWR’s national assembly in August 2012: ‘We are in a time of crisis and that is a hopeful place to be. Crisis precedes transformation.’”

The prize was endowed by Swiss theologian Herbert Haag (1915-2001), who taught Old Testament at the University of Tubingen, Germany. “This prize honors people and institutions that engage themselves in the spirit of the apostle Paul for freedom in the church and in doing so give witness to the world.”

A major Italian newspaper has taken note.

Apostolic Visitation 2010 – is a report coming soon?

Will a report be issued soon? Unclear, but maybe, according to NCR.

Change in leadership at Vatican congregation that oversees LCWR

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, formerly secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (commonly known as the Congregation for Religious Life, or the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes), has been reassigned as archbishop of Indianapolis. Analysis by John L. Allen, Jr.

Call To Action honors Sister Pat Farrell with its Leadership Award

At its annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 10, 2012, Call To Action honored LCWR past president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, with its Leadership Award. CTA called her “a model of the best of Catholic leadership: where leaders invite communal discernment of the signs of the times in light of the gospel – and are not afraid to follow where the Spirit leads.” Accepting the award, she thanked CTA and people everywhere for support, and underscored the sisters’ solidarity with laity: “I’m also very confident that I speak for women religious around the country in assuring you that we also stand with you … that we walk side by side with the laity in our common effort to discern our way forward in our church. And how could it be otherwise? We share the same universal call to holiness declared at Vatican II.”

Continuing to lead us all, Sister Pat said, “I believe that God’s future is revealed to us precisely when the path is not clear. When there is no apparent way forward, perhaps the only way is down, to a place of deeper listening. That’s what this moment asks of us….  We need to return again and again into the probing thoughtfulness of scripture, of the study of theology, and of genuine conversation with each other. The task of transformation — and it’s nothing less than that — is neither quick nor easy. It needs the effort of every morning of every day.”

Archbishop Fiorenzo causes USCCB not to ignore Catholic Social Teaching

At the annual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenzo of Galveston-Houston challenged the bishops to recall Catholic Social Teaching and reject the proposed statement on the economy – and the bishops followed the powerful wisdom he espoused. This story relates to LCWR because Catholic sisters embody Catholic Social Teaching in their lives of solidarity with people on the margins, both here and in other countries.

LCWR & Archbishop Sartain’s joint statement after 11/11/12 meeting

The three bishops delegates of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the tripartite presidency of LCWR (current president, president-elect, and past president), and the LCWR executive director met on Sunday, November 11. In a joint statement, LCWR president Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, and Archbishop Peter Sartain said simply: “The discussion was open and cordial and those present agreed to meet again to continue the conversation.”

LCWR to meet with overseer bishops on Sunday, Nov. 11

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 11 Sisters Florence Deacon, OSF; Carol Zinn, SSJ; Pat Farrell, OSF; and Janet Mock, CSJ will be meeting with the delegate appointed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to oversee the implementation of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, as well as his two assistants, Bishop Leonard Blair and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. The meeting will take place in Baltimore prior to the meeting of the USCCB, which the LCWR officers will also attend as observers. LCWR asks for prayers for everyone who will participate in Sunday’s meeting.

LCWR Newsletter Nov. 2012 – Sister Pat Farrell, OSF on Learning to Swim in Winter

On page 2, Sister Pat Farrell reflects on the deep vitality of quiet time (as LCWR experienced in its 6 weeks of silence before the Assembly, and now again as it opens its dialog with Archbishop Sartain). “In the low-key, in-between times I have no doubt that something more is gestating, that God is bringing to birth what is needed now. I trust that the Spirit is readying  us for whatever comes next.”  “Processes are at work both within us and beyond us, in what is seen and in what is unseen. What we know of discernment invites us to attentive awareness on all sides, as we listen our way into a faithful response to the kind of future towards which God is beckoning us.”

LCWR Newsletter Nov. 2012 – Sister Pat Farrell to receive CTA Leadership Award

First article: “It is this kind of leadership that is necessary to advance the dialogue and response to the accusations of those who would challenge the Gospel message of equality, unity, community, and empowerment of all women and men in the church. Maintaining an open heart and mind in matters about which we agree and disagree are central to Sr. Pat’s leadership style, approach, and message.” Call To Action (CTA) will present its 2012 Call To Action leadership award to Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, on November 10 at the CTA conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

LCWR Newsletter Nov. 2012 – Order LCWR “Evolutionary Leadership” by 12/20

LCWR Winter 2013 issue of LCWR’s Occasional Papers will focus on Evolutionary Leadership. LCWR is showing the world a new model of prophetic leadership and these writings will help us understand it, live it, and maybe share it, teach it, make it contagious. $6 incl shipping, ORDERS DUE BY 12/20. See Newsletter, page 3.

LCWR Newsletter Nov. 2012 – Sign up – post-election “Circle of Protection” webinar

LCWR invites us to be part of the “Circle of Protection” to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Register for a post-election webinar on “Strengthening the Circle of Protection after the Election” in context of US budget decisions Nov-Jan: Thursday, November 8 at 2:00 PM. Sponsored by diverse Christian coalition incl US Conf of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, Salvation Army, Christian Churches Together in the USA, National Council of Churches and other Evangelical and mainline Protestants.

LCWR Newsletter Nov. 2012 – Donate to cover LCWR registration for needy orders

Some smaller congregations can no longer afford to register as LCWR members. Donate to help them. Page 4 of newsletter. Checks or inquiries to LCWR at 8808 Cameron Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910, phone 301-588-4955.

Fr. Richard McBrien “showing support for LCWR in these trying times”

His 10/29/12 NCRonline column recognizes nuns as “the greatest asset to the church in North America,” briefly reviews the backlash to Vatican II (and names names), notes “the pall of sadness [that] now covers the church,” and offers the perspective and hope of history to assure that “the pendulum will swing the other way. It always has.”

Cardinal Muller (CDF head) on LCWR and “substantial fidelity”

Italian journalist Paolo Rodari began his interview of Cardinal Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that issued the mandate for LCWR renewal, by asking, “Why’s wrong, you or them?” In reply, “Archbishop Gerhard Müller, 64, said he ‘looks with sympathy’ on groups such as LCWR [and all groups within the church], but at the same time that ‘no group can set itself up as the source of authentic interpretation” of church teaching. That role, Müller insisted, belongs to ‘the pope and the bishops in communion with him,’ who expect ‘substantial fidelity’ from the rest of the church.” More in the 10/13/12 article by John L. Allen, Jr.  Interview also online.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY – mission takes root overseas

When they arrived in Botswana, the Sisters of Charity mixed soil from India, Kentucky, Belize, and Botswana to symbolize their coming together in mission. Now, 12 years later, they are opening a formation program for Botswanan women who want to join the order – a joyous part of the celebration of the order’s 200th anniversary.

October 2012 LCWR Newsletter

The newsletter is packed with Assembly info, resources, insights, photos, and president Sister Florence Deacon’s reflections as well as contemplative insights from the Assembly. A few quick words to hold onto until you read the whole thing:

“As a beacon of fidelity, hope, prayer and community, and holding the ambiguities, questions, and pain, we are becoming the change we want to see in the church, for the life of the world…. We are on the brink of something crucial for the sake of God’s people.” (from Contemplative Process Insights, page 5)

Association of US Catholic Priests to LCWR: ““We feel that our cause to keep alive the spirit and enthusiasm
of the Second Vatican Council could be given great impetus by learning from you.” (Sister Deacon’s reflection, page 2)

LCWR executive director Sister Janet Mock connected two lay women with similar frustrations and hopes, and “and together the two formed a group called Jubilee Faithful in honor of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Vatican Council II. Just by word of mouth their initial meeting attracted approximately 115 people, and subsequent gatherings continue to draw 20-somethings to 80-somethings…. Might this be a time for all of us to reach out to our neighbors and provide a place for people to come together to pray, share their stories of faith, and fortify one another to be a stronger church? What better way to celebrate the Year of Faith?” (Sister Florence Deacon’s reflections, page 2)

LCWR has new officers

Following the annual Assembly, the new officers of LCWR are Sisters Florence Deacon, OSF (president), Pat Farrell, OSF (past president), Carol Zinn, SSJ (president-elect), Sheila Megley, RSM (treasurer), Barbara Blesse, OP (secretary), and Janet Mock, CSJ (executive director). As the LCWR website says, “the LCWR president, president-elect, and past president work in collaboration and consultation with one another and with the secretary, treasurer and executive director of the LCWR national office.” The website also shows current regional chairs as well as past presidents and executive directors.

Documentary “Band of Sisters” tells of Vatican II nuns – schedule it for your area!

Chicago producer/director Mary Fishman‘s documentary had its premiere on 9/14/12. “Band of Sisters” introduces Catholic sisters from several congregations who have transformed themselves as directed by Vatican II, becoming workers for social justice – and increasingly in tension with more conservative parts of today’s church. NCR tells about the filming. At the recent premiere, viewers were very enthusiastic – like Sister Beatrice Hernandez, who commented that “Maybe it will give them some insight into how religious life has changed since Vatican II and how sisters have remained faithful not only to the values of Vatican II but also the Gospel.” You can schedule a screening at a parish, school, theater, or any gathering place in your area.

Democratic National Convention speech by Sister Simone Campbell, SSS

Is Sister Simone the first Catholic sister to address a major US party’s political convention? She’s the executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, and was part of Network’s “Nuns on the Bus” tour through nine states to highlight the work of Catholic Sisters, meet the people they serve, and learn about the harm that would be caused by the federal budget proposed by Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan. In her Sept. 5, 2012 speech to the Democratic convention, Sister Simone told of specific ways this budget would hurt people and reduce funding for services that Catholic sisters provide. She pointed out that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has also spoken out against the Ryan budget for these same reasons. She also advocated for dialog, not confrontation, as a means to find solutions in our badly polarized country – a theme that LCWR has consistently lifted up for us, and for which we offer resources and a blog on this website.

Cardinal Carlo Montini, SJ, esteemed leader in the church: final interview

As Father James Martin, SJ, noted in his 9/1/12 post about the 8/31 death of Cardinal Montini: “It’s hard to overstate his influence on Catholics in Italy, where he was seen as one of the chief promoters of dialogue with non-believers; and among his fellow bishops and archbishops, among whom he was a real voice for ‘aggornamiento.’ For those in Milan, he was a beloved pastor who welcomed everyone into conversation. For academics around the world, an esteemed Scripture scholar and rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. For many readers, a revered spiritual master who treasured his books. The Jesuits I met who went on retreat with him spoke of him in awed terms, as someone equally at home in Greek and Latin, as in Italian and English. More importantly, they spoke of him as a Jesuit who made his home in Scripture and allowed Scripture to make its home in him. I met him once (he was gracious and welcoming) after a lecture at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, but heard over the years many stories about his generosity, brilliance and great sense of humor. As Robert Mickens wrote in the Tablet’s blog, the church and the world are much poorer without Cardinal Martini. May he rest in peace.”

Cardinal Montini gave a final interview with Corriere della Sera, published the Saturday before his death. It’s relevant to LCWR because the Cardinal spoke with blunt love about the need for changes in the church. The interview has been widely reported in summary form (e.g., NY Times, Commonweal, NCR) and is now available in full translation into English, thanks to Father Joseph Komoncheck and the Commonweal blog.

National Press Club speech by former LCWR president Sister Mary Hughes, OP

On August 16, 2012, the National Press Club featured Sister Mary Hughes, OP as its luncheon speaker.  Other LCWR officials attended as well.  The video is a great overview of LCWR history and the current challenges, decisions, and attitudes. Well worth the hour to listen, including the Q&A. Overview under this same headline is on another page.

LCWR statement on August 11, 2012 meeting with Archbishop Sartain

“The LCWR board members believe they were able to express both their concerns and their feelings about the CDF report with great openness and honesty, and that Archbishop Sartain listened carefully.”  LCWR issued the full statement on August 13, 2012.

LCWR Assembly: Order DVDs or CDs of speeches and panel

Order a complete set or individual presentations through LCWR.

LCWR Assembly: August 10 closing press conference and other “behind the scenes”

Jamie L. Manson’s August 15, 2012 story in NCR, “LCWR’s annual meeting: Some reflections and a little back story,” illuminates the prayerful, communal, respectful stance of LCWR and the participants in the meeting.  Story summary on our LCWR & Sisters – Background page.

LCWR Assembly: August 10 press release summarizes next steps with CDF

On its 2012 Assembly website, LCWR includes major speeches (see below) as well as its August 10, 2012 press release which outlines the agenda and process of this prayerful gathering, highlights themes from major speakers, and provides a capsule of the LCWR decisions on how to proceed with regard to the bishops appointed to “reform” LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. More on our LCWR & Sisters – Background page.

LCWR Assembly:  a journal from a participant, Sister Mary Lou, OSB

Journal entries from the Assembly, posted on Sister Joan Chittister’s Monasteries of the Heart.

LCWR Assembly: “Navigating the Shifts” address by Sister Pat Farrell, OSF

Powerful, moving, wise address by outgoing president Sister Pat Farrell on August 10, 2012.  Every word is worth our reflection so we can absorb and follow this path in solidarity with LCWR and Catholic sisters. Some highlights on our LCWR & Sisters – Background page.

LCWR Assembly:  Leadership Award address by Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM

Biblical scholar Sister Sandra Schneiders roots the present moment in scripture and history (past, present, and future!) in her address accepting the LCWR Leadership award on August 10, 2012.  Highlights on our LCWR & Sisters – Background page.

LCWR Assembly: August 9, 2012 speakers and responses

Lay speakers urged participants to “lead the reform of the Catholic Church that [the lay speakers] desire.”  When speakers suggested that the sisters “just say no” to the Vatican mandate, there were audible groans from the sisters.  In a press conference themed “Contemplation and Dialogue: Means of Moving Into the Future,” one of the sisters said, “The thing I don’t think we ought to be risking is further splitting our Church and getting into more and more fragmentation. … We have to figure out how are we going to get through this together in a way that is respectful of the integrity of both parties.” 

At the press conference, another sister told how hard the process has been and “it was the strength of the laity that made it possible for the sisters to walk through the crisis.”  May they all know that we are with them in solidarity and support!

Blog report by Ann Carey in NCR, August 9, 2012.

LCWR Assembly: Keynote address and early prayer, August 8, 2012

Barbara Marx Hubbard told the LCWR Assembly that “you are the best seed-bed I know for evolving the church and the world in the 21st century.”  From a “conscious evolution” framework, Hubbard said, three “great questions” now face the world: “How will we use our technology and power for good?  What story do we have to tell in order to imagine an ability to use our power that way? What kind of person do we have to be to handle all this power?”  The answer to the third question, Hubbard said, “is the person inspired by the Christ. It is the person incarnating that aspect of Christ that is creative.”  NCR report by Joshua J. McElwee, August 8, 2012.

LCWR Assembly: Opening session August 7, 2012, in St. Louis

On August 8, NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reported on the Assembly background, agenda, attendees, and opening session, including comments by Sister Pat Farrell, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, and a representative from the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, Oblate Fr. Hank Lemoncelli, who is attending the Assembly. 

The report includes two beautiful reflections and prayers: 

“I find within myself some concerns about our openness in giving ourselves the time it takes to perceive what God is doing among us, about how we will know for certain that we have uncovered the new, and about knowing when it is the right time to act.  I wonder if we will have the discipline needed to take the time needed, God’s time, to free ourselves to proceed and to let the new rise up within us.”  (from Sister Jane Burke, SSND, who died this past year and was LCWR executive director 2008-11)

“We abandon ourselves into your hands, O God. Keep our hearts soft and our minds open, as we wait for the truth of this moment to reveal itself.” (prayer ending the opening day of LCWR 2012 Assembly)

Former LCWR presidents comment after 8/7/12 pre-meeting before Assembly

In preparation for the 2012 Assembly, current and past LCWR presidents met in closed session on August 7, 2012.  NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reported that “The overall opinion of the group was that the LCWR could not unconditionally accept the Vatican’s mandate that the leadership conference reform its statutes and structures but neither did the group want to walk away from the canonical structure of the LCWR. The leaders hope to find a middle path, NCR was told, but they also want to give the Vatican a firm expression of how they understand themselves as religious, suggesting that the sisters do not ‘necessarily’ need to be part of formal church structures.”  Full report in NCR.

LCWR congregations & CMSWR congregations get equal numbers of new vocations

Mary Johnson, SC, and Patricia Wittenberg, SNDdeN, reported on their brand-new study in the article “Reality Check” in the August 13, 2012 issue of America.  They examined current data and found that almost equal numbers of women are in formation in US congregations associated with LCWR and congregations associated with the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Total numbers are not high, with 507 women at all stages of formation in LCWR congregations and 535 in CMSWR congregations; and because LCWR represents more sisters, its total reflects a lower proportion of women in formation.

The almost-equal number of recent entrants contradicts widely reported assumptions and assertions that LCWR congregations are not attracting new members.  As James Martin, SJ, says in his commentary on the study, “To take a homey example, imagine a town with 80 Toyota dealerships and 20 Honda dealerships, where 300 people buy Toyotas and 300 buy Hondas.  The conclusion would be that Toyotas and Hondas are equally popular, not that Toyota needs to go out of business.”

Women in formation reflect the diversity of young US Catholics (61% white, 16% Latina, 16% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% African American, and 1% other). 

Looking to the future, the study’s authors note that “Few are paying attention to the fine work of N.R.V.C. [the National Religious Vocation Conference] and the religious institutes from both leadership conferences that have initiated new vocation programs, which have galvanized the energy of the institutes and hold the promise of further growth in the near future.”  They conclude with awareness of both complexity and hope in the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ:  “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason to hope.”

The study was sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and by NRVC, which offers 11 quick “Mythbusters” from its findings.

August 7: “Sister cities” hold vigils as LCWR begins its Assembly

Join in prayer for LCWR on August 7!  Cities large and small, all over the USA, will hold vigils for the July 7-11 Assembly..

LCWR prepares for August assembly; Papal Nuncio Vigano comments

NY Times for July 28, 2012,  “Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke” by Laurie Goodstein.  Excerpts:  “American nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting….  At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council….  ‘The church must speak with one voice,’ Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio to the United States, said in an address in June to American bishops at their meeting in Atlanta.  ‘We all know that the fundamental tactic of the enemy is to show a church divided.’  He added pointedly that at this ‘difficult time,’ there is a special need for women and men in religious orders, and for Catholic universities, to ‘take on an attitude of deep communion’ with the bishops.”

LCWR newsletter:  Power, Authority, and Wisdom

LCWR’s August-September 2012 newsletter, page 2, features past president Mary Hughes, OP’s reflections, concluding:  “Now, more than ever, we need to pray to have the kind of authority possessed by Jesus.  The contemplative process will continue to connect us deeply with God and with one another.  We will work to see that all authority is used to liberate and bring gospel freedom to those whose hearts are hungry and open.  There may be times we stand in silence. While it can
be tempting to lash back in anger or hurt, we will pray without ceasing for the wisdom to use our power and authority as they are intended, rather than in a retaliatory fashion. We will, like Jesus, gently and firmly speak the truth. ‘Who is it that gave you this authority?’  Our lives will continue to reveal our source.”

Bishop Leonard Blair underscores importance of LCWR obedience within the hierarchical church – interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air”

Following the July 17 interview of LCWR president Sister Pat Farrell on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” on the July 25 program Terry Gross interviewed Bishop Blair, one of the three bishops appointed to oversee LCWR reform.  “Bishop Explains Vatican Criticism of US Nuns” – article and audio – NPR, July 25, 2012

“Love Cannot Be Silenced: The People’s Response to the Vatican Investigation of U.S. Sisters”

5-minute youtube video composed and sung by Sister Kathy Sherman, CSJ, June 18, 2012

Missing the Mark: What the CDF gets wrong about the LCWR

A tradition-minded Catholic sister (attends daily Mass, Adoration and Benediction, prays the Rosary daily and wears a habit) on why she feels the Vatican investigation of the LCWR is “unsubstantiated” and the sanctions “disproportionate.”  Article by Sister Y in Commonweal, July 18, 2012.

Sister Pat Farrell, LCWR president, expresses wish for dialogue on complex issues – interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air”

“There are issues about which we think there’s a need for a genuine dialogue, and there doesn’t seem to be a climate of that in the church right now…  In my mind, [I want] to see if we can somehow, in a spirited, nonviolent strategizing, look for maybe a third way that refuses to define the mandate and the issues in such black and white terms.”  “An American Nun Responds to Vatican Criticism” – article and audio – NPR, July 17, 2012

Great perspective! “Into the Future: The Journey of Women Religious Since Vatican II”

Article by Sister Nancy Sylvester, IHM, in America magazine, July 16, 2012

Interesting brief interview with Archbishop Muller as new head of CDF

Archbishop Gerhard Muller granted his first interview, after his appointment, to KNA, the German bishops’ news agency (in German), on July 4, 2012.  Dutch Catholic blog In Caelo et in Terra has provided a translation to English.

Bio for Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, new head of CDF

At Bistum Regensburg (the Diocese of Regensburg site, I think?) and at Wikipedia.

Both House & Senate propose a resolution “Honoring Catholic Sisters for Their Contributions to the United States”

Full text is the same in both House and Senate versions. Check House and Senate status & co-sponsors.  Contact your Representative and Senators to ask them to support House Resolution 689 (introduced 6/18/12) and Senate Resolution 515 (introduced 6/28/12).  (It took me about 5 minutes to do all 3 of mine.)

Change of leadership at Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Archbishop-designate Gerhard Ludwig Muller replaces Cardinal William Levada

The CDF is the Vatican organization that issued the April 18 directive for 3 bishops to take control of LCWR.  New York Times article by Rachel Donadio, July 2, 2012.  Article by John L. Allen, July 2, 2012, NCR. 

Spiritan fathers & brothers express support for LCWR

Article by Joshua J. McElwee, July 2, 2012, NCR.

LCWR Newsletter for July 2012

News and perspectives – and a beautiful reflection on dialog by Sister Pat Farrell, on page 2..

East-coast Augustinian fathers & brothers send letter of support

St. Thomas of Villanova province of the Augustinian Friars “offer their support.”  Article by Joshua J. McElwee, June 29, 2012, NCR.

LCWR:  Vatican meeting “difficult,” with “differing perspectives”

Article by Joshua J. McElwee, June 18, 2012, NCR.

LCWR statement:  LCWR continues discernment about CDF mandate

Press release, June 18, 2012

More priests, brothers express support for LCWR

The Cincinnati province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and the international head office of the Xaverian brothers wrote separate letters to LCWR on June 8 and June 9, respectively, to express “gratitude” and “appreciation” for the work of U.S. Sisters.  The Xaverians’ letter notes, “We greatly respect the way in which you have responded prayerfully, collaboratively and authentically to the initial assessment by the CDF. We hope and pray that the integrity of your response will help to bring about a dialog marked by mutuality, trust, honesty and transparency. Our society and our church — both so marred by divisiveness and polarization today — need this witness.”.  Article by Joshua J. McElwee, June 14, 2012, NCR.

Diane Rehm Show about LCWR

Interview with Maureen Fiedler, John Allen, and Stephen White, June 14, 2012

Archbishop Sartain: “My goal is to build relationships and go from there.”

Illuminating interview by Joshua J. McElwee, June 13, 2012, NCR.


June 12, 2012, Washington, DC —  Early this morning, the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and members of the Solidarity with Sisters organizing committee joined in celebration of the Eucharist, offering shared prayer as LCWR and the CDF meet today.  Read full report.

LCWR, CDF have “open” meeting

Article including LCWR statement & comment by LCWR President, by Dennis Coday, June 12, 2012, NCR.

Vatican official warns of “dialog of the deaf” with LCWR

Article reporting Cardinal Levada’s comments after the CDF-LCWR meeting, John L. Allen, Jr., June 12, 2012, NCR.

LCWR statement on meeting with CDF 

Press release, June 12, 2012

Statement of the Holy See Press Office on CDF-LCWR

Statement “concerning the Meeting at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR,” June 12, 2012

Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Comments of the CMSM on the LCWR Situation,” June 8, 2012

LCWR statement:  LCWR board meets to review CDF report

Press release, June 1, 2012

Franciscan Friars:  Open Letter the the United States Catholic Sisters

7 provinces of Friars Minor declare solidarity with US Catholic Sisters, May 31, 2012

LCWR Assembly

Mystery Unfolding:  Leading in the Evolutionary Now, St. Louis, MO, August 7-12, 2012


On the bright and hot Tuesday after Pentecost, May 29, 2012, about 200 people gathered in a park near the Vatican Embassy.  We rallied with prayer, song, and speeches; then marched to the Vatican Embassy, where a delegation met with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, and gave him our letter for Pope Benedict XVI, which also had 645 online signatures. Later he came outside to talk with rally participants.  See full report, speeches, and photos.
(NOTE:  Rally organizers do not represent and are entirely independent from LCWR.  None of the organizing team and none of the people who met with Archbishop Vigano are women religious.) 

PRESS COVERAGE OF THE RALLY IN SOLIDARITY WITH CATHOLIC SISTERS, 5/29/2012  U.S. nuns reject Vatican’s accusations

Vatican Insider column, June 1, 2012

Catholic Free Press:  LCWR board responds to Vatican order for reform of organization

Article by Catholic Free Press, June 1, 2012

Catholic Canada:  “The Report Has Caused Scandal” – picks up Rocco Palmo article below

Mention in article, June 1, 2012

Whispers in the Loggia Blog:  “The Report Has Caused Scandal” — On Call for “Renewal,” The Sisters Respond

Our meeting with Archbishop Vigano is referenced in article by Rocco Palmo, June 1, 2012

UCAN India: US nuncio surprises nuns’ leaders with face to face meeting

Article by UCAN India, May 31, 2012  Morning Catholic must-reads 31/05/12

Reference by Luke Coppen, May 31, 2012

UCA News:  US nuncio surprises nuns’ leaders with face to face meeting

Article by UCA News, May 31, 2012

NCR:  Nearly 250 attend “Solidarity with Sisters” Rally in Washington, DC

Article by Alice Popovici, May 30, 2012

Rocco Palmo:  US Nuncio +Viganò invites pro-LCWR protestors into DC Nunciature for chat and prayers.  Photos:

via Twitter, May 30, 2012  (Rocco Palmo also writes “Whispers in the Loggia” at NCR)

Commonweal:  Vatican (embassy) opens doors to nun protesters

Article by David Gibson, May 30, 2012

Religion News Service:  Vatican (embassy) opens doors to nun protesters

Article by David Gibson, May 30, 2012

Vatican Embassy opens doors to vigilers praying for LCWR

Article by Rose Marie Berger, May 30, 2012

NCR:  Vatican Embassy opens doors to protesters

Article by Maureen Fiedler, May 30, 2012

NCR highlights our rally plans:  Alice Popovici, 5/21/2012

After stinging report, Pope softens tone for US nuns – Reuters, 5/19/2012

“I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude”  and hope that “this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalisation and strengthening of their communities….”

NCR article on 4/18/12 doctrinal assessment of LCWR & Vatican mandate for bishop-led reform of LCWR

Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:  4/18/2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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