As someone who herself took part in the remaking of religious life, the way forward in revitalizing it must be consistent with Church doctrine, Sister Sara said.
“Those of us who freely choose to remain, and who embrace the obligation to live the religious life as the Holy See defines it, long for the rebirth of relationships in which our place in the Church is clear and unambiguous, and in which we can ask of one another the witness of holiness -- the radical following of Jesus, poor, chaste and obedient -- according to the nature, purpose and spirit of our own beloved institutes.”
Speaking from one of the floor microphones for the question and answer period after Sister Sara’s talk, Sister Mary Elena Rizzo, OP, a Dominican Sister from New York City, said she did not have a question, but she wanted to thank Sister Sara for exposing the problems in religious life. “I am from the silent majority that can be silent no more.”
Other speakers at the conference included: Father Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ; Sister Gill Goulding, CJ; Father Hugh Cleary, CSC; Sister Elizabeth McDonough, OP; Father Kurt Pritzl, OP; and journalist Ann Carey, who covers issues in religious life for Our Sunday Visitor, a co-sponsor of the event.
There were two panel discussions. The morning session’s discussion, “Apostolic Religious Life in the Post-Vatican II Church: Sources of Renewal,” was introduced by Father Thomas Looney, CSC, of Stonehill. The afternoon session, “Apostolic Religious Life in the Post-Vatican II Church: Ongoing Challenges of Renewal,” was introduced by Sister Marian Batho, CJC, the archdiocese’s delegate to religious.
Sister Marian said after her discussion she was pleasantly surprised by the strong turnout and the openness of the discussions. “I really sense that here in the archdiocese we are experiencing a period of renewal under Cardinal Seán’s leadership. This event is very timely.”
The frankness of the discussions was necessary for the free flow of ideas and concerns, said Sister Jeanne Gribaudo, CSJ, who works at Stonehill as both an instructor and in the president’s office. “We need to establish what it means to live a publicly avowed consecrated life and this symposium is a way to do that.”
“I just think it is wonderful to bring everyone together,” said Sister Anne McDermott, CSJ, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Springfield.
“Oh, my goodness this is awesome,” said Sister Joseph Marie Cruz, LSP, from the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Somerville. “It was really courageous of the speakers who have gotten up there to recognize that they have fallen away from their commitment to really voice their opinions, and now to speak in front of everyone.”
Despite the difficult topics, the atmosphere was positive, she said. “There’s this sincerity within the atmosphere here.”
The Little Sisters are very grateful to their superiors, who have kept them in the right mind, she said. “We continue to live faithfully following the charism of Blessed Jeanne Jugan.”
At the end of the symposium, Cardinal Rode said it is difficult for him to say now what he will report to the Holy Father.
“I think we are all in research. We are all in research, but we all want something better for religious life,” he said.
There are hundreds of new religious communities forming, even in the United States, which shows the power of the Holy Spirit working in the Church, the prefect said.
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