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Sisters' Stories

How to celebrate a 200th birthday

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I'm still glowing with delight from the four-day experience at our Loretto Motherhouse last week. April 25 was the 200th anniversary of our first sisters entering/forming the community. One of the benefits of a blog is that length doesn't matter -- usually I write brief entries, but I figure if you should turn 200, you will want to know how to do it.

On Sunday, we honored our benefactors and dedicated and opened our new Heritage Center, a magnificent display of archival material in the old Loretto Junior College auditorium where as novices we square-danced, had choir practice and celebrated Christmas with a huge tree and presents from home set out on chairs in a huge circle.

Want to help some needy Catholic sisters?

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Want to return the favor? Want to help our Catholic sisters? Want to help them in their ministries? Want to support just a bit some of the women who have given their lives to caring for you and caring for the needy? Here's an immediate action you can take. (I received this press release from the Sisters of Mercy in New York earlier today.)

The years – almost 150 of them –have taken their toll on Brooklyn’s beautiful Convent of Mercy. For safety’s sake, the elderly and infirm sisters have had to relocate, but Sisters of Mercy from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hamptons have not lost the passion for serving people in need.

To help fund their ministries while continuing to care for their retired members, they will hold their 12th Annual Evening of Mercy on May 30th at Manhattan’s Yale Club.

This year’s raffles include, a large screen flat TV, Bed and Breakfast for four at Mercy Villa in Water Mill, tickets to a Broadway show, to Mets and Yankees games, and gift certificates to restaurants.

For raffles, journal ads, and more information about the event, please contact Sister Camille D’Arienzo or Kristina Papa Behar at 914 328 3200 X 417.

Protestant groups, blogger, stand behind LCWR

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The National Catholic Reporter has received a letter of support addressed to Catholic nuns, signed by 34 organizations representing Protestant women from New York to Austin, Texas. Cynthia Rigby, one supporter who helped gather signatures, said it was meant not as a petition, but as a theological letter.

“It was so important to us that this reflect a collective voice,” said Rigby, a theology professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, “because, theologically, we believe that communities of Christian believers, in this case communities of sisters in Christ, stand together.”

Rigby, who said the initiative was started by the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, and the signatures collected in about five days, said she hopes Catholic sisters will see it and feel encouraged.

The letter reads:

An Open Letter to Catholic Religious Women

May 1, 2012

Dear Sisters,

Vatican doctrine head, issuer of LCWR order, visits San Francisco

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In a low-profile visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and much in the news in recent days for his congregation's April 18 decree calling for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, was the homilist Monday at the Mass marking the 50th year of the ordination of his good friend, San Francisco's Archbishop George Niederauer.

Niederauer succeeded Levada as San Francisco archbishop in 2006.

According to Catholic San Francisco, more than 2,000 attended the Mass of thanksgiving at St. Mary's Cathedral including 13 other bishops and 130 priests.

Abusive ecclesial authority puts our bishops on the spot

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Some of our bishops are acting like bullies, abusing the authority of their offices in the name of enforcing orthodoxy. Dealing with U.S. women religious, these bishops' actions appear governed more by a desire to enforce obedience than to develop fidelity in our sisters. Catholics see through this guise. They are upset, fed up with the likes of this behavior. They are speaking out. Soon they will be on the streets making their voices heard. You can count on it.

Action Against LCWR Undermines Bishops' Freedom of Religion Campaign

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In a recent example of “do what I say, not what I do,” the U.S. Catholic bishops announced their “great national campaign” for religious freedom in the United States while at the same time assisting in the Vatican takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. LCWR represents more than 80 percent of U.S. women in religious life and is alleged to have,well, too much conscience, although that is not what the bishops call it.

San Francisco editorial calls CDF's move on LCWR 'fiasco'

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Calling the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's current reform directive for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious a “fiasco” and accusing the CDF of “bully” tactics, an April 27 opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle charges that “church leaders refuse to dialogue” and that it “is becoming increasingly obvious to many Catholics that these 'men only' club members are not in control, are not relevant and have lost their moral authority.”

Tilted “U.S. nuns group deserves support,” the commentary is written by Brian Cahill, the retired executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities who served in that post when now-Cardinal William Levada was archbishop there. Levada heads the CDF.

Two sisters who resisted -- and won

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Problems with official church authority have plagued women religious for centuries. I offer here two vivid examples I wrote about in my book, Faithful Dissenters: Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church.

Mother Théodore Guérin and five other members of the Sisters of Providence sailed from France in the early 1840s and arrived in southwest Indiana to start a school for girls. The wilderness of the area was a challenge, as was learning a new language. But those were minor compared to the interference and antagonism they encountered in the person of the Vincennes bishop, Célestine de la Hailandière. Nevertheless, she and her community were able to open a boarding school near St. Mary-of-the-Woods. From the start, the bishop refused to approve the sisters religious rule and on one occasion called for the election of a new superior to replace Guérin, but the community re-elected her anyway.

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