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.
The Victory Noll sisters recently sold their Indiana campus to a nursing home company. Sr. Janice Bader, superior of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O'Fallon, Missouri, and the former director of the National Religious Retirement Office, said communities of women religious partnering with nursing homes has become common: As congregations age and numbers drop, many have worked to find ways to provide care for their elderly sisters either at the convent or another facility.
Driving through the streets of Albuquerque on the way to a memorial service for Sr. Paula Gonzalez, I felt strongly the presence of the many pioneer Sisters of Charity who ministered there since the days of the Wild West. The intrepid Sr. Blandina Segale, now Servant of God in the process of canonization, arranged for the establishment of the school in the plaza of Old Town, and the convent there still bears her name.
Residential invasions like Una Sola Fuerza are not recognized by their respective governments. As a consequence, Una Sola Fuerza lacks basic municipal services.
A survey released November 10 by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious found a continued trend in young women choosing religious life, with more than 900 sisters currently in initial formation. "Religious life is alive and well in the United States," said Sister of Life Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, chair of CMSWR.