LCWR: ‘Can’t Hold Back The Spring’

Sr. Pat Farrell

The historic meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St. Louis, MO, is drawing to a close.

Sr. Pat Farrell gave her concluding address as she ends her time of service as LCWR’s president. As the body that represents 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States reckons with how to respond to a harsh rebuke by the Vatican, Sr. Pat offered this perspective. This is what religious wisdom looks like:

Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Farrell said that “some larger movement in the church … has landed on LCWR.”

A key question facing LCWR, she said, is “What would a prophetic response to the doctrinal assessment look like?”

“I think it would be humble, but not submissive,” she continued. “Rooted in a solid sense of ourselves, but not self-righteous; truthful, but gentle and absolutely fearless.

“It would ask probing questions. Are we being invited to some appropriate pruning and are we open to it? Is this doctrinal process an expression of concern or an attempt to control?

“Concern is based in love and invites unity. Control through fear and intimidation would be an abuse of power.

“Does the institutional legitimacy of canonical recognition empower us to live prophetically? Does it allow us the freedom to question with informed consciences? Does it really welcome feedback in a church that claims to honor the sensus fildeum?”
Farrell also said that it would be a “mistake” to make “too much” of the mandate.

“We cannot allow it to consume us,” she said. “It is not the first time that a form of religious life has collided with the church, nor will it be the last.”

“The doctrinal assessment suggests that we are not currently living in an ideal ecclesial world,” Farrell continued.

Yet, she said, the sisters also “cannot make too little” of the Vatican’s move. It’s “historical impact,” she said, is “apparent to all of us.”

Ending her remarks with a reflection on the Gospel parable of the mustard seed, Farrell showed an image of mustard plants growing in a field, saying the seed is “uncontainable” and “crops up anywhere without permission.”

Comparing the seed to the spirit of God, she continued: “We can indeed live in joyful hope because there is no political or ecclesiastical herbicide that can wipe out the newness of God’s spirit.”

Ending with a Spanish phrase she said she learned while ministering in Chile during the military dictatorship there, Farrell said: “They can crush a few flowers, but they cannot hold back the springtime.”

As Farrell left the stage, the audience of about 900 stood slowly, clapping for some three minutes and shouting in affirmation. …

Read the whole National Catholic Reporter article.

Also, in St. Louis Beacon: With prayer and iPads, Women Religious consider response to Vatican

Also, in St. Louis Review: LCWR Sisters discuss complexity of dialogue (really nice photos here)

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