National Catholic Reporter

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Sisters' Stories

Few dioceses admit willingness to pay for visitation

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Just two of 61 U.S. archdioceses and dioceses contacted by NCR said they would dip into local church coffers to support the Vatican's controversial visitation of U.S. women religious congregations.

NCR called and e-mailed every archdiocese in the country, as well as a sampling of 29 dioceses across time zones. Twenty-two archdioceses responded to the inquiry, while only seven dioceses did. Many refused to comment, while others cited the difficult economy as a reason they would not contribute to the three-year visitation process, which the Vatican estimates will cost $1.1 million.

Vatican asks U.S. bishops to fund $1.1 million sisters study

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The projected cost of a three-year study of U.S. women religious congregations is $1.1 million and Rome has asked the U.S. bishops to provide funds to offset these expenses, according to a letter by Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and obtained by NCR.

“We have a projected budget of $1,100,000 for the three years which the total work of the apostolic visitations will require,” Rodé wrote in a July 14 letter. “I am asking you, my brother bishops, for your help in offsetting the expenses which will be incurred by this work for the future of apostolic religious life in the United States.”

Since the Vatican announced the study last December, it has never publicly stated how much it estimates the comprehensive inquiry will cost or who will pay for it. A Vatican document sent to the heads of U.S. women’s congregations last summer suggested that those chosen for on-site visitations defray costs by paying for and hosting visitation teams, “and, if at all possible, transportation costs related to the visit.”

Updated: Questionnaire for women religious

WASHINGTON -- Questions about membership, living arrangements, the ministries in which members participate and spiritual life, including the practice of prayer and the frequency of Mass, are included in a questionnaire sent Sept. 18 to 341 congregations of women religious in the U.S.

Distribution of the questionnaire opens the second phase of a comprehensive study of U.S. institutes of women religious ordered by Cardinal Franc Rode as prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Like water on stone: Asian women's strategies for peace

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HUA HIN, Thailand --An Asian women theologians' conference held recently in Thailand explored how women, through purposeful and sustained action, can bring about peace in situations of conflict.

Twenty-eight women theologians from 11 Asian countries and two collaborators from the West gathered in Hua Hin, Thailand, Aug. 26-30 to discuss "Practicing Peace: Toward an Asian Feminist Theology of Liberation."

Archbishop explains why he barred nun-catechist

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The decision by the archbishop of Cincinnati to bar Sister of Charity Louise Akers from teaching catechetics on behalf of the archdiocese because of her public support of women's ordination in the Catholic church has "garnered international attention" for the archbishop and the sister, according to a report by The Catholic Telegraph, the official organ of the archdiocese.

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Update Sept. 15: Volunteer catechist ousted after voicing support for Sr. Akers.
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“Questions have been raised about the role of a diocesan bishop and the teaching of catechetics in his diocese,” Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk told The Catholic Telegraph Sept. 3. “It is a bishop’s responsibility to provide authentic and orthodox Catholic teaching in his diocese. Persons who are not in accord with the teaching of the church should not expect to be allowed to teach catechetical leaders or others in the name of the church.”

Episcopal nuns, priest join Catholic church

BALTIMORE -- After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal sisters and their chaplain were to be received into the Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien.

The archbishop was to welcome 10 sisters from the Society of All Saints' Sisters of the Poor when he administers the sacrament of confirmation and the sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the chapel of their convent in suburban Catonsville, Md.

The Rev. Warren Tanghe, an Episcopal priest, also was to be received into the church and is discerning the possibility of becoming a Catholic priest.

LCWR seeks full disclosure of Vatican visitation

Leaders representing 59,000 women religious are questioning what they say is a lack of full disclosure about what is motivating the Vatican's apostolic visitation that will study the contemporary practices of U.S. women's religious orders.

In an Aug. 17 press statement, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious also said the leaders "object to the fact that their orders will not be permitted to see the investigative reports about them" when they are submitted in 2011 to the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and its prefect, Cardinal Franc Rode.

Why they stay(ed)

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Essay

Two sets of questions concerning U.S. women religious are roiling the waters in and outside the church today: 1) Why are religious disturbed about the apostolic visitation? 2) What is the real motivation for this investigation?

Why are religious disturbed about the visitation?

Some laity, and even some (mostly more conservative) religious, wonder why religious would be upset at the invitation of Vatican officials to a discussion of their life with a view to encouraging and supporting the quality of religious life today. After all, no life is perfect and sometimes helpful outsiders can see things insiders miss.

Many religious (members and leaders) as well as Catholic laity and some priests and bishops are disturbed by the Apostolic Visitation currently being conducted for two reasons: the fact of the investigation; the mode of the investigation.

Cokie Roberts tells sisters: Be proud

NEW ORLEANS

Facing an apostolic visitation by the Vatican, women religious in the U.S. should point proudly to their history of service in schools, hospitals and other ministries as signs of their vibrant "quality of life," broadcaster Cokie Roberts said Aug. 12.

The news analyst for National Public Radio and political commentator for ABC News was a keynote speaker during the Aug. 11-14 gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in New Orleans.

"Point to your works," said Roberts, who was educated in elementary school and high school by the Religious of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans and Washington. She is the daughter of Lindy Boggs, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

During LCWR's four-day meeting, representatives of religious communities discussed the Vatican's upcoming apostolic visitation and a separate "doctrinal assessment" of the LCWR authorized by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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August 15-28, 2014

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