The Vatican seems to be nearing the end of an investigation of communities of sisters in the United States who engage in apostolic work. Whether we learn the results of that investigation remains to be seen.
The investigation has been shrouded in secrecy. Ostensibly it is an investigation into the quality of sisters’ lives, but it has had a disturbing aggressive quality.
However, it has also had unintended consequences. One seems to be a stirring of feelings of love and loyalty of many of the faithful to communities of women religious. That doesn’t surprise me. What has surprised me in my own community, the Sisters of Loretto, has been our positive engagement in the process.
More than 80 sisters chose to be interviewed and more wrote letters to the visitators last November. We wrote up what we wanted to say. We practiced. We talked together about our visions of religious life, the strengths we see in Loretto, and any external threats we experience. (Many sisters named the Vatican investigation as an external threat.)
Some interviewees traveled to our Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Kentucky for the interviews. (Others used Skype.)
Loretto is always a welcoming place and everyone determined to be especially welcoming to the four sister envoys of the Vatican. They liked these four women and it was often hard to remember that the sister visitators had a potentially ominous task.
But far more important than the threat of disapprobation or even the hospitality offered to these envoys was the vigorous engagement that went on among the community. The rest of us watched the opening prayer and welcome on Web-ex and listened eagerly to daily reports. We all answered the visitators’ ten questions, at least in our hearts.
During Lent some of the statements we made to the visitators are being posted as “a thought for the day” on our Web site. They represent our varied experiences and the variety of meaning we make of our lives.
We knew we were diverse; we may not have known how dear we are to one another and how much we trust together in the future.
Here are the questions the visiting team asked of our community:
- What is your vocation story?
- What is your ministry?
- How long have you been a member of your congregations?
- Identify three strengths you see in your congregation.
- Do you have any concerns for your Congregation?
- What is your personal vision of religious life?
- What do you see as the future of your congregation?
- Name three priorities women religious should have toward planning for the future.
- Name three issues that might threaten your congregation.
- How can pastors or bishops assist Loretto?
- Do you have any questions?