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Sisters' Stories

Writing from a company of word-loving women


Throughout her life, Mary Pierce Brosmer’s voice has been silenced: by her blue-collar family and the 1950s Catholic church, in the schools she attended and the schools where she taught. Once, at a public poet’s workshop, she read one of her pieces about childbirth fears. “So what?” was one participant’s response. “I don’t care for mother poems,” added another.

Lesser women would have given up. But not Brosmer.

Twice in high school she was accused of plagiarism by teachers who insisted the excellent essays she turned in couldn’t have been written by her. Discouraged but not defeated, she went on to become a high school teacher herself, but her against-the-grain methods drew suspicions from administrators who went so far as to ban her chosen textbook.

Frustrated with teaching the traditional male canon of literature, she realized she had become “a female impersonator and ... a ventriloquist’s dummy, having men’s words about women put in my mouth that I in turn mouthed to my students.”

Abp. Williams laments 'chaos' over women, gays


LONDON -- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams warned Anglican clergy Tuesday (Feb. 9) that their debate about female and gay bishops is causing “chaos” that must be resolved if the Church of England is to be unified.

In a key address in London, Williams pleaded with the General Synod -- the church's parliament -- to start listening to each other and stop pursuing a “zero-sum, self-congratulating” course.

Brother Fitzpatrick's Jan. 28 letter to Cardinal Rode


Brother Fitzpatrick's Jam. 28 letter to Cardinal Franc Rode:

January 28, 2010

Franc Cardinal Rode, CM
Prefect of the congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of
Apostolic Life
Piazza Pio XII, 3
00193 ROMA,

Dear Cardinal Rode:

I write to you again about your “apostolic visitation” of the women religious in the United States.

It is now public news that many US women religious have not complied with Phase II of your visitation, and that you have asked them to rethink their positions, return to your questionnaires and complete them as you desired.

It is clear, I think, that the apostolic religious sisters of the U.S. have treated your imposition of an apostolic visitation most seriously. They have taken the whole matter to prayer from the very beginning a year ago. They have sought the advice of theologians and canonists. They have consulted knowledgeable persons experienced in religious life and known for their prudence and wisdom. And they have come to their decisions according to their own charisms and concluded that they cannot in good conscience do as you request.

Brother Fitzpatrick's Nov. 16, 2009 letter to Cardinal Rode


Xavier Brother Peter Fitzpatrick's Nov. 16, 2009 letter to Cardinal Franc Rode:

Franc Cardinal Rode, CM
Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life
Piazza Pio XII, 3
00193 Roma,

Dear Cardinal Rode:

My topic is your “apostolic visitation” of the women religious in the United States. I ask you please to bear with me and to listen to what I have to say.

RodÈ: Religious orders are in modern 'crisis'

VATICAN CITY -- A top Vatican official said religious orders today are in a "crisis" caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices.

Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said the problems go deeper than the drastic drop in the numbers of religious men and women.

"The crisis experienced by certain religious communities, especially in Western Europe and North America, reflects the more profound crisis of European and American society. All this has dried up the sources that for centuries have nourished consecrated and missionary life in the church," Rodé said in a talk delivered Feb. 3 in Naples, Italy.

"The secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world," he said.

One system for all


Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 10 of 12

Julie Castro is a young doctor from France, a country that offers quality health care for all. All legal residents have access to coverage, and immigrants gain the right to access after three months (though spiraling xenophobia has created restrictions in practice). Those served by the medical system -- including the very poor and the gravely or chronically ill -- are likely to receive better care in France than anywhere in the world. Moreover, the sicker you are, the less you pay. Dire illnesses like tuberculosis or cancer, chronic conditions like diabetes, and major operations like open-heart surgery are covered by the state at 100 percent. France’s commitment is premised on the philosophy that the government has an obligation to the welfare of its people.

Mother Millea urges U.S. religious to comply with study


Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and charged by the Vatican with directing a three-year study of U.S. women religious congregations, has sent letters to religious leaders asking once again for their full cooperation in filling out questionnaires, which are part of the process.

The questionnaires, sent last year to the heads of some 325 religious communities, were to have been returned by Nov. 20. A substantial number of the religious communities -- some women religious leaders saying the "vast majority" of the communities -- refused to comply with an initial Millea request to fill out all the questions on the questionnaire and instead filled out only some or none. A number of religious communities chose, instead, to return to Millea their order's Vatican approved constitutions.

This land is my teacher


Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 9 of 12

Nayeli Guzman is a 22-year-old Zapateco woman from Mexico who went to New Mexico to be part of the effort to restore traditional agriculture. Throughout the United States, Native, Chicano, and other peoples are rejecting industrialized food to grow their own instead, thereby reclaiming the health of their traditions, culture, bodies and land. They are sharing ancient seeds and techniques with others, Native and non-Native, while sharing the harvests with the community. And they are contributing to what may be the single largest movement in the United States: creating a sustainable food supply chain. Here Nayeli talks of one such program, at the Tesuque Indian Pueblo, where she and other farmers are using long-abandoned farmland to grow long-abandoned crops.

We have everything we need: Reclaiming control of education


Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope. Part 8 of 12

Shilpa Jain is a 'learning activist' with Shikshantar, one of many initiatives around the world that are reclaiming culture, identity and language from often stultifying colonial-legacy education. Shilpa is part of a movement to generate new ways to educate children, youth, and adults, and to share knowledge that reflects community wisdom and values. What's at stake is nothing less than who controls information and culture, and what values are propagated in society.

Bishop: 'Schneiders' analysis inspiring, challenging'


As a religious, who happens to be called to ministry and service as a bishop in the church and world, I have reflected with attention on the five articles of Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Sandra Schneiders, my sister in religious life. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for her courageous, faith-filled and insightful analysis and reflection upon crucial issues which are at the heart of the prophetic call and mission of religious in the church and world of today.

She raises difficult questions and shares her viewpoint with what I believe is integrity and honesty, and whether one agrees with her or not, the essential invitation in what she has written is to reflect prayerfully and in a discerning spirit upon what God may be saying to each of us who reads her reflections.

Even if we disagree with her, we still need to ask with honesty: what value, what gospel value, is she trying to express in what she writes? Even if one has a different opinion to hers, one can try to understand her articulation of what she believes is in accord with the gospel of Jesus. Perhaps I can then grow in my own calling – and that, in the end, is what really matters.



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