Sr Mary Lou Wirtz, president of the UISG, is seen speaking on a videoscreen during the UISG assembly
It is understandable that much of the attention paid to the recent meeting of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome was focused at detecting the state of things between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Vatican, writes NCR in an editorial.
That is, of course, an important relationship and one that became particularly strained during Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, which saw a Vatican-imposed investigation and an attempt at a virtual takeover of the organisation, an umbrella group for some 80 percent of US sisters.
Exactly where all of this now goes under the new papacy of Francis is yet unknown. However, what became clear during the meeting in Rome is that while LCWR’s troubles may be an important part of the story, they remain only a portion of the larger global picture coming to light among leaders of women religious around the world.
That picture - the global picture - was the primary story as far as those 800 women religious leaders were concerned. Of course, the two focuses - the future of LCWR and the lives and roles of women religious in the wider church - are deeply entwined.
The Vatican investigation notwithstanding, US women religious leaders, under the auspices of LCWR, are working to establish deeper relationships and congregational ties with their counterparts in the global South, where vocation numbers are booming but material resources are scarce.
Establishing closer North-South ties allows the sisters of the North, whose mean age is well above 70, to work with and help educate -- while learning from -- their far younger sisters in the developing world. LCWR in two recent general assemblies passed resolutions specifically calling for the development of more effective global religious ties.
Longtime observers of the International Union of Superiors General noted an important demographic shift at the recently concluded assembly. There were fewer women from the North and more from the South. The international union, as much as any global Catholic network, is tracking the new vitality emerging in religious communities in Africa and Asia.
Some of the most dynamic discussions on the future of religious life followed talks from voices out of Africa and Central America. Discussions and feedback and further questions are an essential makeup of the assembly’s programs, which are laced with time for liturgies and other prayerful reflections. The clergy of our church, whose assemblies are more rigid by nature, have much to learn from the women.
FULL STORY Questions linger after dynamic sisters' meeting (NCR)