Justice in the Church
Support US Nuns
Here is a template for a parish petition supporting US nuns

Here is a template for a parish petition supporting US Nuns.

A  petition similar to this one was circulated by the "Women of Magdala" in their California parish. The pastor supported the effort and the petition garnered over 1400 signatures. (Feel free to copy and paste into your word processing document)

For the pastor's October 18 and October 24 bulletin announcements, scroll down below petition.

[List circulation date here]

Addressed to:
Archbishop Pietro Siambi, Msgr. Charles Brown
Bishop Leonard P. Blair
Copies to:
Cardinal Franc Rode, Cardinal Francis George,
[Name of your Bishop], and Mother Mary Clare Millea

We, parishioners of _______Parish in (your City) , (your State), are signing this petition in support and appreciation of U.S. Catholic women religious, including those in our diocese, but all of our sisters throughout the United States.

We sign in recognition of the decades of service that these women have devoted to the education of countless generations of children in Catholic schools and in special educational ministries, to caring for the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the dying, the grieving, the voiceless and the most vulnerable of our citizens.

We sign in gratitude for their decades of untiring work to bring about peace and justice, both locally and globally. We sign in recognition of their selfless dedication of time, talent and treasure to a lifetime of true discipleship living the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the inestimable ways that U.S. Catholic women religious have contributed to the sustenance, strength and vitality of the U.S. Catholic church.

It is our hope that the two investigations of our Sisters by the Vatican will ultimately conclude with a celebration of these remarkable, heroic women, and official recognition of the abundance of gifts and graces they contribute to our lives as well as to the vitality of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.

Print Name:___________________________ Sign:_______________________________

Print Name__________________________ Sign:_______________________________

Print Name___________________________ Sign:_______________________________

Print Name___________________________ Sign:_______________________________

Print Name__________________________ Sign:_______________________________


Archbishop Pietro Sambi 
Apostolic Nunciature
3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW, 
Washington, DC 20008

Msgr. Charles Brown
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 
00101 Vatican City State

Bishop Leonard P. Blair
Committee on Doctrine, USCCB
P.O. Box 985 
Toledo, OH 43697-0985

Franc Cardinal Rode C.M.
Prefect Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
Palazzo della Congregazioni, 00193 Roma, 
Piazza Pio XII, 3

Francis Cardinal George, OMI Archdiocese of Chicago P.O. Box 1979 Chicago, IL 60690-1979

Mother Mary Clare Millea Apostolic Visitaioin PO Box 4328 Hamden, CT 06514-9998 204-287-5467


October 18, 2009  Bulletin Announcement

Dear Parishioners, 


              “American Catholic Nuns” - What comes to your memory or imagination when you hear the phrase  “American Catholic nuns”?  If you’ve been paying close attention here at Christ the King, Sr. Maureen Viani, intrepid Yankee fan and awesome Religious Ed Director  comes to mind along with Sr. Joanne Gallagher effective pastoral associate, compassionate grief minister and absolute magician with volunteers.  If you’re of an older  generation, like your pastor, it may be Ingrid Bergman (“Bells of St. Mary’s) and Audrey Hepburn (“The Nun’s Story”) that you recall.  Now if you haven’t been paying  attention at all, it could be heavily habited figures, always traveling in twos and mostly teaching children in school rooms; but this would be sadly out of date and  inadequate to any generation. 

           A more faithful picture of “American Catholic nuns” would have to include pioneer sisters who made their way across dangerous  and lonely seas from Europe, who also headed West in covered wagons to serve the needs of poor and marginalized of their era; it would include nurses who  staffed army camps and navy medical ships during the Civil War and who won the heart of San Franciscans during the ’06 Quake and Fire; there would be those who  established and directed this country’s largest private school system, some of its largest health care corporations and presided over Catholic colleges when  “men only” was the standard for all other public and private universities.  It would include the post-war explosion of vocations in numbers never approached  before or since in the history of religious life.  It would count over 350 communities that responded faithfully to the Vatican II directives to update constitutions and  conduct to return to the values of their founders and to develop ways to apply those values to current times.  It would include the generous response to the Vatican call  that each community share 10% of it members to serve the poor of Latin America. 


              In the past four decades the number of women  religious in the U.S. has declined 66% from a record high of 180,000 to 59,000, with 90% now over the age of 60, with a median age over 70 and only a few hundred  in their 30’s.  These sisters are still doing considerable     witness to Catholic life and values and are unafraid to discuss or listen to issues about which much of the Church leadership remains silent.  While traditional  habits and convent life are less common, these sisters recently raised seven million dollars to support the work of their colleagues in the aftermath of Katrina; in the last  20 years at least nine of these sisters suffered violent deaths for peace and justice abroad.  In an age of declining mass attendance, closure of parishes, clergy  sex abuse and episcopal coverups, without claiming perfection, “the American Catholic nuns” today and yesterday certainly give us something to be thankful for  and to be proud about.

              Now you may find this difficult to believe, especially given a Church with enough public scandals  to deal with, but the Vatican has recently decided to launch two separate investigations into the lives and conduct of these women who continue to make us look  good!  The first is called an “Apostolic Visitation” to “assess the quality of religious life” of the 59,000 women in religious communities in the U.S.  The second  investigation is underway to look specifically at the L.C.W.R. (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) an association of the leadership of 95% of the religious  communities in the U.S. “to assist them to collaborate on behalf of the Gospel”.  While the first assessment about the “quality of religious life” asks questions like “are  daily Eucharist celebrations according to approved liturgical norms”, and how does your community “deal with sisters who dissent publicly from authoritative  teaching”, the second investigation of the LCWR calls for a “doctrinal assessment” concerning views on homosexuality, ordination of women and Jesus as the  unique and only way to salvation”.

               All very strange!  Next week I’ll try to explore the why (motivation), the way (process) and the how  much (funding) of these studies.          

Your Pastor,

October 24, 2009  Bulletin Announcement

Dear Parishioners,

American Catholic Nuns (II) – Last weekend I promised an update on the process (the what), motivation (the why) and funding (the how much) of the two Vatican sponsored “investigations” of our American nuns which are currently underway. 

Process (the what) – Described as a visitation “to evaluate the quality of life” of active (as opposed to cloistered) women religious in the U.S., this first evaluation consists of four phases. 

Phase One: An “Apostolic Visitator”, Mother Mary Clare Millea, an American nun who lives in Rome and is Superior General of her own Order, has contacted 127 of the Superiors of Women’s Orders either one on one, or by phone either here or in Rome. Discussions to surface hopes and concerns have run about 50 minutes and have been open and friendly.  Included in each conversation has been a request for volunteer sisters to serve on teams for upcoming onsite visitations.  Acceptance of this invitation requires the taking of an oath of fidelity and a further oath of complete secrecy. 

Phase Two: A thirty-six page questionnaire has been sent to all local superiors to be filled out and returned by mid-November.  The questionnaire asks for statistical data, essay-style responses to any hopes and concerns and submission of the Orders’ Constitution, a list of property owned and the most recent financial audit. 

Interesting questions include: What are the procedures for dealing with civil disobedience and criminal activity?  What is the process for responding to sisters who publically dissent from Church teaching, discipline or Congregational decisions? What recent initiatives have you made to attract new members?  Do your sisters participate in the Eucharist according to approved liturgical norms?  Do sisters offer reflections in place of homilies by priest or deacon?  How does your manner of dress bear witness to your consecration?

Phase Three: A number of communities will be selected for on-site visits, apparently based on their answers to the questionnaire, the interview with Superiors, or anecdotal information received from Bishops or other interested parties. 

Phase Four: Mother Mary Clare Millea will compile a report of the “Apostolic Visitation” and submit it to Rome by mid 2011.  It will be confidential and its contents and conclusions will not be shared with any of the communities under discussion, nor with their leadership teams nor Major Superiors.

The second “investigation”, a doctrinal assessment directed at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is either more straight forward or more vague.  A summer letter from the Vatican raised questions around the issues of ordination of women, homosexuality, and that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  The Leadership Conference has had one meeting with the appointed “investigators” (Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo and Msgr. Charles Brown from the Vatican).  They plan to meet in the fall with a response to the concerns expressed.

Motivation (the why) – The announced motivation seems innocent and straightforward.  According to Mother Millea, “it is an opportunity for us to reevaluate ourselves, to make our reality known and also to be challenged to live authentically who we say we are” Others point out this is the first time ever that all the congregations of an entire nation have been “investigated”; Church historians say an “apostolic visitation” is usually ordered when a particular community has gone seriously astray, like the visitation of American seminaries in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal and the current investigation of the “Legionnaires of Christ”.  Still others complain that the reason and the process more clearly resembles a grand jury indictment where there is reasonable suspicion of serious wrong doing coupled with secret proceedings.  Right or wrong, the suspicion remains that all this is a smoke screen to get sisters back in the habit, back in the convent and back in line.

Funding (how much) – Last summer a Vatican letter to the heads of U.S. congregations suggested that those communities selected for on-site visits pay for the costs of visitation teams.  More recently the Vatican projected the cost of the three year study at 1.1 million and asked that U.S. Bishops help offset the expenses.  In a July interview Mother Millea said the U.S. Conference of Bishops would not be funding this effort and “anyone who has contributed has not wanted their name to be publicized”.

Finally, here’s what I would hope for.  First of all, more transparency and less secrecy would be a benefit for all around.  After all, I can’t put a shred of evaluation in an employee’s file without the employee having full access to it. Secondly, I trust the Vatican statements and those of Mother Millea come true and that this proves to support and enhance the life and work of all our sisters.  Thirdly, I hope these two “investigations” become the cause for the Vatican and ourselves to celebrate and give public thanks for the holy and heroic ministry of our sisters.  Lastly, what I do not expect or hope for is a huge increase in religious vocations.  The amazing increase of vocations in the post war Church is unparalleled in all of Church history; the teaching of Vatican II about the sacredness of marriage and the call for lay vocations to ministry is clearly a success.  Then too, the size of Catholic families is no longer as large, at the same time as a broad choice of careers and lay ministry for women has demolished the tradition of “marriage or convent!!”  Just ask the countless women doctors, soldiers, CEO’s, college presidents and politicians.  I think the vocation to religious life remains precious but no longer stands as a solitary choice.

What to do – I have two suggestions: read over the statement of appreciation and support in today’s fold-out and consider signing it at one of the tables hosted by our Women of Magdala; remember on the weekend of December 13 there is the annual Religious Retirement collection which goes primarily to communities of women religious in need of elder care and retirement funds.          

Your Pastor,