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LCWR Assembly
Congregation leaders contemplate future at annual meeting

From left: Sister Barbara Reid, OP, (Grand Rapids) gave the keynote address at the LCWR Assembly. Sister Mary Hughes, OP (Amityville) is the outgoing president of LCWR. Photo courtesy of LCWR.

Dominican sisters shine at LCWR

By Sister Mary Sue Kennedy, OP
Executive Director
Dominican Sisters Conference

Garden Grove, California was the site of this year’s LCWR Assembly whose theme was “Mystery Unfolding: Religious Life for the World.” Approximately 650 religious women, members and associate members of LCWR participated in this annual event—of those, 58 were Dominican sisters.

Dominican presence was experienced as we gathered at the opening session and were warmly welcomed by LCWR President Mary Hughes, OP, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, New York. The following morning, we heard the wise words of Barbara Reid, OP, Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, as she addressed the group on the theme of “Embodying Holy Mystery.” On the last morning of the assembly, Mary gave her closing address as president of the conference and inspired everyone present. These two women were an embodiment of what it means to be Dominican and to speak truth. Thank you both for what you brought to the whole assembly. We were so proud of you!

Following the meeting, on Thursday, the leaders boarded a bus along with a few other Dominicans who were present to head to St. Catherine Priory, a short distance from our hotel, for a Mexican Fiesta hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Sister Johnellen Johnson and the community of sisters at St. Catherine’s. Sr. Johnellen made all of the arrangements for a wonderful Mexican dinner preceded by a social hour held in a social hall with a Mexican décor for this special occasion. Many commented that it was nice just to be together and enjoy one another without any “business.”

Many thanks to Sister Gloria Marie Jones, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, and her council, and Sister Johnellen and the sisters of St. Catherine’s for hosting us for this very special evening.

The LCWR Executive Committee will not be without a Dominican, as the assembly elected Sister Barbara Blesse, OP (Springfield) as conference secretary. Congratulations and blessings to you, Barbara!

View more photos from the LCWR Assembly on the LCWR web site

Garden Grove, CA—As Catholic sisters in the United States explore their future, approximately 650 leaders of their orders met in assembly where discussion of the mission of Catholic sisters in the face of the rapid and pervasive changes occurring in the world headed the agenda. These Catholic sisters, members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), gathered for their annual meeting Aug. 9–12, under the theme “Mystery Unfolding: Religious Life for the World.”

Two theologians challenged the leaders to make courageous choices for the future.

In an address entitled, “A Reflection on the Twilight of Traditional Institutions,” Mexican theologian Sister Maricarmen Bracamontes, OSB spoke about the “extraordinarily great change” through which the world is passing in terms of values, relationships, institutions, and systems. This change, she emphasized, “questions the very methodology that we use to face our problems and see new possibilities.” She warned, “To ignore this radical transition, to refuse to assume the tasks that it implies is to give up our identity and to opt for irrelevance.”

She encouraged an examination of the current political, economic, and ecclesial structures and events that have impacted the world, noting that many of these structures and systems are “founded on ancestral injustices, passed down from one generation to another.” She added, “Once we realize that cultural models are human creations and therefore, can be changed and adapted, we become more creative and dynamic in our search for transforming alternatives: other worlds become possible, other ways of being church become possible, other forms of religious life become possible.”

Scripture scholar Sister Barbara E. Reid, OP, in an address entitled, “Embodying Holy Mystery,” offered a biblical perspective on various aspects of mystery that women religious embody and into which they are called to lead others: the mystery of God revealed in creation and beyond gender and the mystery of death as birthpangs of hope.

Working from the premise that God abides within, she stated, that God is “drawing us inward into love, and impelling us outward in ever creative patterns of generative love.”

“In our day, then, “ she added, “as we find the forms and structures of religious life realigning with groups merging, dissolving, forming new alliances with other religious, lay people and with institutions that share similar values, we should not be surprised; we are in concert with the creative rhythms of our universe.”

She concluded, “… the re-forming occurring in our day is a sign of life and vitality, of being in harmony with the dynamics of the cosmos.”

In her address to the assembly, LCWR president Sister Mary Hughes, OP asked, “What is the ‘new’ that is emerging even as the ground shifts beneath our feet? Highlighting some of the situations of intense suffering around the world, she urged the LCWR members to be agents of forgiveness and reconciliation. “In our collective search for truth and for the One who is truth,” she stated, “we must learn to respect and honor the differences we hold.”

Throughout the assembly the participants engaged in a contemplative process where they listened in silence and conversed with one another on how they might best respond collectively to the needs of the world at this time, and what this may require of those in religious life today.

In an effort to enhance the growing network of Catholic sisters, the LCWR assembly unanimously approved a resolution to actively seek to strengthen bonds with sisters throughout the world.

In light of the serious issues facing the United States that were highlighted during the assembly, they also issued a public statement that reads as follows:

“In this critical moment in the United States, we – the members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious gathered in assembly – have read the signs of the times. We weep to see our country torn asunder by partisanship, increasing disparities in wealth and power, and a refusal to acknowledge the positive role government should play.

“We call for a return to civil discourse that promotes the common good, reaches out to others, engages in constructive dialogue, and seeks together the way forward,” the statement continues.

“We commit ourselves to this same call and to hold these concerns at the center of our prayer and to respond in love,” the leaders conclude.

During the assembly the LCWR members listened to a panel of local immigrant women describe the plight of immigrants in the United States today. The leaders then took action by calling their elected officials asking them to support the DREAM Act and urging reform of US immigration law.

At the conclusion of the assembly, Sister Patricia Farrell of the Sisters of Francis of Dubuque, Iowa assumed the office of LCWR president for 2011-2012 after the members voted in Sister Florence Deacon of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Wisconsin as the conference president-elect; and Sister Barbara Blesse of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield as conference secretary.

The assembly closed with the conferring of LCWR’s highest honor, its Outstanding Leadership Award, on Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president and CEO of Catholic Health Association, a long-time advocate for healthcare reform that provides adequate care for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

LCWR has approximately 1,500 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, representing approximately 59,000 Catholic sisters. The conference develops leadership, promotes collaboration within church and society, and serves as a voice for systemic change.

For more information, visit www.lcwr.org

Links to media coverage of the LCWR Assembly:

National Catholic Reporter
LCWR looks to future with 'sturdy strength'
Aug. 16, 2011

National Catholic Reporter
Sisters listen and act on confronting institutional domination
Aug. 12, 2011

National Catholic Reporter
Sisters 'are living in a time of new birth'
Aug. 11, 2011

US Catholic
Women religious urged to keep Scriptures close for decisions ahead
Aug. 11, 2011

National Catholic Reporter
LCWR begins next step in reexamination of religious life
Aug. 1, 2011