On the Visitation of Women Religious in the United States
"I Am Encouraged by the Efforts to Identify the Signs of Hope"
Cardinal Franc Rodé
Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life
November 3, 2009
Since the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious
was first announced in January 2009, there has been great
interest in the study that the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) has
undertaken to look into the fundamental aspects of women
religious in the United States. This Apostolic Visitation hopes
to encourage vocations and assure a better future for women
religious. Having read many news accounts and received various
inquiries, I offer the following in response.
For many years this dicastery had been listening to concerns
expressed by American Catholics -- religious, laity, clergy and
hierarchy -- about the welfare of religious women and
consecrated life in general, and had been considering an
Apostolic Visitation as a means to assess and constructively
address these concerns.
The multitude and complexity of these issues were made clear by
speakers and participants at the Symposium on Religious Life at
Stonehill College in September 2008. This helped me understand
that such an evaluation of the challenges facing individual
religious and their congregations could benefit the Church
at-large as well as the sisters and institutes involved. My hope
is that the Apostolic Visitation will not only provide the Holy
See with a thorough analysis of the condition of religious life
in the United States, but also be a realistic and graced
opportunity for personal and community introspection, as major
superiors and sisters cooperate with this study.
I am pleased with the voluntary response reported in Phase One
of the Apostolic Visitation, during which more than
three-fourths of the superiors general communicated their hopes
and concerns directly to Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., the
apostolic visitator. Shortly thereafter, the "instrumentum
laboris" was sent to all major superiors requesting that it be
given to each sister for her prayerful consideration, study and
open discussion with other sisters.
Now, during Phase Two, the major superiors in the United States
are responding to a questionnaire that will present a
comprehensive profile of each institute’s present reality and
future outlook. The Center for Applied Research in the
Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University is cooperating in the
collection of information and will prepare a composite
analytical report of the standard, objective data contained in
Part A of the questionnaire. This report will be made public and
should provide important information regarding likely future
trends of religious life in the United States.
It is the practice of the Holy See that an Apostolic Visitation
be conducted ad inquirendum et referendum (i.e., studied and
referred). Therefore, this dicastery will formulate no
conclusions or plan of action, if any, until the final report of
the Visitator has been evaluated.
To date, I am encouraged by the efforts to identify the signs of
hope, as well as concerns, within religious congregations in the
United States, which are also likely to have implications
elsewhere in the world. I ask all people of good will to unite
in prayer for the fruitful outcome of this effort to promote the
Catholic identity and vibrancy of life of women religious.
City of Vatican, 3rd of November 2009
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