Four nuns from the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta are reportedly among 16 killed by gunmen who attacked a church-run retirement home in Yemen, the latest attack on Christians in the increasingly lawless country.
The women religious, members of the Missionaries of Charity congregation, were killed when four armed men attacked the convent and home for the elderly in the southern city of Aden on March 4, the Catholic news agency Fides reported.
And then Wednesday night, at the end of a marathon day in the nation’s capital, after canonizing St. Junipero Serra at the National Basilica, the pope made an unscheduled, last-minute stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order dedicated to caring for the elderly. (The sisters gained notoriety for their lawsuit against the federal government over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, but reportedly the pope made no mention of it when he stopped by the Washington convent.)
“It’s his actions that give credibility to what he says,” Sister Mary Richard, a nun from Queens Village, N.Y., who met “Papa Francesco” during the surprise visit, told me Thursday morning as we both waited at Union Station to board an Amtrak train bound for New York City.
“He was exhausted but he came. He took the time to come. We take care of the elderly and he said, ‘Thank you. People just throw them away or get rid of them.’
“When he arrived the Mother Superior went out to greet him and she said, ‘Holy Father you must be so tired.’ And he said, ‘Priests and bishops get tired, but you don’t count the cost. But nuns, they never complain.’ “It’s his attitude, ya know?”
The American nuns who were publicly scolded by the Vatican’s top doctrinal official for disobedience and promoting unorthodox beliefs have rejected the criticisms, and say their “attempts to clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings” between Rome and the organization representing most of the 50,000 sisters in the U.S.
“It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment,” the four sisters representing the LCWR said late Thursday.
“This work is fraught with tension and misunderstanding,” they said. “Yet, this is the work of leaders in all walks of life in these times of massive change in the world.”
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.
Ever since the Vatican and the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference issued their recent highly critical report of the advocacy organization NETWORK and the Leadership Conference of Women Religion, the association representing the majority of Catholic women’s orders in the U.S., both women’s organizations have received thousands of letters and phone calls supporting their social justice actions and questioning what individuals and groups can do in support.
NETWORK was founded 40 years ago by Catholic sisters and over the years it has maintained a close relationship with LCWR. It does not, however, have any formal links with the Catholic Church and it is an organization for political advocacy, not a religious organization. NETWORK has been “stunned” by the Vatican's actions. In a nationwide conference call last week, more than 150 persons called in to speak about their support for Catholic Sisters and NETWORK. They wanted to know what they could do.
Find 11 steps to take to support Catholic Sisters and their witness to the gospel inside the blog ...