26 SEPT, 2012. The California Region Leadership Team attended the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) National Assembly last month in St Louis, Missouri, along with 900 representatives of other religious congregations. We are at a turning point in the history of religious life in the United States. The 2009 Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has caused us to pause and reflect on who we are and what God is asking of us at this moment. Our keynote speaker, Barbara Marx Hubbard, indicated that we are at a tipping point – a chaos point which leads to either breakdown or breakthrough to new modes of being.
To give some background to this, the Apostolic Visitation by the CDF took place in December 2008. In March 2009, a Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR was announced. The LCWR responded to the Assessment questions in October 2009. They also met with Bishop Blair during this period, and thought all was resolved. However, the unexpected arrival of the Mandate on April 18, 2012 appointing Bishop Sartain to oversee reorganization of the LCWR was a great surprise. The LCWR went into six weeks of silence and contemplation.
The LCWR Presidency met with Bishop Levada on June 12, 2012 in Rome. They felt the conversation was open, however the Bishop’s interview with National Catholic Reporter John Allen immediately following the meeting was less than encouraging (read the interview on John Allen’s blog here.)
There is a huge groundswell of support for the Sisters from the laity. They recognize in the Sisters a deep sense of Gospel living, faithfulness to seeking out and responding to unmet needs, solidarity with the earth, community building, risk-taking for mission, the practice of dialogue and discernment, the ability to speak truth to power, and commitment to deep contemplative listening.
The mandate from the Vatican is an act of grace. We have a choice. Our choice for the future must be inspired by Christ – creative, loving, gentle, healing – not revolutionary, violent or destructive. Our role is to make whole - just as Louis Bautain sought “one world, healed, unified and transformed,” we seek possibilities of greater love, wholeness, creativity and hope. We seek a breakthrough rather than a breakdown.
Our charism of unity and truth is a gift to the Church and the world, a gift perhaps needed more now than ever before. We are called to be spiritual mentors in a world starving for spirituality, to witness to the possibility of living out of a collaborative model of decision-making done through communal discernment and dialogue. We are called to the deep listening that emanates from centeredness on God’s voice within, to speaking the truth in peace and gentleness. We respond to the challenge before us out of faithfulness to God, a contemplative stance consistent with our mission, communal discernment and open, honest and respectful dialogue, maintaining our focus on the desire of Jesus Christ – That all may be one.