Vatican visitation finds love
They saw that we genuinely love one another.
After a years’ long and sometimes painful investigation, that is what stands out for me from the results of the apostolic visitation on our community of women religious by the Vatican.
By way of explanation, let me walk you through the background.
(This did start in 2008 after all.)
In December 2008, the Vatican Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced an Apostolic Visitation of women’s apostolic congregations in the United States. The reason for this visitation was to “look at the quality of the life of religious women in the United States.”
Many of you may remember that this rather vague purpose created some level of anxiety, confusion and anger among women religious and people who loved sisters and our way of life.
In 2010, the Sisters of Providence received three US women religious who conducted several interviews. They talked with Sisters of Providence, some members of our staff, Providence Associates, lay advisors and our ministry partners. When the sister visitors left, we received no verbal or written feedback from them. Friendly goodbyes were said; but our Congregation knew only that the material gathered from the interviews would be joined with the outcome of interviews with many religious congregations.
(Are you still with me?)
In December 2014, at a Vatican press conference, the completion of the final report was announced. The visitation process was ended.
In April 2016, I, as general superior of the Sisters of Providence, received a letter from the Institute of Congregations of Apostolic Life and Societies of Apostolic reporting the learnings from the visitors about the Sisters of Providence.
The Good Part:
(In case you’re asking yourself “what’s the point?)
The Sisters of Providence feel very positive and affirmed by the observations made in the letter summarizing our visit.
Let me quote some of the most heartening excerpts:
- The Sisters of Providence have published the powerful and prolific writings of Saint Mother Theodore which reveal her practical and mystical spirituality, her trust in Providence and her keen observations of both the natural world and the nature of persons. Her daughters and friends respect and deeply love her… [they] believe that they can lean on her heritage of going forward without all the answers, without knowing absolutely a predictable future.
- During the on-site visit, the visitors were impressed with the sisters … strong sense of mission, especially to the education of women and to the care of the poor.
- According to vocation/formation personnel, the congregation is optimistic about future membership….
The Best ‘til Last
(What every Sister of Providence already knows is at the heart of who we are!)
- The on-site visitors noted that the sisters genuinely love each other and have a sense of the motherhouse as ‘home.”
This feels like a strong testament to me. We genuinely love one another. We already knew it, of course, but it is nice that outside observers can see we are living out the Gospel mandate of love. Love, community, mission, service, justice, prayer, mercy.
Being mission driven, we take our love for one another and share it outward.
We Sisters of Providence hope you know of our genuine love and regard for all of you whose lives we touch and whose lives touch ours.
In our genuine love for each other and all creation, we will continue to “break boundaries and create hope.”