Last week, on the day when the Vatican released the results of its investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of women’s religious orders in this country, I received emails from several Catholic sisters. All described themselves as saddened, stunned or demoralized by the Vatican document, which severely criticized the LWCR in a number of areas.

Catholic sisters are my heroes. They have been my teachers, spiritual directors, mentors, bosses and friends. I can barely begin to describe the admiration I have for these women, many of them now in their 70s and 80s, and for what that they have done for God, for the church, for what Catholics call the “people of God,” and for me.

When I was a young Jesuit working in Nairobi, Kenya, for example, two elderly Maryknoll sisters patiently listened to my worries about living in the developing world, shared some of their own experiences of years in ministry in remote villages, and encouraged me to “push on,” as they say in East Africa. When my father was dying of cancer ten years ago, one Religious of Jesus and Mary sister took a four-hour train ride to visit him in the hospital for an hour, stayed overnight at a nearby convent, and the next morning took the train home, for another four-hour journey. When I thanked her, she thanked me for the “honor” of letting her come. And during a difficult spiritual crisis, one Sister of St. Joseph helped me to find God in the midst of my doubts, and was even able to get me to smile. “God did all the work,” she said, when I thanked her, “not me.”

When I was a young Jesuit working in Nairobi, Kenya, for example, two elderly Maryknoll sisters patiently listened to my worries about living in the developing world, shared some of their own experiences of years in ministry in remote villages, and encouraged me to “push on,” as they say in East Africa. When my father was dying of cancer ten years ago, one Religious of Jesus and Mary sister took a four-hour train ride to visit him in the hospital for an hour, stayed overnight at a nearby convent, and the next morning took the train home, for another four-hour journey. When I thanked her, she thanked me for the “honor” of letting her come. And during a difficult spiritual crisis, one Sister of St. Josephhelped me to find God in the midst of my doubts, and was even able to get me to smile. “God did all the work,” she said, when I thanked her, “not me.”

In the wake of the Vatican document, my sister friends, some nearing the end of their lives, seemed to need a word of gratitude. The very least I could do was to show some support in a small way--on Twitter. (Of course I had written about my admiration for them before, but it seemed that it was a particularly good time for praise.) Besides, gratitude is always in season.  But things would turn ugly....

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Chris Sullivan | 4/26/2012 - 4:01pm
I suspect the negative tweets result from Fr Z's post asking his readers to tweet in opposing the LCWR.  He has something of a history of this sort of thing.

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/04/tweeting-for-the-magisterium-of-nuns/

God Bless
Chris Sullivan | 4/26/2012 - 3:51pm
Thank you so much Fr Martin for standing with the sisters.

Solidarity is a most important Catholic virtue.

God Bless
Vince Killoran | 4/26/2012 - 3:07pm
Oh, great-another man defining women.  George Weigel is not an expert on Catholic women's relgious communities in the U.S.

There is a deep nostalgia for the Church of the 1950s and the waning days of ghetto Catholicism.  Our faith should not be driven by nostalgia. 
Anne Chapman | 4/26/2012 - 2:15pm
Bruce, #5 - ''But for heaven’s sake why can’t two forms of Religious Sisterhoods coexist, one type more-or-less like “traditional”  along with  the more modern concepts? Corrections may be needed in both forms, not just the modern type! The Catholic Church has different “rites” each one different in style one from the other, but all substantially united in service to Christ. So, why can’t the Church have different “rites” of Religious Sisterhoods, substantially the same, one to the other but in ways legitimately different?

If only more thought like that.  Let the habited, cloistered orders stay habited and cloistered, let the LCWR orders continue to live in the world. It can be both/and.  I have long felt the same way about the liturgy. Personally, I prefer the post-Vatican II liturgy for many reasons. I grew up with the Latin mass and would not want to go back to it. But, I have no problem with others preferring it as long as they don't try to tell everyone else that they are somehow inferior because they prefer the post-VII liturgy.  Have them both and just stop pointing fingers at everyone else. One is not ''better'' than the other. They appeal to different kinds of people. They are essentially the same.

Finally, in reading the rest of James Martin's article, and some of the tweets he received before the negatives decided to ruin his lovely gesture, I have decided to add a couple here, prompted by this - @stephencbenoit: Sr. Peg Dolan, RSHM (dec) at LMU was a saint on earth! Touched countless lives. A true gift from God.

I did not know Sr. Peg, but everything I heard about her from friends who did corresponds to this tweet. It reminded me of three of her sister RSHMs who touched my life and changed its course - three of the most remarkable human beings I have ever been privileged to have in my life.  I don't tweet, so would like use this space to add their names and express my gratitude  - three among thousands of sisters  who touched thousands of lives for the better -  Sr. Raymunde McKay, RSHM, Sr. Martin Byrne, RSHM, and the incomparable Sr. Mary Milligan, RSHM (Mother Bernard Marie), who was eulogized in America last year after her death.
6466379 | 4/26/2012 - 1:33pm
I tend to believe whatever Jesuit priest James Martin says, simply  because he says it! I trust his judgemement, his common sense and I believe him to be holy. And in my “next life” I want to be just like him! The trouble is, in the Land of the Living I’ll try to work out some kind of "accommodation" between Ignatius and the “Little Poor Man” from Assisi whose Professed  son I am, at the Secular level, allowing the “oil” of Jesuit erudition to successfully mix with the “water” of Franciscan simplicity. With God all things are possible, right?
So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say I agree with Fr. Martin’s conviction of the righteousness of the modern style of the  American Religious Sisterhood, realizing that here and there some excess has happened. But for heaven’s sake why can’t two forms of Religious Sisterhoods coexist, one type more-or-less like “traditional”  along with  the more modern concepts? Corrections may be needed in both forms, not just the modern type!
The Catholic Church has different “rites” each one different in style one from the other, but all substantially united in service to Christ. So, why can’t the Church have different “rites” of Religious Sisterhoods, substantially the same, one to the other but in ways legitimately different?
How about letting Oil” of erudition and “Water” of simplicity, a miraculous unction,  and a kind of “Balm of Gilead” heal without pompous distinction, the People of God, the Church,  each in its own distinctive way, Religious Sisterhoods on the road to universal holiness, functioning in the liberty of the  Spirit as daughters and of the Lord!   
David Pasinski | 4/26/2012 - 11:44am
Thanks, Fr. Martin. I couldn't figure out how to post the letter that I had published in our Syracuse paper along these lines, but sent it to the editor. You are welcome to post it. I t refelcts much of the same thought with one a zing and a zong at the episcopacy.
GMMILLER | 4/26/2012 - 11:42am
As usual, Father Martin, you have captured my thoughts exactly, and given them expression far more eloquently than I ever could! For as long as I can remember, Catholic sisters have been for me the face of the church, and the healing and reconciling presence of Jesus in the midst of a fractured world. My life has been enriched and blessed beyond measure by the Caldwell Dominican Sisters and Convent Station Sisters of Charity who educated me in elementary and high school, and by the Sisters of St. Joseph (Boston) and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who have been my friends and colleagues since I came to Massachusetts half a century ago. The treatment our Catholic sisters are receiving from Vatican officials and too many of the U.S. bishops breaks my heart.
Tom Maher | 4/26/2012 - 11:19am
Technical problem - several paragraphs are repeated.


Also what happened to my comments to your post yesterday about the LCWR to "move slowly" where I comment about the "move slowly" part?.  My comments should be heard. Not everyone supports the actions and attitudes of LCWR or share your idoliziation of the LCWR.
Mike Evans | 4/27/2012 - 10:13am
Most of us have strong and fond memories of the sisters whom we encountered in Catechism class, Catholic schools and Catholic hospitals. I remember having my tonsils out and the surgical nurse was a sister who administered the anathesia (ether) at the time. My last memory beforing unconsciousness was her angelic kind eyes encouraging me to count carefully backward from 100. I knew it would be alright because I was in the hands of a saint. I was only 8 years old, but I knew!
Thomas Farrell | 4/26/2012 - 11:46am
I don't know how old Fr. Martin is. Perhaps he is not old enough to remember the Vatican crack-down on the Jesuit order in the 1980s, or at least he hasn't mentioned it if he does remember it. Those fellows in the Vatican like to show everybody who's the boss.
David Pasinski | 4/27/2012 - 2:52pm
I wrote a very laudatory piece about my experience with the sisters throughout my life. A friend then forwarded me a letter from Kristine Ward the National Survivor Advocates Coalition in which  she states that for many years they have tried to meet with LCWR about the allegatons of sexual and physicial abuse by nuns but have been rebuffed. We entered into dialogue about this issue and the context and timing of her remarks, but her charges stand, Does anyone know aything about this?
David Pasinski | 4/27/2012 - 2:52pm
I wrote a very laudatory piece about my experience with the sisters throughout my life. A friend then forwarded me a letter from Kristine Ward the National Survivor Advocates Coalition in which  she states that for many years they have tried to meet with LCWR about the allegatons of sexual and physicial abuse by nuns but have been rebuffed. We entered into dialogue about this issue and the context and timing of her remarks, but her charges stand, Does anyone know aything about this?