Recent credible sexual abuse allegations in India and East Timor have underscored the fears of many in the church that clerical sex abuse is rife in South, Southeast and North Asia, which have a collective population of at least 120 million Catholics.
Emily Kahm is finishing up a fellowship at Augustana College, where she teaches a course in American Catholicism that is centered around the work of women religious. She sends her students out to interview a sister, an assignment that's generated surprising encounters.
When 200 girls from local Catholic high schools arrive at Philadelphia's St. John Neumann Center on Feb. 12, they'll be participating in an event that's a tiny bit of history in the making: a one-day seminar marking the first time the (mostly black) Oblate Sisters of Providence and the (mostly white) Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will collaborate on a vocations project.
While sisters praised Pope Francis' recent acknowledgment of the issue, they called for follow-through by establishing protocols for reporting the physical and sexual abuse of sisters and changing the underlying clerical and power structures.
In Part 2 of this series, Global Sisters Report explores the parallels between the unlikely community of women religious and millennial "nones" and their potential for a meaningful collaboration. While the decline in numbers at institutional congregations may be a discouraging trend to some, the union of these two groups may answer who could inherit the charisms that animate religious life today.
When you head to Mass this Sunday, chances are you will hear the intention "an increase in vocations to the religious life" lifted up before the gifts are presented. A recent survey suggests those prayers might be getting answered.
About a third of people ages 23-38 are "nones," people without a particular religious affiliation. Meanwhile, women religious in the U.S. are experiencing a shift toward most members being older, handing off ministries, reconciling property. Amid this change in consecrated life, what drives the "nones" reminds sisters of their younger selves — a passion for social justice, desire for authentic community, hunger for contemplative practice, and a willingness to devote their lives to a greater purpose. And they are meeting, in person, online and in community, to learn from and inspire each other.
Sr. Maria Cimperman came to Catholic Theological Union in the fall of 2012 and was a visiting associate professor for the next two years. A sister with the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she was named director of the newly formed Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago in the fall of 2014.
The Life – Sister panelists and their congregations are battling against what one sister calls the "scourge of trafficking." Their tactics focus on prevention and awareness as well as rehabilitation of survivors. They are educating governments and even the United Nations about this worldwide form of modern slavery.
At age 65, and as one of the "younger" members of an aging and shrinking congregation of women religious in the United States, I have found myself called and gifted to be part of emerging programs in leadership development for young sister leaders in China and East Africa. These experiences are part of my work at DePaul University in Chicago as director of Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project based on the leadership legacy of St. Vincent de Paul.
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