Lay-led organizations offer working models at every level from international to parish. The most illuminating model I've seen is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its congregations – all lay women like me. Very quietly, with no spotlights, they've been evolving innovative ways to be a community of communities since the 1960s.
Beyond originally requesting the creation of the women deacons commission, the International Union of Superiors General has pressed for greater involvement of women religious in synods of bishops and in the workings of the Vatican office that oversees the world's religious orders. Claretian Missionary Sr. Jolanda Kafka, UISG's new president, said she believed that such advocacy for women's leadership had now become obligatory for her organization, which represents some 450,000 sisters and nuns worldwide.
The "seasoned mapmakers" that make up the 14 congregations of the Sisters of Charity Federation came together for its first assembly ever held. The energy was palpable at the event, as attendees from 29 countries celebrated a unity of purpose.
The June 12-16 forum by the Given Institute brought together diverse people with the common goal of empowering young women to invest their talents in leading initiatives in the Catholic Church. The participants, ranging from ages 21 to 30, developed individual mission plans as they worked together with a group of 25 laywomen mentors and 50 religious sisters.
It's clear that communion between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious is crucial for the future of religious life in the U.S. — and young sisters think they just might the generation called to bring that to fruition.
We are called to be sowers of seeds and to remember the power of small, sown seeds. Several weeks after the UISG assembly in Rome, I carry with me strong images from our gathering, of events that exemplify small actions that begin to change landscapes of impossible situations.
In the Bay Area, four millennials in their early 30s became the first of the Nuns and Nones group to try out a residency program, temporarily living in a convent to witness and share in a spiritually grounded community life. At the Mercy Center, "a place where you couldn't escape spiritual wisdom," sisters and seekers learned from each other.
I have no doubt that the many forms of membership in our congregations will (and do) play a monumental part in the lives of religious congregations into the future. Yet, for all the hope these forms present, the cultivation and preservation of vowed membership must not be lost.
A Good Death, Part 1 - When it comes to death and dying, sisters bring eternal hope, humor and a well-organized file folder ... just in case. Interviews with sisters in a variety of communities suggest that many bring a bracingly practical, even matter-of-fact approach to preparing for the inevitable.
A new book published by CARA looks at the experiences of women religious who come to the United States to work. The book included results from a survey of nearly 1,000 immigrant sisters.
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