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Vatican-appointed overseer to attend LCWR annual meeting

US sisters say they feel a 'cloud over our head' amid ongoing investigation of group's activities

<p>Archbishop J Peter Sartain of Seattle, Washington</p>

Archbishop J Peter Sartain of Seattle, Washington

  • Joshua J McElwee
  • International
  • August 5, 2013
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The US archbishop who was given expansive oversight by the Vatican of American sisters will attend their annual gathering in mid-August and will speak of his role as their church-mandated overseer.

Unclear, however, is whether Seattle Archbishop J Peter Sartain will take questions from the approximately 900 women, leaders of the various orders of sisters across the country, who are expected to attend the event.

News of Sartain's presence at the assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) comes amid continuing uncertain times for the group, an umbrella organization of US sisters that the Vatican ordered to revise in April 2012 and gave the archbishop wide authority over its statutes and programs.

One former LCWR president said its members are preparing for this year's assembly with an “ominous feeling”.

“We're going into this assembly knowing that there's a cloud over our head and that we are being investigated and they are going to be monitoring us,” said Mercy Sister Theresa Kane, who served as LCWR president from 1979 to 1980.

Sartain, Kane said, is "showing up, and he's staying for the entire assembly. It's monitoring. There's a cloud ... and we're living through it."

Leaders of LCWR and the individual institutes of US sisters have expressed pain and confusion over the Vatican's move, made in a “doctrinal assessment” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While some sister leaders initially expressed hope Pope Francis might take a softer line on the situation than Pope Benedict XVI, a statement from the doctrinal congregation in April said Francis “reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform.”

LCWR, founded at the Vatican's request in 1956, represents about 80 percent of the approximately 57,000 US Catholic sisters.

LCWR members confirmed in conversations with NCR that Sartain will attend the assembly, held this year from August 13-16 in Orlando, Florida, although that information had not been made public.

NCR also obtained a copy of the gathering's official schedule and preparation materials, which also have yet to be made public.

“The apostolic delegate appointed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to oversee its mandate to LCWR, Archbishop J Peter Sartain, will be present for the entire assembly,” says a notice on the third page of those materials.

“Archbishop Sartain will speak with the assembly on the mandate, and will have an opportunity to hear from and respond to the LCWR members,” it continues.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr Annmarie Sanders, LCWR's associate director for communications, said Friday the group invited Sartain to speak during one of the assembly's executive sessions and said he is expected to talk for about half an hour.

Sanders said LCWR leaders have not been told what Sartain might say to the group. The archbishop will “have an opportunity to hear from the members in response to whatever he shares with them” after his talk, Sanders said.

The Seattle archdiocese’s director of communications, Greg Magnoni, said Friday he was unaware that Sartain was going to attend the LCWR gathering. The archbishop, Magnoni said, is currently out of the archdiocese and unavailable for comment on the matter.

Magnoni also said Sartain preferred to speak on the matter directly to LCWR leaders and not through the media, a pledge the archbishop has repeated several times since his 2012 appointment.

Full story: Vatican-appointed overseer to attend LCWR gathering

Source: National Catholic Reporter

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