|Vatican report concludes: “Women religious have courageously been in the forefront, selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical, and social needs of countless individuals."|
In mid-December, the Vatican released its final report on a multi-year investigation into how American sisters live, work, and pray. The report was largely postive and expressed gratitude for the sisters' ministry and witness.
“Women religious have courageously been in the forefront, selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical, and social needs of countless individuals,” the report said.
The Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America resulted from a visitation beginning in 2008 "to look into the quality of the life of religious women in the United States." It was initiated because "apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times."
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (VISION's parent organization), shared his thoughts on the report with America: "Religious sisters are an essential and formidable force in the life of the church. They have managed hospitals, schools, and universities and have forged innovative, effective ministries to meet the needs of the poor with little money, but with great vision and determination. I applaud the Congregation’s acknowledgement of the structural, cultural, and financial challenges women’s religious institutes face in attracting and retaining new members. I am especially heartened by the Congregation’s very clearly stated commitment to work with Pope Francis to find expression for 'feminine genius' and a role for women in 'decision making in the different areas of Church life.' During this Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis invites all religious to look to our future with hope."
The Global Sisters Report said of the report: "Using some form of the word 'gratitude' eight times over its 12 pages, the report also acknowledges the suspicion many sisters had over the launching of the investigation and says the Vatican is seeking 'respectful and fruitful dialogue' with those who refused to collaborate in the process."
Although the number of those in religious life is diminishing, support for these challenges is present in the report. The Year of Consecrated Life will offer even more opportunities for the laity and religious to experience the charisms, community, and grace of consecrated life.