There are seven provinces of OFM Franciscans spread across the United States. This includes the Province of St. John the Baptist, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the province to which I belong. What follows is a special statement of our seven provinces in support of Catholic religious women in this country who, for over 100 years, have done much good for the whole society, especially in terms of education and health care.
For me, as a friar, this statement gives me a chance to add my voice, personally, to these religious women. Like many of you who read Friar Jack’s E-spirations, I have greatly benefited for many years, thanks to the education, health care, and much more from these religious women.
(This letter is condensed.)
We, the Leadership of the Friars Minor of the United States, write today as your brothers in the vowed religious life who, like you, have a great love for our Church and for the people whom we are privileged to serve.
We write at a time of heightened polarization and even animosity in our nation and Church, with deep concern that the recent Vatican Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) may inadvertently fuel the current climate of division and confusion. We write, too, as a public sign of our solidarity with you as you endure this very difficult moment. We are privileged to share with you the journey of religious life.
Like you, we strive in all that we do to build up the People of God. As religious brothers in the Franciscan tradition, we are rooted in a stance of gratitude that flows from awareness of the myriad ways that God is disclosed and made manifest in the world. For us, there can be no dispute that God has been and continues to be revealed through the faithful (and often unsung) witness of the religious women in the United States.
Thus we note with appreciation that the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF) “acknowledges with gratitude the great contributions of women religious to the Church of the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by religious over the years.” We certainly know how much our service has been enriched by the many gifts you bring to these ministries.
This is the charge that we as Religious have received through the “Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life” from the Second Vatican Council and subsequent statements of the Church on religious life. We believe that your willingness to reflect on many of the questions faced by contemporary society is an expression of your determination to be faithful to the Gospel, the Church, the invitation from Vatican II, and your own religious charisms. We remain thankful for and edified by your courage to engage in such reflection despite the ever-present risk of misunderstanding.
—Leadership of Franciscan (OFM) Provinces of the United States
Featured photo: CNS/Stephen Brashear