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Friday, 11 September 2009

Going Non-Canonical - and an alternative strategy

At the National Conference of the US Resource Center for Religious Institutes, to be held at the Atlanta Georgia Hilton hotel this October, one of the workshops is described as follows:
Workshop #28: Going Non-Canonical
Neal Smith, Mary David Walgenbach, OSB & Dan Ward, OSB
The story of a small Benedictine community’s journey of becoming non-canonical. The content includes their ecumenical ministry, visioning process, development of an ecumenical board, relationship with the Federation of St. Gertrude and canonical and civil procedures for the transfer of assets.
Mary David Walgenbach is indeed a good speaker for the topic since she and her fellow former Benedictine sister, Joanne Kollasch, have left their order but spent several years sewing up a legal arrangement whereby they could keep the assets and build a new property in Madison, Wisconsin.

The new non-canonical, ecumenical foundation is called the Holy Wisdom Monastery. Bishop Morlino has forbidden priests from celebrating Mass there but the sisters are happy “sharing the Bread of Life around a common table” at a weekly, inclusive, ecumenical Eucharist, presided over by a rotating team of non-Catholic ministers.

H/T St John's Valdosta where you can read more.

This is all very much in the "laugh or cry" category but there is a lesson here and it is not simply to say how dreadful it all is. Mary David Walgenbach told the National Catholic Reporter:
As women's religious congregations continue to get smaller in North America, they are exploring a variety of options for what their communities might look like in the future, and the Madison Benedictines offer one example.
Well here's another option to explore: what we need is a group of intelligent, like-minded young women who can get into one of these orders before it completely collapses, provide compassionate and high-quality nursing care for the elderly sisters, and then transform the congregation, restore the habit and all the lovely chapel furnishings, and make good use of the real estate for the restoration of traditional faith and religious life. This is an idea I sometimes suggest to devout young women with leadership capacity but none of them has yet taken it up. Come on! We need some St Teresa's in the Church today - you don't even need to build convents, just take over the existing ones!
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