This week on Register Radio… “man versus woman?” Or better yet, how about “man and woman?” Jeanette De Melo and Sister Mary Prudence Allen, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, discuss this week’s Vatican's conference on the Complementarity of Man and Woman. Then, Dan and Sister Agnes Mary Donovan of the Sisters of Life talk about the Year of Consecrated Life which begins November 30. 

Sister Mary Prudence Allen on Man vs. Woman?

Sister Mary Prudence Allen is a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. Formerly the chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, she's now a part of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University in England.  

In September, Sister Prudence was appointed by Pope Francis to the International Theological Commission, one of only five women on the commission. This week she presented at a Vatican-sponsored conference on the complementarity of man and woman, the Humanum Conference

“Each of the people invited spoke about what marriage was like and how the complementarity of man and woman was described within marriage within their culture or religious faith. I spoke about the Roman Catholic faith,” Sister Mary Prudence said, adding that there were people speaking from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Chinese, and many other traditions. 

“The most beautiful thing was that, with all the differences in our background nationally and internationally in faith, in every case, the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman and a family that flowed from that was very radiantly present. Over the three days, I think we became more and more enamored with the fundamental truth of this,” she said.

There were two kinds of videos produced and released from this conference. There were videos made for the program itself, which Sister Mary Prudence said were interspersed throughout. Each of these videos took one aspect of marriage, such as the protection of children or the male and female relationship, and went in-depth with examples from around the world. Sister Mary Prudence called these “teaching videos.”

The second set of videos were interviews. Third, there were videos of each presentation itself, ranging in length from five to twenty minutes.

In her talk, Sister Mary Prudence said she spoke about complementarity of man and woman in her talk. “I looked at how the four principles of complementarity between man and woman are revealed in the book of Genesis.” The first principle is the equal dignity; second is significant difference; third is synergetic relation; fourth is intergenerational fruition.

In the second part, Sister Mary Prudence looked at the relation between gender and gender reality and sex identity. “Gender reality is something you can observe just by looking and with science. It’s not like scripture, which is revealed. What scientists have discovered, from the beginning, that really every human being — with some exceptions — [are] males and females. [That’s] what issues from the union of a man and woman.” The exceptions, she said, always exist, but she pointed out that exceptions do not destroy the rule that always, when a human being is born, it is going to be male or female and will develop into a man or woman.

Sister Mary Prudence also looked at gender ideology, which, in her view, “destroys the integrity of the human being and reduces them to animal-like outlets…and money-solvent… The fact is that gender ideology has gone viral among some people,” she said, and shared why this is so troublesome. 

There is a Catholic response to gender ideology that reveals the truth of the human person. Sister Mary Prudence explained this and shared some additional resources to pursue.

Links of interest:

Read a longer interview with Sister Mary Prudence and other Humanum Conference participants

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan on The Year of Consecrated Life

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV was among the first group of women to respond to John Cardinal O’Connor’s inspiration to found the Sisters of Life, a religious community dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of human life. Founded in 1991, the Sisters of Life are a contemplative/apostolic community whose primary work is prayer on behalf of vulnerable human life. 

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a group that represents women religious in the United States. According to Mother Agnes Mary, there are 125 communities represented, which in turn represent 5500 sisters throughout the United States. “The purpose of the Council is to provide a forum for major superiors to collaborate with each other, to bring them together. That’s their peer group.”

The Council provides a place for women religious to cooperate formally, in dialogue with their bishops, both as the USCCB and their individual bishops, to really “provoke and provide a place for the flourishing of religious life in the United States,” said Mother Mary Agnes.

About 17% of the sisters whose communities are represented by the Council are in formation. “That means we have a really healthy young membership, but also the full continuum” of ages and stages.

Mother Mary Agnes was recently in Rome as part of the Executive Committee of the Council. Four sisters went and visited 15 departments of the Curia. “We met with their leadership and reported on the activities of the Council and asked for their input,” she said. “They were wonderful meetings,” with the high point being attending a Mass with Pope Francis and having an opportunity to speak with him.

Beginning the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014, through February 2, 2016, Pope Francis has declared a Year of Consecrated Life. Mother Mary Agnes said the Council has “a wonderful program of activities lined up for the Year of Consecrated Life.”

One of these initiatives is a national open house day for religious. “All of the faithful are invited to meet their brothers and sisters in the local convents everywhere throughout the United States. Sisters and brothers in every diocese and in every location will be opening the doors of their convents to receive people on three different days during the Year of Consecrated Life.” 

The first of these days will be Sunday, February 8, 2015. You can look on diocesan websites and newspapers to find out which convents are available and opening their doors for this. There will be another day in the summer to serve with religious and the third day will be on September 13, 2015, there will be an afternoon to pray with religious sisters and brothers.

Sisters from all over the country will be at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia as well. They’ll be participating with booths and also as part of a panel.

EWTN will be airing a documentary series on vocational testimonies in cooperation with the CMSWR. “What we’re hoping to do is create a large number of testimonials on video that can be posted and aired…so that others can see how God works in the heart of a young woman and hear her stories. They’re great love stories,” she said.

All of the initiatives for the Year of Consecrated Life will be on the CMSWR website. They are also going to be opening a Facebook page and Twitter account very soon.

Links of interest: