I really can't imagine...
The dynamic option for Religious Life, which I am calling, Sojourning, is muchI know so many wonderful nuns and sisters, and I know some lovely women who are lost, and I also know some who were tragically dragged along the path to the abyss and are only just finding their way home.
more difficult to discuss, since it involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond
Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the
bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation. Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian.
When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they
took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism
required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed. The works of Thomas Merton encouraged an exploration of the nexus between Eastern and Western religious practices.
The emergence of the women’s movement with is concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls.
As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my
core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative [emphasis added] is not the only or the most important narrative for these women....
Who’s to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God?
The keynote address from the LCWR assembly linked to above does ask one intriguing question, huh?: Is Vatican II a felt experience of renewal or a just a catch phrase you use?
And it ends on a note of some hope:
We have lost sight that we are ecclesial women.... we have opted instead for ministry outside the Church. We may have some members who
continue as persistent widows before an unjust judge, but those sisters are few, and
largely unsupported by the congregation as a whole. We may not avail ourselves of the
Sacraments, because we are angry...
We are on the verge of extinction, not because of some cataclysmic event, but because for the last thirty years or so, we have slowly removed ourselves from Church circles.
Until we as congregations of women religious initiate a process of reconciliation with our ecclesiastical brothers, we cannot hope to have much of an impact elsewhere...But if our congregations do take this less traveled path, it will require a congregation-wide commitment, an appropriate attitude of openness, a deep and continual prayer life, and formal training in theology, scripture, and ecclesiology as well as methods of peace-making and reconciliation.
If you choose this model, you will no longer desire vocations so as to improve
your numbers or lengthen your congregation’s life. You will fervently desire vocations, You’ll work hard to get your house in order, so that you are worthy to receive them, because you will recognize that you will not finish this important and vital task on which you have set out. The mission of Jesus will not be completed by your hand...Reconciliation is not the only choice, but it is my choice, because it is also my Church. And with St. Paul, I want to be about that new creation, for “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”My sisters, the Mission of Jesus compels us and the Church in crisis begs us to becoming an active reconciling presence.
St. Scholastica, pray for us!