Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
October 4, 2010
U.S. women religious hurt by visitation
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER
TORONTO - For many religious women in the United States the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitation on American sisters is an open wound, a sore point and something they would rather not talk about.
In January 2009 Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, ordered the visitation of all the apostolic communities of sisters in the United States, excluding contemplative orders.
At that time apostolic visitors gave three goals for the wide-ranging inspection of American nuns. The visitors would look at "the quality of religious life," learn about the ways women religious contribute to the welfare of the Church and society, and look for ways to "strengthen, enhance and support the growth of the institutes."
Sister Donna Markham, the former prioress general of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, will speak about the visitation in Toronto Oct. 15.
Markham said that across the United States women religious feel they haven't been given a straight answer about why the Vatican has singled them out.
"To this very day, two years into this thing, there has still been no clarity of purpose conveyed to the 65,000 religious women of this country - about why this is happening," she said.
The Vatican doesn't usually order visitations unless there's something wrong.
The sisters' suspicions are heightened by the refusal of the Vatican to make public the final report of the visitation, expected in the spring of 2011. Still unanswered is the question of whether the congregation will share the final report with the sisters themselves.
"There's a significant amount of hurt and a feeling of being devalued," said Markham.
Some have speculated that the fall in vocations over the past 40 years prompted the visitation. Fewer than 10 per cent of the women religious in the U.S. are under the age of 60.
"That doesn't hold too much water, because in Europe there are far fewer vocations to religious life than there are in the United States," said Markham.
In the end, the sisters will carry on working, finding ways of being true to the mission of the Church, said Markham.
"The sisters aren't afraid at all," she said. "They feel that the integrity of our lives speaks for itself.
"Our investment in the mission of the Church and the mission of the Gospel is so strong that we have nothing to hide and nothing to worry about."
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