|LCWR grateful for 'unexpected' overflow of support from lay Catholics
Cathoilc News Service photo
Ellen Buthod joins others expressing support for women religious during a rally by laity and religious in support of nuns gathered for the 2012 Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St. Louis.
Catholic News ServiceST. LOUIS — Dominican Sister Donna Markham said she will never forget the Sunday after the Vatican doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was released.
"It was hard to go to church; it took everything in me to go," she told a group of reporters Aug. 9.
Then came an overwhelming sense of support from lay Catholics for LCWR following the release of a Vatican doctrinal assessment calling for reform of the organization.
Sister Markham said her parish priest, reflecting in his homily on that Sunday's Mass readings about the good shepherd, told the congregation the best examples of good shepherds he knew were women religious. When he said that, the congregation stood up and applauded, she recalled.
That public demonstration of support at Mass and in the four months since the doctrinal assessment was released has not only "made it possible to walk through this time," she said, but also has been "the most powerful experience in my entire religious life of 40 years."
During the LCWR assembly Aug. 7-10 in St. Louis, signs of support ranged from people who were holding signs at the airport as women religious arrived to letters of appreciation displayed at each of the tables in the ballroom at the Millennium Hotel where assembly sessions were held.
Rallies also took place in several cities around the country.
A large crowd gathered the evening of Aug. 9 at the base of the St. Louis Arch, just across the street from the hotel. Some stood on the sidewalk waving to passing cars and holding aloft hand-printed signs with messages such as: "Thank You Sisters;" "We Love You Sisters," "Women Religious Rock."
In the crowd was Mike Balwin, who went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through post college and is a parishioner at St. Theresa and St. Bridget Parish in St. Louis, said he wanted to give something back to the sisters "who have done so much for us."
Eleanor Guzzio and Judy Plathe, former Franciscan sisters, told Catholic News Service they drove five hours from Chicago to be in St. Louis when LCWR members were meeting, which Guzzio and Plathe described a "moment in history."
Vigil participants were joined by sisters attending the LCWR conference, where they had been discussing their response to the Vatican mandate calling for a reform of the organization that represents 80 percent of U.S. women's congregations.
Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon, incoming president of LCWR, told the group this was the first vigil she had attended.
"I feel the church is alive and well, and I am so humbled," said the Franciscan, who was succeeding Sister Farrell at the conclusion of the assembly.
She also noted how things have changed from a few years ago when there were a lot of nun jokes about evil teachers.
Sister Deacon also told the group as the sun was setting that this support was something the sisters never expected and "seldom get."
Dominican Sister Mary Hughes, past president of LCWR, thanked the crowd and told them the sisters have been "carried by your support."