LCWR General Assembly Reaffirms Commitment to Justice and Connectedness of All Creation

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI — With a focus on social justice, the Sisters’ Leadership Conference concluded its August 9-12 general meeting – its first in-person meeting since the pandemic began – with an eye to questions that will guide their commitments. for the next three years and a celebration of their transfer of leadership.

Sr. Maureen Geary becomes president-elect of LCWR, a member organization of congregational leaders that represents 80% of Catholic sisters in the United States. She is part of the three-member presidential team.

A counselor for the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Geary is in her 16th year of congregation leadership and has served on the LCWR National Council and several committees. She has worked as an accountant and lawyer. She has also served in ministries with the Diocese of Grand Rapids Secretariat for Social Justice and the Kent County Coalition to End Homelessness.

Springfield Dominican Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma became president. Sr. Jane Herb of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary became Past President.

Even as Adrian Dominican Sr. Elise Garcia completed her term in the Presidential Triumvirate, Sr. Carol Zinn, Executive Director of LCWR, told him, with grateful laughter, “it’s not over.” Zinn thanked Garcia for his leadership during a particularly difficult time given the pandemic, which has created myriad challenges for congregations and the LCWR, including holding two virtual assemblies.

She called Garcia a “manifestation of global brotherhood; you are the living invitation to porous borders.” Zinn noted that Garcia has “an incredible ability to create inclusive partnerships and clearly the Gospel message in the public square is what your life is about.”

The LCWR voted to renew the focus of its 2019-2022 resolution: Seeking Communion at the Intersection of Racism, Forced Migration and the Climate Crisis. These three questions will once again serve as the North Star for the conference until 2025. A resolution that had been developed through community discernment prior to this year’s general assembly, and which the sister leaders strongly reaffirmed August 12.

“We are heartbroken by the myriad ways in which our one human family and the Earth, our common home, continue to suffer from disconnection, indifference, violence and fear in the face of racism, migration force and the climate crisis,” the resolution said, the result of “reading the signs of the times” and the “desire to create communion.”

“Responding to God who loves all creation, we recommit to initiate and support opportunities to unionize and to look deeper into the root causes of injustice”, the intersection of racism, migration force and the climate crisis being a priority in the projects and actions that the sisters will undertake for the next three years. “We recognize a sense of urgency and promise prayer, educational action and advocacy. We will use our collective voices, resources and influence in collaboration with others to establish justice, which reflects the creative love of God.”

The LCWR Global Concerns Committee introduced the resolution before inviting a moment of silent contemplation and then table discussions. The sisters shared their comments with the whole congregation. One table noted that resolution is something that congregations of all sizes and charisms can “buy” and that puts them “in alignment with Laudato Si’“, serving as an extension of Pope Francis’ encyclical regarding the care of the Earth as our common home.

A sister said that to fulfill this commitment so that it is not “just talking”, the LCWR could serve as a resource for their congregations, in the same way that they called for volunteers at the border. south of the United States on behalf of Catholic charities in recent years, while another sister asked for ongoing teaching resources that explore how these issues intersect.

The location of the assembly – St. Louis – has also served as a symbol of this intersection of issues: near the grounds of the arch of the gateway to St. Louis, which is close to the courthouse infamous for the Dred Scott decision (racism), as well as the Gateway Museum which focuses on Native Americans and westward expanding settlers (migration and exploitation of Indigenous peoples), and looks to the Mississippi River, the lifeblood of the region (climate).

Following speech readings about the history of racism in Missouri, as well as the ill effects of the Mississippi River being the second most polluted waterway in the nation (which, the presenters noted, affects many disproportionately the black population of St. Louis), the sisters engaged in symbolic action for justice through prayer. Conducted in English and Spanish, each prayer places the sisters facing one of four cardinal directions, ending with their hands facing the Earth, the heavens, and finally, their heart.

“Help us to remember the breath of life that comes from all our relationships and the interconnectedness of all creation,” they prayed, facing east.

Another afternoon session included a brief celebration of the 50e anniversary of the Network, which pleads for legislation in conformity with Catholic social teaching.

Mary Novak, Executive Director, said the Network’s “inter-congregational ministry” was and is a charism of “collaboration and listening”, and that the organization is recommitting to its founding spirit: “repairing the divisions of our society by shaping federal government policy aimed at dismantling systemic racism, centering equity and restorative justice, protecting our democracy, and protecting our common home.”

Garcia presented Novak with a check for $100,000 in “anticipation and support for the next 50 years of transformative political engagement.”

Zinn closed the conference – before the traditional banquet and awards ceremony – with a final blessing for leadership: “May we always be led to that deeper place of mystical wisdom, may God be the one who leads us out of this room when we leave and go home.”

Elna M. Lemons