Though she is at the center of one of the biggest crises in the Catholic Church today, Sister Pat Farrell is loath to talk about herself, and certainly not in any way that would make her a focus of the looming showdown between the Vatican and American nuns.
To be sure, Farrell has spoken publicly and with quiet clarity about why the organization she heads.
But it is Farrell’s own life — a vocation that has taken her from the Iowa heartland to ministry in Pinochet’s Chile and war-ravaged El Salvador and back again to Iowa — that may be the best way to understand the root of Rome’s clash with the nuns, and why it may not be going away anytime soon, much as Farrell wishes it would.
“I’ve had a dramatic life, I really have. But the drama of it is not what’s important,” says Farrell, a soft-spoken, 65-year-old Franciscan who eventually, if hesitatingly, agreed to discuss her more than two decades in Latin America. “The best of what we do is not about high drama.”
Indeed, behind the drama is a story of service to the poor, advocacy for the marginalized, and a radical spirituality that has profoundly shaped Farrell and many nuns like her — as well as shaped the identity of the LCWR. Viewed in this context, the standoff is not a political struggle or power play as much as a contrast of complementary roles and experiences in the church. Continue reading
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