- Photo by Nancy Schoeggl
The flower march on Sunday, August 12, 2012 was an amazing experience for all of us. There was so much visual and emotional input–so much heart–that it’s going to take awhile to unpack it all. We counted more than 1,600 walking, chanting, committed people who took to the streets of Seattle to support American women religious. Even more met us at the Cathedral. The message that seemed to be sent was “Hey, you mess with the sisters, you mess with us!” They represent the best of what Catholicism has to offer. We stood with them and we will continue to stand with them as this dialogue with the bishops unfolds.
Press coverage was widespread and generous. Here’s a link to Joel Connelly’s article in the PI that went up immediately afterward. All three of the local news stations covered the march on the 5:00 PM news. Here’s another article from Seattle Times journalist Sandi Doughten.
- Sisters respond to the love from the crowd.
Photo by Nancy Schoeggl
What was so heart-warming was the sustained ovation that the throng gave the 20 sisters who were present with us. It seemed to go on and on. The cheer from the crowd “We love you!” was echoed back by the sisters who said “We love YOU! We are ONE!”
All along the march route people came out of their homes and cafes to watch, adding their shouts and applause to the event. One couple, seated on their front steps, held a sign that said “Jews 4 nuns!” Also in the ecumenical spirit, a Presbyterian couple came over from Bainbridge Island just for the march. Other denominations were also represented, such as UCC, Lutherans, and Episcopalians. Situated within the walking crowd itself, one could feel the strength of conviction and higher purpose for what we were about. Love is the most powerful energy known to all of us. It was palpable everywhere. God loves the sisters. And so do we!
Hundreds of bouquets, thousands of individual blossoms, grace the Cathedral lawn. These represent the impact sisters have had on our lives. Photo by Stephanie M. Nichols
- Rev. John-Otto Liljenstolpe stands with the sisters!
Photo by Nancy Schoeggl
Capitol Hill neighbor gets into the spirit! Photo by Stephanie M. Nichols
Outgoing LCWR president Sr. Pat Farrell today urged sisters to respond with gentleness and fearlessness to the Vatican’s mandate. She raised a number of questions, situating the sisters’ response in the prophetic tradition and seeing it in larger terms than just religious life. NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reports:
Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Farrell said that “some larger movement in the church … has landed on LCWR.”
A key question facing LCWR, she said, is, “What would a prophetic response to the doctrinal assessment look like?”
“I think it would be humble, but not submissive,” she continued. “Rooted in a solid sense of ourselves, but not self-righteous; truthful, but gentle and absolutely fearless.
“It would ask probing questions. Are we being invited to some appropriate pruning and are we open to it? Is this doctrinal process an expression of concern or an attempt to control?
“Concern is based in love and invites unity. Control through fear and intimidation would be an abuse of power.
“Does the institutional legitimacy of canonical recognition empower us to live prophetically? Does it allow us the freedom to question with informed consciences? Does it really welcome feedback in a church that claims to honor the sensus fildeum?”
The wisdom and depth of these questions is inspiring. It’s easy to see why Pat Farrell was honored with standing ovations prior to and just after her remarks. The whole article can be found at this link.
One sister shared the following reflection with us from the third LCWR session:
Today’s prayer invited us to surrender — to hand over our desires so that God’s will, not ours, be done–to give up our fears and limitations so that we can fall fully into Love. The panel of Tom Fox, Jennifer Gordon SCL, and Jamie L. Manson were both affirming and challenging, asking
“Why live this life if not from the liminal edge?”
“Is this a risk of generosity of spirit?”
“How will you use your wisdom and experience to mentor the younger members of the church who are giving their lives in service?” and
“Are you aware that you are living the Mystery of God most publicaly?”
Ample food for prayer and thought for a lifetime….
In his remarks, NCR’s Tom Fox told those assembled
“It’s very, very important for you to know that you are the most prayerful, the most experienced, the most professional, the most learned, the most creative women to sit under one roof at any time in history.”
“And you must understand the obligations and the responsibilities that entails. You are speaking for the future and you are speaking to give us hope.” Click here to read the full article.
NCR blogger Alice Popovici is shining a national light on what we’re doing here in Seattle. Thank you, Alice!
Yesterday’s session saw the sisters meditating in silence and focusing on knowing the Truth within themselves and in the assembly.
From inside the LCWR Assembly one sister reported the following:
“Even the contemplative silences are powerful. Imagine a room of 900+ where you could hear a pin drop! The quiet strength is palpable. We prayed to stand in Truth, whatever the personal cost. How can such fidelity be questioned?? Table sharings are animated and respectful, committed to discovering, accepting and proclaiming Truth as it is revealed to us.”
The keynote was given by futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, whose books on conscious evolution are laced with references to the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ. She believes the sisters are the seedbed for a transformational process in our world today.
Barbara Marx Hubbard
(CNS photo/Sid Hastings)
“Barbara Marx Hubbard was eloquent in her description of women religious as poised to move the world to a new level of consciousness, to birth a way of unity. She believes we are in a defining moment of grace, where our authenticity and love give us the authority to lead a breakthrough, though not without difficulty.”
Click here for more coverage from NCR and the New York Times.
Today was opening day at the LCWR national assembly in St. Louis. One of the sisters in attendance reports the following:
“All day at the hotel, and I understand also at the airport, supporters greeted us with signs, smiles and warm greetings. Each time I hoped to go out to say thanks, there were media there with boom mikes and big cameras – so I didn’t get to meet any of them.
The spirit here, as I read it today, is positive, peaceful, thoughtful and hopeful. The opening ritual called us to openness to the Spirit. We realize that this is serious business, and it’s laced with music and laughter. There will probably not be anything to announce at the end of the week, as we’ll be processing a next best step all week – with over 900 of us at 110 or so tables, it will take some time to collate everything and distill the wisdom.
It was announced tonight that Archbishop Sartain will participate in the Board meeting (without specifying that he will participate in its entirety), and that this will be the first real conversation with him.
I don’t know that there’s anything more to be said, except that it’s privilege to be here…and that Barbara Marx Hubbard reminded me in a brief hallway conversation that ‘chaos always precedes transformation.’”
For another perspective, see the NCR article on the meeting of past LCWR presidents and another one on an overview of the opening day process.
The Seattle Times ran a profile of Archbishop J. Peter Sartain by Janet Tu in Sunday’s edition. The Sunday evening edition of King 5 News also did a story on the controversy about the sisters by reporter Amy Moreno.
If you’re traveling elsewhere and won’t be able to join us for the flower march on Sunday, August 12 here in Seattle, there may be a vigil happening in the city where you’ll be this week. Check this listing from the Nun Justice Project to see if you can find one at your location. August 7-10 are the dates the LCWR is meeting in their national assembly to discern as a body, their response to the Vatican mandate. Let us pray for the sisters, for the bishops, the Vatican, and ourselves!
by Gretchen Gundrum
There is a commentary in a recent NCR online edition by Fr. Michael Crosby, OFMCap that addresses the issue of fear and censorship–or silencing–that the culture of the Church uses for control. It is not a pretty picture. Crosby takes issue with Bishop Leonard Blair’s circumventing publication of Crosby’s response to the bishop’s “selective use” of quotations from a talk Fr. Crosby gave at a joint assembly of LCWR-Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) in 2004. Crosby asserts that the quotations served to cast him in a negative light and consequently had the impact of having him “disinvited from giving a keynote talk at a national gathering of church people next year because the group inviting me was afraid of experiencing episcopal repercussions.” Ironically, Bishop Blair quoted Crosby correctly but did not give the full context of Crosby’s remarks. Crosby believes he has been unable to set the record straight through normal channels and therefore wrote his commentary to try to do so.
What were the remarks? Crosby indicated that he could not believe in a God that the Vatican says “wills that women not be ordained.” He described that god as “a false god; it cannot be worshiped. And the prophet must speak truth to that power and be willing to accept the consequence of calling for justice, stopping the violence and bringing about the reign of God.” Crosby goes on to assert that Bishop Blair left out his application of a 2002 definition made by American bishops about violence toward women. Crosby “applied it to the systemic violence toward women in our ecclesiastical household.” One can easily understand why that part might have been left out!
Bishop Blair is a powerful prelate. You may recall that he is one of the three bishops the Vatican has assigned to reform the LCWR. Crosby’s article is courageous. One does not take on a bishop lightly nor disagree with him publically. One wonders at the “ecclesiastical repercussions” Crosby may face for having made his remarks more public.
It is also important to read Bishop Blair’s article. He expresses his concerns with the LCWR and makes his case about why it needs to be reformed. But the second-last paragraph of his article describes the reason why the controversy seems so hard to resolve–the bishops just want the LCWR to admit they’re wrong and everything will be all right. The problem is that there are differing theologies, different ecclesiologies, and different understandings of obedience at play. Here are some of Bishop Blair’s remarks:
“A key question posed by the doctrinal assessment had to do with moving forward in a positive way. Would the LCWR at least acknowledge the CDF’s doctrinal concerns and be willing to take steps to remedy the situation? The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.”
The CDF has serious concerns but so do women religious. Why not have a “new age futurist” help with planning for the future? That seems wise, not unfaithful! Sandra Schneiders is such a well-respected theologian that it’s hard understand why her statement about patriarchy–which is just expressing what many women and men experience in today’s Church–violates the Gospel. Jesus was also a critic of the religious leaders of his time. Can the bishops understand the sisters’ concerns?
Clearly, there are diametrically-opposed perspectives at issue. We pray that the Spirit finds a way through this impasse–to make a way where there seems to be no way.