Thousands of Catholics in the United States rallied to support the Leadership Conference of Women Religious when it came under scrutiny from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2009 to 2015. In 2012, the doctrinal congregation required reforms that challenged the organization whose members are leaders of about 80 percent of the women religious congregations in the country and held wider implications for the laity and the role of women within the church.
In a newly released book, former presidents of LCWR, members of the organization's executive staff and members of a lay support group share their experiences and insights from this critical moment in their history.
However Long the Night: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis tells how the sisters navigated the organization through the doctrinal assessment to an amicable resolution with the Vatican in April 2015. The 10 essays detail approaches and practices used, such as communal discernment, relationship-building, a commitment to nonviolence, lessons in humility, governance methods adopted by congregations after the Second Vatican Council, and a lot of prayer.
The final chapter, written by three members of Solidarity with Sisters, a group formed by members of the laity to support sisters in 2012, conveys what they learned from the sisters in moving from a reaction "immersed in our confrontational culture" to "discovering another way of being."
This is not a "tell-all," but rather a "product of reflection over time," write St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock, LCWR executive director from 2011 to 2014, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders, communications director.
The genesis of the book was a desire to "provide spiritual grounding, useful information and perhaps some inspiration and hope" to those working through conflict, confrontation or impasse in personal, professional or organizational settings, Mock and Sanders write. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and dialogue. A step-by-step guide for a 90-minute communal discernment is included as an appendix.