In April 2012, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) received a notification from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charging the organisation with doctrinal and pastoral errors that were “grave and a matter of serious concern.” For many Americans this was their first awareness of the LCWR, a canonically approved organisation that supports congregations representing over 80% of women religious in the United States. One of the outcomes was an outpouring of support and solidarity with the sisters, an appreciation for their lives of selfless service, and evidence of a strong hunger for a type of spiritual leadership attuned to the signs of the times. Responding to this interest, the LCWR has compiled a collection of ten presidential addresses from the past twenty-five years. Beginning in 1978 with Sister Joan Chittister’s reflections on the changing models of religious life, followed by Sister Teresa Kane’s 1980 address on the role of women in the church, these speeches reflect a period of momentous changes in the church and society. They conclude with Sister Pat Farrell’s moving speech at the historic 2012 gathering, responding to the Vatican’s critique of LCWR. Throughout these addresses, readers will find ideas and inspiration to formulate their own understandings of the type of leadership needed in the world and church today.
Annmarie Sanders, IHM, is director of communications for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
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