Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 2004
Sister calls for social activism
Religious urged to become involved in human rights issues
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Even though the number of women religious in Canada is on the decline, Sister Madeleine Cloutier, a member of the Sisters of Holy Cross, hopes to see increased involvement in social justice issues.
Speaking to some 60 religious during the Council of Women Religious annual Assembly May 1 in the Pastoral Centre, Cloutier, representing the newly formed Western Canadian region of the Canadian Religious Conference, says she is motivated by the dynamic core of sisters that remains to serve.
"The CRC was restructured in 2002 to affirm its goal to address social justice concerns and peace," Cloutier said. "When the association began in 1954, there were some 52,000 religious in Canada.
"In January 2002 we were only 26,000 with only 2,200 in Western and Northern Canada. We are about 23,000 now."
There are three services in the CRC: formation and mission, communication, and justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
Cloutier is the first and as yet sole CRC field worker in Western Canada, which comprises B.C. to Manitoba as well as the northern territories.
"But we are breaking ground. We are trying to create the role of the CRC field worker in the West. Part of my job is to identify major social issues in the West.
"Today, I want each of you to take five minutes and ask yourself 'What are the issues?'"
Racism, the mad cow disease, avain flu, drought, homelessness and the lack of respect for life (abortion) were suggestions quickly offered. Minimum wage, trafficking of women and children, the high price of drugs and elderly abuse soon followed.
"In only a few minutes, we identified a number of problems in our own province," Cloutier continued. "In general, the religious, at this time in their lives, many of them are involved in work of mercy to change the system. We certainly cannot do it alone. We cannot just be Roman Catholics. I encourage you to work with, for example, Development and Peace and Kairos, a new ecumenical organization."
Cloutier singled out the Israeli-Palestine situation, the war in Iraq, NAFTA, the Kyoto agreement and befriending the earth as global issues which concern the CRC.
In her role, Cloutier has found networking with e-mail a valuable method to connect with the religious in her region and discuss the issues.
Change the system
"We are very good at the work of mercy but at this time, we are less involved in trying to change the system. In time, the sisters will be involved in some of the movements that are going to happen," Cloutier said.
"For example, we are considering becoming more involved in the health care issue. I'm surprised there isn't more reaction to what the premier is doing. I have lived in other provinces and they wouldn't accept what is being done.
"And with Kairos, we want to get aboriginals really involved because Kairos is part of them," she said.
Sister Madeleine Cloutier can be reached at (780) 461-0488 in Edmonton.