More than 500 people gathered in a hot and dusty Pennsylvania cornfield yesterday afternoon to join the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the dedication of a new outdoor chapel, built on land about to be seized from them by a corporate developer planning to build a natural gas pipeline.
With these picks, the third round of cardinal appointments Francis has made since he himself was elected pope in 2013, he did a number of nontraditional things that have become almost customary for him:
First of all, he moved the church’s center of gravity further away from the Old World and toward the “peripheries,” as he says, by selecting more cardinals (six total) from Africa, Asia, and Oceania than from Europe (five).
St. Clare and the women religious who formed my faith taught me that there are as many ways to be a faithful woman as there are women on the earth. They taught me that you can serve God while being strong, outspoken, and good at what you do. Even more significantly, they taught me the importance of sharing stories about the many and varied ways that women serve God and their fellow humans.
For the past week, news sources have been abuzz about Pope Francis’s announcement to create a commission to study women deacons. It’s an initiative worthy of talk, but there’s more to the story.
Veteran Catholic writer Tom Roberts thought he knew Sister Joan Chittister — the maverick Benedictine nun who dares speak her mind to her church.
When Roberts, editor at large for the National Catholic Reporter, went to interview her three years ago in Erie, Pa., at the community where she entered religious life at age 16, a secret she’s held for a lifetime came to light.
The crowd in an Atlanta church on Wednesday night was mostly Protestants, mostly preachers.
The speaker was a professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City – one of the icons of the mainstream Protestant world.
Yet Barbara Lundblad’s message was a call for the 1,000 or so people gathered for the annual Festival of Homiletics to “stand with these courageous Roman Catholic sisters.” She was referring, of course, to the recent crackdown by the Vatican on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the organization that represents about 80 percent of the nuns in the U.S.
Lundblad drew on the famous story of Mary, having just learned she was pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also improbably pregnant.
The Gospel of Luke says that Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and visited Elizabeth.” Lundblad pondered why Luke felt it necessary to put Zechariah in the story at this point. She let that hang unanswered.
Then she noted that when Elizabeth saw Mary, the baby leapt in her womb in recognition of Jesus – a sign that women often come to theology through the experiences of their bodies. Lundblad said wryly, “Surely Elizabeth would not have been allowed to testify before the Congressional committee on contraception” – an all-male committee with all male witnesses, all representing church groups that do not allow the ordination of women.
In the current controversy between the Vatican and U.S. religious women, a short history showing that it’s nothing new. Professor emerita of history Anne M. Butler tells the story:
In the 19th century, Catholic nuns literally built the church in the American West, braving hardship and grueling circumstances to establish missions, set up classrooms and lead lives of calm in a chaotic world marked by corruption, criminality and illness. Their determination in the face of a male hierarchy that, then as now, frequently exploited and disdained them was a demonstration of their resilient faith in a church struggling to adapt itself to change.
++ Join us in showing our appreciation for Catholic women religious (aka nuns or "sisters") on Thank-a-Nun Day, May 9. Click HERE to send a thank-you note online. ++
Silly and serious, strict and kind, profoundly faithful and sometimes hilarious — Catholic nuns are evergreen characters on the big (and the small) screens. Here's a list of some of our favorite portrayals of Catholic women religious from film and television.
1. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) in Dead Man Walking
2. Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) in The Sound of Music
In response to Jim Wallis' post, "Having the Sisters' Back" :
Thank you so much for bringing this issue to the attention of your readers. I am a Catholic woman and mother of three. My husband is a Methodist and we have raised our children in the two traditions we hold dear. I have become a recent friend to a sister who is very concerned with what is happening. We have recently begun to work on social justice issues in our parish. We are small, but I believe, with the help of the Spirit, we will one day be mighty....
All of my life, religious sisters have had a special place in my heart and imagination.
I love nuns. LOVE them.
So a story in today's New York Times caught my eye (and my heart) immediately when I saw the headline: "Sisters of St. Francis, Quiet Shareholder Activists" and then the even-better headline on the story's web page at NYT.com: "Nuns Who Won't Stop Nudging."