Official Explains Vatican Visitation of US Nuns

Notes Hope for Vocations, Better Future

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2009 ( The “multitude and complexity” of concerns about the state of women religious life in the United States underlies the Vatican’s decision to call an apostolic visitation, says the cardinal in charge of consecrated life.

Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, explained motives for the apostolic visitation in a statement released by the Vatican today.

The cardinal said that the January announcement of the visitation brought “great interest,” including “news accounts” and “various inquiries.”

He offered today’s statement as a response, before all affirming that the visitation “hopes to encourage vocations and assure a better future for women religious.”

The cardinal added that “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.”

He stated that the “multitude and complexity of these issues were made clear by speakers and participants” at a 2008 conference on religious life. “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.”

Going well

Cardinal Rodé said he was pleased with response to Phase One of the visitation, which brought more than three-fourths of superior-generals to communicate their hopes and concerns to Mother Mary Clare Millea of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the apostolic visitator.

Following Phase One, a working document was sent to all major-superiors with the request that it be given to each sister “for her prayerful consideration, study and open discussion with other sisters.”

Phase Two, under way, has the major superiors “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) will provide an analysis of these responses.

“This report will be made public and should provide important information regarding likely future trends of religious life in the United States,” Cardinal Rodé said.

The Vatican official said that, in keeping with the practice for apostolic visitations, the 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,” the cardinal concluded. “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.”

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