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“The Sisters are always there”

Given the magnitude of the issues facing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious during its recent annual assembly Aug. 7-10 …

Given the amazing presence and presentation of keynote speaker Barbara Marx Hubbard…

Given the inspiring presidential address offered to 900 members of the conference who responded with a sustained (and sustaining) standing ovation …

“Force the dawn to be born by believing in it.” From the presidential address of Sister Pat Farrell, OSF.

Given all of this, the lingering image in my mind as I reflect on being part of what everybody called an historic assembly is that of a young woman speaking to us during an optional session on the last day of the conference. (Optional meant that only about 850 of the 900 attendees were there.)

Katie was actually part of a three-person panel, sponsored by one of the LCWR regions about human trafficking. (Fortunately, we didn’t only talk about the CDF mandate!) Although the other two persons on the panel were equally compelling in their remarks, it was something about Katie’s tears — the spontaneity of them, the sincerity of them.

Referring to us as both “sisters” and “you guys,” this young woman shared her story of the web of drugs and stripping and prostitution and trafficking in which she had been entangled for a significant part of her young life.

The good news is that Katie is now free of that web and is caught up in creating new life for other victims through something she has named the Healing Action Network in St. Louis. And as she faces new challenges she told us, “the sisters are always there.”
These sisters do not belong to just one congregation, but come from various orders and comprise a sisterhood, I believe, that now extends beyond the boundaries of congregations and regions.

That’s what LCWR has become for me — a sisterhood — a sisterhood that desires always to be there with Katie and others like her in greatest need of healing action, with each other around the tables of our lives and with our brother bishops in dialogue for the sake of the fresh in-breaking of the reign of God.

At the annual assembly of the Leadeship Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in St. Louis Aug. 7-10, more than 900 participants, including the Sisters of Providence General Officers, gathered for sustained prayer and dialogue, to consider various responses to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) report, with the goal of deciding together the next best steps for the conference following the assembly.

The address of outgoing LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, provides insights to the content and spirit of the gathering, as does the press release issued by LCWR on Friday, Aug. 10.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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