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LCWR: 'Ongoing conversation with church leadership is key'

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Leaders of the largest organization representing women religious in the United States issued a statement Monday that they will continue the dialogue with church officials demanding reform, but they will also protect the integrity of their group.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is made up of leaders from religious communities across the nation and represents about 80 percent of the women religious in the U.S. The group held its annual four-day assembly in Nashville, Tenn., last week, where much of the conversation was about the ongoing doctrinal assessment and demands for reform by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Following the assembly, which ended Friday, the LCWR national board held a three-day meeting and on Monday afternoon issued a statement on its work with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to implement the mandated reforms. The doctrinal congregation appointed Sartain to oversee the reform efforts.

"Our study, discernment, and prayer led us to reaffirm our strong belief that ongoing conversation with church leadership is key to building effective working relationships that enable both women religious and church leaders to serve the world," the board said in the statement. "It is our deepest hope to resolve the situation between LCWR and CDF in a way that fully honors our commitment to fulfill the LCWR mission as well as protect the integrity of the organization."

The statement does not say whether LCWR will consent to the Vatican's mandate that Sartain approve future speakers for the group. The doctrinal congregation was especially angered by LCWR's choice of St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson to receive its Outstanding Leadership Award on Friday.

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"We will continue in the conversation with Archbishop Sartain as an expression of hope that new ways may be created within the church for healthy discussion of differences," the statement continued. "We know that thousands of persons throughout the country and around the world long for places where they can raise questions and explore ideas on matters of faith in an atmosphere of freedom and respect. We believe that the ongoing conversations between CDF and LCWR may model a way of relating that only deepens and strengthens our capacity to serve a world in desperate need of our care and service."

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter. His email address is dstockman@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DanStockman.]

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