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Sisters' Stories

Attack highlights all too common African violence

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ONGATA RONGAI, KENYA -- In the cool early morning hours of Jan. 14, I was awakened by piercing screams. Again and again, the women screamed.

I did not know it then, but gunmen had broken into the complex of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary, an African order of Catholic sisters where I was spending the night.

When the men came to her door and demanded money, Sr. Levina Kalikwela grabbed a small, gold-veneered framed picture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.

“They entered and I held it,” the sister told me the next day, standing in her destroyed bedroom. “I said, ‘God, we’re finished,’ And I just held it lake this.” She grasped the picture in both hands and held it over her head.

The men hit the picture with their knife, breaking it, Kalikwela told me.

“They were asking me,” said Kalikwela, her voice cracking. “And I was telling them I have no money. I have no money.”

Sisters hopeful on Tobinís role in Vatican probe

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The recent appointment of an American archbishop to the Vatican office overseeing a wide-ranging investigation of U.S. nuns has the sisters and their supporters breathing a little easier.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin has already acknowledged the “anger and hurt” among U.S. nuns caused by the probe in his new role as the secretary, or No. 2 official, of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Tobin, who grew up in Detroit, has said he will work to heal any rifts between American sisters and the Catholic hierarchy in Rome. He also hopes to lift a shroud of secrecy surrounding the probe.

“We’re very excited by his appointment,” said Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, director of the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma, Ohio. “He’s coming from an American culture that believes you have a right to defend yourself, a right to have your voice heard.”

The investigation, officially known as an “apostolic visitation,” is meant to “look into the quality of life” in sisters’ religious communities, according to the Vatican.

Vatican official speaks of a 'strategy of reconciliation' with women religious

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ROME -- Rome must acknowledge the “depth of anger and hurt” provoked by a visitation of American nuns, the Vatican’s number two official for religious life has said, saying it illustrates the need for a “strategy of reconciliation” with women religious.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said that he does not expect any “punitive” fallout from the visitation, and that before any decisions are made, women’s communities should have a chance to know the results and to respond.

Martyred women are 'old friends' to composer

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Her piano is surrounded by folders of musical works in progress. All are important to her, but one in particular stirs her soul. Acclaimed composer Elizabeth Swados, like many people around the world, was touched deeply by the rape and murder of four American churchwomen in El Salvador on Dec. 2, 1980. Their stories of faith and commitment forever altered her consciousness and now, for the 30th anniversary of their deaths, she is composing an oratorio that will remember the tragedy while celebrating the positive changes it brought about.

Chittister: One of a kind at Call to Action gathering

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MILWAUKEE -- Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister sat quietly at a small table Saturday morning sipping coffee in the lobby of the Frontier Airlines Center in Milwaukee where some 2,100 Catholics had gathered for the annual Call to Action weekend national pilgrimage. Call to Action Catholics are progressive misfits and come together because they believe with unyielding determination that at the center of their faith rests the twin pillars of compassion and justice. Yet they don’t find this taught or modeled by the leadership in their church today. What they say they find instead is too much condemnation, feminist exclusion, gay bashing and privilege.

Disappointed that their once youthful Vatican II dreams of renewal of structure have not taken hold as they had hoped they would, they come together to offer each other encouragement and to remind each other that each of them is church, and that they are living and forging church. So this is Call to Action, an organization, a movement, a dream: real Catholics who won't give up and are passing their dreams to the next generations.

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September 12-25, 2014

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