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Celebrating the Prophetic Witness of Women Religious Today

Sr. Marian
Sr. Marian

Sr. Catherine
Sr. Catherine

Sr. Jenny
Sr. Jenny

On July 15th over 150 people gathered at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage for Cleveland FutureChurch’s “Celebrating the Prophetic Witness of Women Religious Today.” The museum hosted the “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” exhibit that gave an in-depth historical overview of women religious pioneers who founded Catholic schools, hospitals and orphanages in the US. It was the perfect venue to celebrate St. Mary of Magdala to learn about and honor the Gospel commitment of women religious today.

“A connection between St. Mary of Magdala and women religious seems to be a natural fit,” said Emily Holtel-Hoag, FutureChurch staff and organizer of the local and national celebrations.  “St. Mary of Magdala is one of the most misunderstood and maligned women of Church history, yet she was one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples. The recent Vatican investigation of US communities of women religious suggests that still today women who seek to proclaim Jesus’ radically inclusive vision can be subject to persecution and misunderstanding.”

Guests viewed the “Women and Spirit” exhibit before the program. Then, three women religious -- Marian Durkin CSA, Jenny Wilson RSM, and Catherine Pinkerton CSJ-- told stories of answering the call to ministry, including what inspires them to continue despite obstacles. Each had wisdom to impart about advancing the roles of women in the Church.

Sr. Marian spoke of her ground breaking ministry to and with persons with AIDS:  “It was then that I came to identify with Mary of Magdala…who had seen the Lord but her brothers did not believe her. In the late 80’s I was privileged to see the Lord in those who the institutional church saw only as disordered. … I saw the Lord in the dying,…in my gay brothers who nursed their brothers until they died, and in the unconditional love of my coworkers.”

Sr. Catherine, who spent twenty-six years as a registered lobbyist for the Catholic social justice lobby, Network, saw many parallels between the call of women religious and St. Mary of Magdala’s  “powerful sense of calling to respond to the Gospel of Jesus.” Pointing  to the women religious pioneers in the exhibit she said, “They have shown us what prophecy is, … and they are a lesson in courage for us as we try to live the Gospel in this fractured church, in our own times.”

Sr. Jenny, who was about to take her first vows, said, “Staying in the Church working for what we believe in is the only way to change it.  It won’t be different when we wake up the next day.  It will be different for others who come after us.  I stand on the shoulders of many women religious, not just the Sisters of Mercy, who embraced Vatican II and who made the life I have today as a Sister of Mercy possible.  All of us here today—sisters and laypeople—have the responsibility to help our church to provide access and participation for everyone.”

During the prayer service, all the women religious were asked to stand so that the community could extend a special blessing.  Each was given a carnation as a sign of appreciation and admiration.

A ten minute video of each sister’s presentation is available on the FutureChurch website, where the “Celebrating the Prophetic Witness of Women Religious Today” prayer service along with other St. Mary of Magdala resources may also be found.

 

Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2010

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