I was more than heartened by yesterday’s announcement that the Vatican’s investigation and oversight of the U.S. Catholic nun’s group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), was coming to a close two years earlier than expected. Thankfully, the final report, presented in Rome by officials of LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, powerfully affirmed the ministry of Catholic sisters in this nation and ended an unneeded investigation that had fostered painful divisions within our church.
The report affirmed what we already knew — and what Pope Francis has eloquently and repeatedly pointed out — namely, that authentic dialogue rather than confrontation is the source of peace-building and reconciliation. Within the report, we also heard more about how U.S. sisters are valued not only because of how we carry out our ministries, but also because there is a deep hunger in this nation for the spiritual nourishment Catholic sisters provide. That was made clear to me personally during the past few years when our “Nuns on the Bus” campaigns traveled thousands of miles, coast to coast, to speak out for federal budget decisions that help people in need, immigration reform, Medicaid expansion, and more. During our journeys we were met by thousands of people eager to show their support and to hear what we sisters have to say about the intersection of faith and social justice.
My hope for the future is that we sisters will continue to be faithful to the love and gratitude we have received from across this nation. When two investigations of U.S. sisters were announced (this one and the “Apostolic Visitation,” which was concluded in a similarly hopeful fashion a few months ago), we received a deluge of support from every corner of the country. We were overwhelmed at times by what we heard and experienced – but also, needless to say, deeply grateful.
We now know that people do understand the value of what we do when we stand in solidarity on a daily basis with people at the margins who must contend with many forms of injustice — economic, racial, and so many more. We stand together and work to overcome injustice because that is the Gospel’s call. That is what our faith demands.
I hope that the value of dialogue will be recognized throughout our church and world. That means dialogue from the beginning, not just dialogue that comes about after a period of confrontation or misunderstanding. We would welcome with gratitude an opportunity to explain who we are and how our actions are a faithful response to what the Gospel calls us to do.
That said, I am personally profoundly grateful for the closing of this recent painful chapter in our church’s history. I am also thankful for the opportunity to live out my faith as a woman religious, knowing that our mission to take the Gospel of love and inclusion into the world has been once again affirmed.