At the 2015 chapter meeting for the Sisters of St. Louis, which was founded in France, the sisters elected the majority of their leaders from the Global South, including Sr. Winifred Ojo. This congregation is working on the geographical and cultural shift in religious life.
There are about 5,000 Hispanic sisters in the U.S., meeting a growing need. At the same time, the sisters tend to be apart from their communities and can feel disconnected from the wider church. The Association of Hispanic Sisters in the United States, an informal, grassroots network hosting biannual meetings since 2008, has received a grant that will develop its management so as to be able to offer acculturation and ongoing formation services and be a resource to leadership teams in Latin America.
Leaders of some of the congregations of women religious invited to Rome last year for further discussion of the apostolic visitation in the United States told Global Sisters Report they considered their trips constructive and a sign of better relations with Rome.
There is little doubt that religious life will change, though no one knows what that change will bring. One place to look is at the new religious communities being formed — an act made much easier by a directory of those communities released Feb. 1.
An international network of priest associations and reform groups gathered in Chicago last October. I was eager to see if wounds previously felt by the group around women's issues in the church had healed. Would there be any movement in the group's willingness to accept women in more visible liturgical roles? Or would the same fears and concerns resurface?
Sr. Roseline Lenguris is the first woman from the Samburu tribe to become a Catholic sister. When the elders of the Lkichaki village, on the windswept plains of central Kenya, heard that Lenguris wanted to pursue such a vocation, their response was unanimous: "You had rather be dead than to live in this world without bearing children like a dry stick," they told Lenguris, a sentence that still makes her tear up, more than 15 years later. Now, she is welcomed and is a role model for girls in her village.
Overcoming their own fears, 86 Nigerian sisters did what they have not done before: express their dissatisfaction in public. At the gates of the National Assembly and to Police Headquarters, they found support for their message of solidarity with suffering Nigerians.
Simple moments of connection and the support of life in a strong Catholic community during the volunteer experience have proven influential for former volunteers who moved on to pursuing a vocation with a religious order.
Vowed religious life will continue, and, yes, we will be smaller in number and we will "look different." But I do not want to watch the sisters I love age and die one by one while I wait around to see what "looks different" when they are gone. I want to actively create our future.
Global Sisters Report recently held a discussion with Sr. Pat Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General; Sr. Mary Pellegrino, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and Sr. Joan-Marie Steadman, LCWR executive director, on topics related to the global sisterhood.
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