December 29, 2014

WASHINGTON - U.S. women religious welcomed the conciliatory tone of a Vatican report on religious life and appreciated acknowledgement of the important ministry that they practice day in and day out in the life of the Church.

They also said the report, released Dec. 16, opens a new beginning for women religious, who have continued their work despite the questions about the status of religious life in the U.S. that were raised by the apostolic visitation process that ran from 2009 to 2012.

"The positive tone and the clear affirmation found in the document gives us new energy to move on in our critical role for the sake of the mission of the Church in the United States," said Sister Mary Johnson, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Sister Nancy Conway, president of the Congregation of St. Joseph, said she found the report was offered "without negative judgment" and called it a "welcome ending" to the visitation.

"Look at the use of the verbs in the report: We ask, we invite, we encourage, we urge," she said from Cleveland. "I perceive this as a great shift in tone, for which I am very grateful.

"I'm heartened by the tone. That's how colleagues work; we recognize each other's gifts," Conway added.

Two organizations representing women religious in the U.S. also welcomed the report, both saying that it reflected positively on the different roles their members have assumed in the Church.


A statement from the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious said, "The final report acknowledges the fact of the 'widely diversified expressions of apostolic religious life' in the United States."

It also shows that "apostolic religious life is not dying in the United States," said the council, which represents about 20 per cent of the 51,000 U.S. women religious.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious said in a statement that the report conveys "a good understanding of the transitions that have occurred in religious life since the Second Vatican Council."

It was offered "without negative judgment or any facile solutions. Instead, the synthesis of data resulted in a realistic and appreciative account of women's religious life," the statement said.