Earlier this month, the Vatican released a report assessing the lives of and challenges faced by religious sisters in the United States. (I’ve written about it for here and here and here and here.) Through Catholic Voices USA and other work I’ve recently been meeting sisters I barely knew existed. Among them: sisters from the Religious Institute of theServants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, whose motherhouse is in Miami.
Since interest in the report continues (just ask the New York Times), and in “nuns” (see Lifetime), I wanted to share some more reaction from sisters in the United States (you can read some other comments in my syndicated column and Our Sunday Visitor piece).
Mother Adela Galindo, born in Nicaragua in 1961, is foundress and mother general of these women, members of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, one of the two main organizing groups for women religious in the U.S. In an interview, Mother Adela shared with me her reaction to the report.
Q: What’s your reaction to the report?
A: I am filled with joy and gratitude for the way the final report was written and presented. The spirit of the document truly represents the spirit that inspired the Apostolic Visitation: gratitude, respect, appreciation, sincere affirmation of the irreplaceable value of the religious vocation in the life and mission of the Church and also a sincere calling forth to all Religious Institutes of Women Religious in the United States to enter into a period of prayerful reflection, open dialogue, and deep self-evaluation in the light of the Gospel, the Church Magisterium and the charism, spirit, mind, purpose of their founder/foundress. The Apostolic Visitation was an instrument of the Holy Spirit to call all of us to take a moment to contemplate with great gratitude the history, the past of the each institute, since making memory of the past strengthens the present and revitalizes the future of our institutes. It was also a time to be challenged to a more incisive discernment of what needed to be done in order to be more coherent witnesses to the true identity of religious life and to its mission in the life of the Church and the world. For religious institutes to be able to be, as St. John Paul II taught us in his Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata n. 3: “a precious and necessary gift for the present and future of the People of God, since it is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission.” This fruitful time of pondering, discernment, and evaluating the quality of life of women religious in the United States may be considered as a gift of the Holy Spirit through the pastoral care of the Church.
A: I do not see it as an end to the Vatican “war on women,” since it was never initiated as a war on anyone. It is true that there were some concerns about the challenges and difficulties which threaten the quality of religious life in some Institutes. It was never intended to be a war, less a war on women, since from the very beginning it manifested the great appreciation and sincere gratitude for the vital presence and immense contribution of religious in the United States to the evangelizing mission of the Church. It highlighted the indispensable contribution and selfless dedication of women religious to courageously be in the forefront of evangelization, catechesis, education and health care, attending with generosity all the spiritual, moral, educational, physical and social needs of so many.
Apostolic Visitations are a normal instrument of governance in religious life. Major Superiors regularly visit those under their jurisdiction as part of their mission and loving service to their sisters and brothers. An Apostolic Visitation done by the Holy See is a clear manifestation of the solicitude of the Church who as a mother is to oversee the wellbeing of any ecclesiastical entity and to assist them in that process by encouraging them to live according to the nature of their vocation, their specific identity and mission in the life of the Church.
The Apostolic Visitation has never been a “war on women,” but actually the opposite: as a great service to women and women religious. If we fully participated in the process of the Visitation, women religious were not only enriched but we actually enriched, in an immense manner, the process and the outcome.
Q: What was your experience of the Visitation?
A: It was a very fruitful time since all communities of women religious in the United States were involved in reading documents, responding to questionnaires and also meditating anew some documents of the Church. We, in our religious institute, have as a way of life this constant and communal reflection and study of the documents of the Church, but doing it again under the particular grace of the Visitation was a beautiful gift for all of us.
Responding to questionnaires gave me the opportunity to express, in writing, the gift of our own Marian charism and mission, but also to express our hopes, concerns, desires and ideals for the present and future of religious life. It was a simple process, filled with grace and serenity.
Q: How are you bringing it to prayer and daily life?
A: We continue to live with generosity and enthusiasm what the Lord has already called us to be and to do. The Apostolic Visitation final report is an affirmation of all the values and fundamental pillars of our vocation that we have joyfully embraced and we try to humbly live day by day, placing as our fourth vow states: “our Marian charism and the potentialities of our feminine genius in loving communion and joyful service to the Church and the petrine principle.”