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Nun Justice Project Inspires Huge Outpouring

Rita Houlihan FutureChurch board member at NYC vigil for US Nuns. Rita Houlihan FutureChurch board member at NYC vigil for US Nuns.

Beautiful St. Colman parish hosted Cleveland's Support the Sisters Vigil. Over 100 sisters came and another 550 of their closest friends! Beautiful St. Colman parish hosted Cleveland's Support the Sisters Vigil. Over 100 sisters came and another 550 of their closest friends!

From late spring and continuing all summer, hundreds of vigils and prayer services all over the U.S. are giving thousands of Catholics the opportunity to express their great love and respect for women religious. FutureChurch is one of 14 church renewal groups who have joined in coalition to form the Nun Justice Project (nunjustice.org) to support U.S. sisters currently under scrutiny by Vatican officials.

An April 18 statement from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) harshly criticized the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for alleged doctrinal irregularities. The organization was placed under the oversight of three bishops and ordered to revise its statutes, programs, speakers, liturgical practices and justice affiliations. The Leadership Conference represents 80 percent of all sisters in the U.S. On June 1, after a three-day meeting of their National Board, LCWR officials issued a statement saying the Vatican critique was based on unsubstantiated accusations that arose from a "flawed process" and had caused "scandal and pain throughout the church." On June 12, LCWR leadership travelled to Rome hoping for clarification, but the meeting was characterized as a "dialogue of the deaf" by the outgoing prefect of the CDF, Cardinal William Levada. Currently, LCWR is consulting with regional groups and will consider its response at the organization's annual meeting August 7-11. The FutureChurch board has issued two statements in support of LCWR available on our website.

The outpouring of support from ordinary Catholics in cities large and small, attracted extraordinary media attention. From Public Radio's Diane Rehm Show to Comedy Central's The Colbert Report to local TV footage and national Associated Press coverage, Catholics everywhere expressed their dismay at how the Vatican was treating women religious. The Catholic uprising did not go unnoticed in Rome judging from Cardinal Levada's unusual request for an interview by National Catholic Reporter's John Allen just days before Levada's expected retirement.

Aside from support from grassroots Catholics, the international peace movement Pax Christi, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and six individual religious orders of priests and brothers passed resolutions supporting LCWR. At press time, the United States Congress has 176 cosponsors on a resolution honoring Catholic sisters.

The Nun Justice Project website: nunjustice.org names many actions Catholics take to support the sisters, including signing a petition, downloading resources for vigils, prayer services, templates for letters to Vatican officials and making a virtual pledge to direct or redirect a contribution to your favorite local community of sisters.

To date the project has gathered nearly 60,000 petition signatures asking the Vatican to rescind its mandate. These were hand delivered to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Atlanta on June 13. At press time, the nunjustice website records that nearly 1, 000 people have pledged $88,300 to various groups of women religious. Nearly 1,600 downloaded sample letters and resources for local celebrations. FutureChurch created a special prayer service to honor women religious at our annual St. Mary of Magdala celebrations. At press time, over 100 special celebrations honoring the sisters are planned.

FutureChurch's Sr. Chris Schenk will be exhibiting at LCWR August 7-11 as we have done for the past 15 years. Watch nunjustice.org for next steps to support LCWR during that week.

Sister Claudia Bronsing at St. Colman Vigil. Photo by Michael McElroy for the New York Times who covered the event. Sister Claudia Bronsing at St. Colman Vigil.
Photo by Michael McElroy for the New York Times who covered the event.

Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2012

 

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