Tag Archives: LCWR

REFLECTION: Vatican diplomatic successes with nuns, the U.S. and Cuba


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Diplomatic skills were on display at the Vatican this week when it issued its report on the U.S. sisters, hosted a visit from John Kerry, and midwifed an agreement between the United States and Cuba.

First, the nuns.


Maryknoll Sisters at the SOA Vigil and Action.

A sigh of relief echoed through convents all over the United States as the Vatican report on the life and ministry of religious women was released this week. The six-year visitation of religious communities, which had all the trappings of an inquisition when it began, turned into an affirming dialogue by the time it concluded.

The key players in this transformation were Pope Francis, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Mother Mary Clare Millea and Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland. Without their diplomatic skills, this could have been a disaster.

The apostolic visitation began in 2008 under Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (aka Congregation for Religious), who was concerned about “feminist spirit” among American sisters as well as “irregularities or omissions in American religious life.” He clearly expected to find lots of problems and failings among the sisters, which he had heard about especially from “an important representative of the U.S. church,” whom he did not name…

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WOMEN RELIGIOUS: Cry out, sisters, cry out

Joan Chittister, osbSr. Mary Lou Kownacki, osbby Joan Chittister, osb and
Mary Lou Kownacki, osb
Pax Christi USA Teachers of Peace

Not too long ago, the world barely noticed nuns, and then only in some anonymous or stereotypical way. Now there is hardly an instance when the world does not notice them. The irony is palpable. When we looked like “nuns,” we weren’t seen. Now that we look simply like ourselves, everybody sees everything we do. Clearly, witness is at least as powerful as uniforms. And nuns have given clear witness to contemplation, equality, and justice these last years.

The problem with that kind of thinking, however, is that people who consider themselves full adults begin to act as if they are.

However, there are consequences to witness like that.


Next week, for instance, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will face decisions that will move the question of the agency of women in a man’s church either forward or back. Strange as it may seem in the 21st century, the issue is whether or not women are capable of hearing diverse speakers and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious may discuss various points of view on major issues and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious can manage their own organizations and still be faithful Catholics. The Vatican’s answer to those questions is no. For the last 45 years, however, LCWR’s answer to those same questions has been a clear and persistent yes.

Men and women everywhere are watching the scenario work out, searching for models to resolve it, seeking spiritual guidance to deal with their own frustrations. Benedictine sister and poet Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki writes of the situation in her own blog, Old Monk’s Journal

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