.- Vowed religious who assisted in the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious congregations met for a concluding workshop March 4-6. They shared their personal impressions and observations of the common hopes, challenges and concerns of the numerous female religious communities.
Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ, who headed the visitation, said that the examination of religious congregations gave American Catholics the opportunity to voice “their appreciation and esteem for our early sisters and for us who revere them as our models of courage and faith.”
The workshop was “a great grace and joy” and provided her with material to enhance her final reports, she said. The event also deepened bonds of “mutual understanding” among participants and the Congregation for Consecrated Life.
Mother Millea predicted these bonds will do much to “promote the vitality of religious life in the context of respectful dialogue and ecclesial communion.”
The Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced the visitation in January 2009 to analyze the state of female religious life in the U.S. The announcement prompted surprise among U.S. women religious and some responded with public expressions of anger and skepticism.
The visitation’s concluding workshop took place at the U.S. provincial headquarters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, Conn. Its 58 participants included the core team and consultants for the visitation as well as more than half of the women and men religious who served as on-site visitors to selected religious congregations.
Also in attendance was Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, a Redemptorist who is now the secretary of the Congregation for Consecrated Life. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport was a concelebrant and homilist for one of the weekend’s Masses.
Sr. Joan McGlinchey, MSC, facilitated the workshop sessions. Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, spoke to the gathering about the Moving Forward in Hope project which promotes vocations and charts a path to renewal for religious life.
Attendees offered suggestions about how to promote respectful dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations and within the Church.
Mother Millea said that Archbishop Tobin “listened attentively to the heartfelt sharing of the participants.”
“He expressed his deep understanding of our reality and expressed the continued support of the Congregation for Consecrated Life in fostering the ongoing revitalization of religious life in the United States,” she said.
Mother Millea’s final reports will be submitted by the end of 2011. The website for the apostolic visitation is http://www.apostolicvisitation.org.