As leaders of most of the women’s religious congregations in the United States prepared for their response to the Vatican’s call for reform, their outgoing president said they would tap their collective wisdom “thoughtfully and deliberately”.
Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell was addressing the 900-strong assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St Louis, Missouri.
The LCWR’s 1500 members represent about 80 per cent of US congregations of female religious.
The assembly is the first since the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment, which said reform was needed to ensure fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas that include abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is to supervise the reform, is not attending the assembly. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the US bishops’ conference, said he offered to come, but was told his presence “would not be helpful”.
In a telephone media conference before the assembly, Sister Farrell said it would work on normal business as its response to the Vatican. “We don’t want to allow this doctrinal assessment to really take over the mission and the entire agenda of our organisation because we do have other important things to be about,” she said.
Asked if a democratic vote of the membership would be taken, she said “a sense of the membership” would be determined. “Our process of discernment is typically not taking a vote,” she explained.
In a welcoming address, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St Louis praised the work of the sisters and their influence on his own life. Referring briefly to the standoff with Rome, he cited as a model the conflicts between apostles Peter and Paul in the early days of the Church. “They managed to work things out then, and I pray that you will work things out now,” he said.
In a blog post on the eve of the assembly, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US bishops’ conference, wrote “We Catholics love the Sisters!” and voiced confidence that they would survive the “examination by Rome”.
Image: New York Times
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