Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
As the Vatican continues to carry out its Apostolic Visitation of American Catholic women’s religious orders, it has received a wide degree of responses ranging from acceptance of the Visitation to outright hostility.
Sister Elizabeth Ohmann, a Franciscan nun who works for the lobbying group Humane Borders recently told the Arizona Daily Star that she feels the Vatican is targeting communities that dissent from Catholic teaching, especially on sexuality.
“Are we going contrary to Rome’s teachings?” Sister Ohmann said. “I say, ‘Yes, it is contrary to Rome’s teachings.’ But it is not contrary to my own conscience.”
Sister Mary Waskowiak, president of the 4,000-member Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, told the AP that most of the 28 leaders of religious orders to whom she had spoken had either left sections of the Visitation questionnaire blank or simply sent the Vatican copies of their constitutions.
Ann Carey, author of Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities, said that she’s been contacted by many sisters about the refusal of their leaders to cooperate with the Visitation.
In response, Carey’s been asked to moderate an online Yahoo support group that has been formed to allow those sisters who support the Visitation to communicate with one another anonymously.
“Many women religious welcome the Apostolic Visitation in the hope that it might bring about an authentic renewal of religious life,” says a description of the group found on their home page. “Several of these sisters have been searching for a way to be in solidarity with other sisters who see the value and necessity of the Apostolic Visitation at this time in this country.”
Carey also noted that it is important to get the word out to sisters that the Apostolic Visitation office still welcomes and encourages letters from individual sisters who want to share their experiences and hopes for religious life. Such letters will be treated as confidential.
Sisters may write to:
Mother M. Clare Millea ASCJ
Apostolic Visitation Office
P.O. Box 4328
Hamden, CT 06514-9998