Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 28, 2009
Sisters Council born out of spirit of Vatican II
Council of Women Religious marks 35 years of faith and good works
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil
"They were certainly very important to the schools, hospitals and in so many ways. Was there a way of allowing sisters to do what the priests were able to do and what the laypeople were able to do - to participate directly in the governing of the diocese?"
Therefore, he approved the formation of the Sisters' Council in 1974. Whether a Discalced Carmelite nun or a Daughter of Wisdom, women from all religious orders met together.
In an era when women were beginning to claim their rightful place in the world, the council was to give women religious a more prominent voice in the Church. They influenced policy and played a more significant role in archdiocesan decision-making.
The organization of sisters had its name changed to Council of Women Religious, and, most recently, in 2008, to the Council of Consecrated Women.
Notre Dame Sister Frances MacDougall chaired a panel consisting of MacNeil and past and present members of the council. Right from the start, a prime intention of the council was to discuss issues of shared concern of the various religious orders, said Grey Nun Sister Germaine Hetu. "The sisters of the various communities working within the diocese should meet together to increase trust, mutual exchange of help, in-depth study of problems and regional communication of experiences."
In his Letter to Women, released in 1995, Pope John Paul II publicly apologized to all women for the many ways they have been treated as second-class citizens by both secular society and the Church. The next year, in his apostolic exhortation, The Consecrated Life, the pope admitted that women must be given positions of authority and decision-making in the Church.
While the issues that needed addressing 25 or 35 years ago are not all as topical today, there is no shortage of work for the present-day council.
Sister Louise Zdunich, with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross, advocates for more Edmonton Catholic schools to be named after sisters. In Calgary, there are three; in Edmonton, only two.
Zdunich said with the declining numbers and advancing ages of sisters in the archdiocese, it is time to focus on communication among the religious congregations - "on working together and supporting one another as truly sisters in Christ, regardless of what congregation you belong to."
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