In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (43:19), we read “See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert, I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.”
Like many others over the past weeks and months, I have been perplexed by the Vatican assessment of the LCWR issued on April 18th and have found myself often prayerfully pondering the question, “What is going on here?” As others have suggested in various venues, I, too, have kept coming back to the realization that there seems to be something deeper going on here, something bigger than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s call for reform of the LCWR, something that the Spirit of God is doing that cannot yet be fully perceived, as the words of Isaiah the Prophet suggest. It is something in process, something ‘of God’s Spirit’ in process!
Probably like many others, I have been noting the manner of response of the leadership of the LCWR to the CDF’s criticisms over these several months, a manner of response that I have admired greatly. It has been prayerful, deeply reflective, non-violent, and contemplative. The sisters have engaged in a silent listening to the Spirit of God, in conversing with one another at tables, attempting together, in community, to gather the ‘collective wisdom’ of God’s spirit moving within and among the group, so that they might, in the end, make a response that would be “for the good of the church, for the good of the LCWR, for the good of religious life throughout the world, and ultimately for the good of the human family,” as LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell put it.
Indeed, the LCWR has modeled for all of us—families, parish communities, the broader church community, business communities, global communities—a path, a way of coming together to bridge different perspectives, to search together for the common good, to discern the ‘new thing’ God wants to do among us. They have offered us a grace-filled model of attentive listening to the Holy Spirit, of engaging with one another, even across differences, as we struggle to make decisions, shape policies, decide on what the ‘next best step’ is for each of us in our personal and communal lives.
My prayerful hope is that the assembly’s call to the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from “a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue,” will be met, as it seems that it might be from Archbishop Sartain’s initial response: "Along with the members of the LCWR, I remain committed to working to address the issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.”
What is the ‘something new’ that God might be doing here? It has yet to be revealed! But let us continue to pray and to live in “creative hope” that the renewing, transforming Spirit of God is at work “in the desert, making a way, in the wastelands, a river.”
Peggy McDonald, I.H.M.