National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Sisters' Stories

Two sisters who resisted -- and won

 | 

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.

Weigel on LCWR

 | 

Regular readers of my blog will know the very, very low regard in which I hold the opinions of George Weigel. He and his neo-con fellow RCs have tried to subvert Catholic social teaching for decades and still seem incapable of believing that the Master meant what he said about avarice and riches.

Now, he has set his sights on the Vatican's "assessment" of the LCWR in a post at the National Review. The article is filled with his usual absurd arguments - if only nuns wore habits, all would be well with the world - and his usualy penchant for nostalgia - invoking the memory of Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's - but this paragraph of his was especially disturbing even by Weigel's standards:

MSW on LCWR

 | 

I did not have the visceral reaction many of my colleagues had to the news of the “assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That was, until I read the document itself. But, before we get to the text, I have to ask myself: Why did I not instantly recognize the injustice many of my friends discerned?

In part, I have learned to resist overbroad interpretations of events that fit neatly with a previously determined meta-narrative, in this case the meta-narrative that sees the bad, old, meanies at the Vatican going after unsuspecting Catholics. I do not recall cries of “injustice” when the Vatican, in 2000, appointed an apostolic visitor to Mother Angelica’s abbey, although that too involved men assessing women, the far away Vatican bureaucrats ordering U.S.-based women religious to open themselves to investigation and, in the event, resulted in the removal of Mother Angelica from the leadership of her abbey.

New York Times features two columns on the Vatican attack on Catholic sisters

 | 

I cannot recall anytime in recent history that the Catholic church was highlighted twice in columns in a single issue of The New York Times. But this is the case today and it the rare development is yet another indicator of the tremendous outpouring of support on behalf of U.S. women religious in general and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in particular as they come under attack from the Vatican for lapses in fidelity.

Nicholas Kristof and Maureen Dowd both write about the plight of our sisters.

Jamie Manson: nuns 'go to the broken places where very few us dare to go'

 | 

Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter columnist who spoke Saturday in the University at Buffalo's Newman Center, reminding her audience that U.S. women religious "go to the broken places where very few us dare to go, and they see Jesus in those places."

She called upon Catholics to support the Catholic sisters.

Instead of gratitude, this ....

 | 

Patricia McQuire, president of Trinity Washington University, writing for the Huffington Post, addresses the "true radicalism" of the U.S. sisters. They were the bricks and mortar of our Catholic school system and our Catholic hospital system. Now they are aging, numbers declining, with an the average age being 75 years. This is the time to be grateful to the sisters, she writes, adding,

Notes on the LCWR overhaul

 | 

By far, the biggest Vatican story at the moment in the American media market is an announced overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main umbrella group for superiors of the roughly 400 women's orders in the States. The move has been presented by the Vatican as a "reform" but styled as a "crackdown" in most press coverage.

Some holy women from history

 | 

After I posted the blog, A few famous sisters, about the Washington Post web feature on famous, significant women religious, a reader sent me a note about a blog by Mary Lou Kownacki, an Erie, Penn., Benedictine.

Writing on the Monastery of the Heart website, Mary Lou says that when she first heard of the Vatican ordered reform of the LCWR, she was "as enraged as Samson who tore down a building with his bare hands." The rage has lessened to a low simmer, she continues, as she prepares for the days to come. Then she describes her preparation:

Every morning I read about a "saint" in a monthly periodical I subscribe to, "Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic" (Liturgical Press). In April alone I met these six women. ...

I stay close to these women, this communion of saints, because they remind me that, "if this is of God, nothing can destroy it." They teach me all I have to know of courage, of compassion, of creativity, of tenacity, of faith, of vision.

A few famous sisters

 | 

Did you see this feature on the Washington Post website:

A few famous nuns
In light of the Vatican’s action on Wednesday, here is a list of nuns who have become known in the broader world. Two of the Americans listed have been canonized.

No real surprises in the slide show: Mother Teresa, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel. Typing "catholic sister" in Google images will give you these search results. Let's be a bit more creative.

How about: Anita Caspary, Margaret Brennan, Dorothy Stang, Mary Luke Tobin, Joan Chittister?

Chime in here: Who are women religious who should have been named to that list? Post their photos to the Facebook page: Support Our Catholic Sisters

Pages

Friends of NCR 300x80 web ad.jpg

NCR Email Alerts