LCWR

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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Presidential Address by Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM

LCWR National Assembly Presidential Address  
August 22, 2003, Detroit, MI 

by Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM


 

TENDING THE HOLY THROUGH THE POWER OF SISTERHOOD

The Wisdom of the Basswood Tree: Attend to the Soul-stirring Stories

The seasons of the year have come full cycle since we last gathered as an LCWR Conference.  In fall, brilliant gold leaves were superimposed on stories of clerical sexual abuse and hierarchical cover-up.  My heart ached for a new creation.  In winter, white landscapes soft with peace were superimposed on scenes of Bethlehem streets deserted under Israeli military curfew.  My heart ached for salvation. In spring, yellow daffodils were superimposed on faces of Iraqi mothers holding wounded children.  My heart ached for resurrection.  Once again it is summer.  We gather holding this year so tenderly that it hurts. We gather aching for creation, salvation, and resurrection. 

Open to the revelation of any words capable of articulating our story as women religious in this year that seems to elude any language at all, I went, in the spirit of this assembly, to the earth.  Sitting near an ancient basswood tree, its massive trunk felled and split open in a storm, I listened for the wisdom pouring forth so liberally from her earthy cavity.  She insisted on returning me to three stories that have found a home in my heart this year. 

The first is a story I read on the plane on my first trip to Rome for our LCWR annual visitation. On an ordinary day in Lorena Province, Iran, a sixteen-month old child wanders away from the watchful eye of his babysitter. Three days later the desperate search party enters a cave in the distant mountainside.  “They see the dark, round shape of a thick-furred, quiescent she-bear lying against the wall.  And then they see the child. He was alive, unscarred, and perfectly well after three days—and well-fed, smelling of milk.  The bear was nursing the child.”  Reflecting on this story as she tells it, Barbara Kingsolver writes, “The story of the child and the bear came to me on the same day that I read the year’s opening words on the bombing campaign in Afghanistan.  I cleaved hard to this story.  People not altogether far away from Kabul had been visited by an impossible act of grace.  In a world whose wells of kindness seem everywhere to be running dry, a bear nursed a lost child” (Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder, New York: Harper Collins, 2002).

The second story found me in one of those contemplative spaces to which we as LCWR have committed ourselves.  It is a story of trees told by Megan McKenna. A tree, hollowed out by another tree that had fallen against it, shelters a fox. As the tree aged, the tree began to wonder what the fox would do for a home when it fell. There was a fragile tree next to this old tree; it wasn’t suited to housing anyone and could hardly stand by itself.  “The older tree said to the younger one, ‘Why don’t I just shift a bit and start growing among your roots.  It will strengthen your base, and still leave the fox a place to live for a long time to come.’ The young tree crept over and the old tree learned to accommodate its nearness to its insides, and the fox was happy, too.  If you listen, you’ll hear in the silent woods the secret of the trees: Leaning can make you live forever and your weakest places can be someone else’s home” (Megan McKenna and Tony Cowan, Keepers of the Story, New York: Orbis Books, l997).

I came upon the third story as I was searching the LCWR leadership manual, Leading from Within, for some resources to guide us during our February National Board meeting.  The story, “Awaiting the Dance,” by Arthur Boers, is about Karen Ridd and Marcela Rodriguez, arrested by the National Guard in El Salvador. Karen was interrogated and released.  However, she refused to leave if Marcela were not released as well.  When asked, why she would not leave, Karen answered,  “’Soldiers should understand camaraderie.’ After a pause, they said, ‘Yes, we do understand.’  They put her in the hall with Marcela and removed her handcuffs.  The two women clung to each other.  Then the unexpected happened.  ‘People kept coming to see us, saying things like, Where are the two inseparables? They didn’t say this with the tone of mockery that had been going on all day, but with respect and admiration, and maybe with a bit of awe.  I think it was for the strength of human friendship that can surmount what seems to be insurmountable obstacles.’  Shortly after, they were released” (Reprinted with permission in Leading from Within, LCWR 2001, originally printed in The Other Side, May-June, l990).

I stay with these stories that will not let me go.  They respond to the ache in my heart: the story of the bear and the child feels like new creation; the story of the trees and the fox feels like salvation; the story of the two women friends and the prison guards feels like resurrection.  These stories feel like us. 

Slides: Symbols of our LCWR Story 

Where is the resonance between our story as women religious and these stories of bears nursing children, leaning trees providing shelter, and embracing women confounding prison guards?  As these stories, ostensibly idealistic, even whimsical, weave their way into my experience of us in LCWR, they reveal our power as women religious in all its prophetic radicality.  In this year, when we have experienced our powerlessness to prevent the war in Iraq or to effect any tangible transformation of abusive systems in our church, power has been at work in us.  Counter-cultural, mutual, relational, it is the authentic power integral to the transformation of our church and of our world.  It is the power of sisterhood.

In the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 
We were made for these times.  Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. The luster and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking.  Yet, I urge you to please not spend your spirit by bewailing these difficult times.  Especially do not lose hope.  The fact is we were made for these times.  For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement (“Heartening Words for Spiritual Warriors”).

In our time together this morning I invite us to let a bear and a child, trees, and two women illumine our experience as women religious this year bringing to light the breathtaking gift and responsibility of our shared power.  It is my hope that this reflection will be both the cause of sincere celebration and a call to live with even greater courage the revisioned story of creation, salvation, and resurrection that we are.

A Mother Bear Nurses a Child: Claiming the Communal Power of Creation in the Cave of Contemplation

On the same calendar day two very different stories are breathed into our universe: a bear nurses a child in a cave; the United States bombs Afghanistan. The same calendar day unleashes two opposing powers: the power of utter tenderness; the power of sheer domination. The juxtaposition of these two stories suggests that, integral to claiming the power of tenderness is the experience of being lost.  We women religious know what it means to be lost.  We know how it feels to be carried away to places of consciousness we would rather not go and may even fear. 

As women of the church, we are naming, owning, and addressing our impasse with the hierarchical and patriarchal structures of our church.  We are living with the gnawing possibility that our church hierarchy as a whole may not acknowledge the abuse of ecclesial power and so may not engage in the single act of radical transparency integral to dismantling the abusive structures of our church. And, we are finding ourselves stirred and shaken to the depths of our own souls as we receive and respond to allegations of misconduct on the part of our members.

As women who are citizens of the United States, we are experiencing pervasive shame, anger, and sadness as we live daily with the arrogance of our United States government.  Scenes of devastation in Iraq inhabit our souls, the lack of any postwar rehabilitation plans baffle our minds, and the betrayal by our leadership in communicating false intelligence information becomes more than we can absorb. And, in it all, we find ourselves haunted by our own complicity in national and global violence. 

In the words of our LCWR statements, “we are saddened; we weep; we are filled with fear; we feel isolated and alone; we feel disheartened and powerless.”  In the imagery of our story of the child and the bear, we feel lost.  And, significantly, like this story, our loss has carried us to the dark cave of contemplation.  For three years now, we have renewed our commitment to that cave. We have said over and over to ourselves, to the people of God, to our bishops, to officials around tables in Roman offices, to our President, our Secretary of State, our Congress: 
God’s dream of unity for our world and for our church can come in our time, only if we are willing to change. It is God’s love that will bring conversion and healing to us and through us to the world.  We want to enter into contemplation and stir our God-given creativity so as to imagine new ways of responding in love.

In the cave of contemplation we, like the lost child in our story, are being held by a new kind of power, the power of the bear nursing the child.  In the cave our Mother-God holds us at her breast.  In a radical act of tender mutuality and communion, she pours into us her milk, empowering us to be, like her, bearers of this same counter-cultural creative power.  This power subverts, inverts, dismantles and converts the power of patriarchy operative in both our church and our world.  In the words of Dorothee Soellee,  
Omnipotence and mysticism are mutually exclusive.  We shall understand the divine power of creation correctly when we detach it from the images of patriarchal power to command and experience it as the life-energy that shares itself.  As its language, prayer brings the unity that is given with creation into awareness.  The way we are, we are members of each other.  All of us.  Everything  (The Silent Cry, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001).

In the cave of contemplation we are found by and re-founded in the indissoluble communion of original creation.  We experience ourselves as daughters of the mother bear and claim the power of our sisterhood.  The fruits of our time in the cave of our communal contemplation are alive in us. 

· This prayer is alive in one of our recent “Resolutions to Action” which calls us to examine how we use our own power as leaders within our Congregations.  The authenticity of our challenge to political and religious leaders to use their power humbly rather than arrogantly depends upon our own move from dominating power to the power of friendship in mutual service. 

· This prayer is alive in our “Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse.” We grieve with victim/survivors; we stand in solidarity with those who have been falsely accused; we are called to justice, mercy, and forgiveness.  In a compassion that extends to victim, those accused, and the perpetrators, we acknowledge that we know ourselves as sisters to them all.

· This prayer is alive in the communal voice we as a Conference speak for peace.  In a statement issued on the first day of our country’s preemptive strike against Iraq, we ground our words in our “deep belief that each person is made in the image of God.“  Our solidarity is experienced as so intimate that “to do harm to another diminishes us as persons and this act of aggression violates our national soul.”

This is the creation story we are telling and it is the only story viable for the ongoing genesis of our church, our world, our earth, our cosmos.  Dismantling ecclesial and political patriarchy and hierarchy, it places us humbly and powerfully in the cave where the bear nursing the child makes it possible for our church and our world to be “visited by an impossible act of grace.”

Two Trees Leaning Make a Home for the Other: Claiming the Healing Power of Salvation in the Wild Space of Homelessness

I sit with the second story, that of the two trees leaning toward one another to make a home for the fox.  I am stirred by the older tree bent on empowering the more fragile tree to collaborate in the creation of a home, even to the cost of her life.  How did the older tree get to be this way?  And, why is this story so captivating me right now? Perhaps the entry point of response to both of those questions lies in the first line of the story, “A tree, hollowed out by another tree that had fallen against it, shelters a fox.”  The tree itself has been hollowed out, emptied out, has suffered in a way that moves her to make and to be a home. Does this intense yearning to create a home for others come from our own experienced homelessness?  This question evoked two experiences I have had this year as LCWR President, experiences that have hollowed me out in a suffering I can only name as a deep sense of homelessness in my country and in my church.

In December I had the opportunity to participate in a peace delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  There I experienced first hand the suffering inflicted by war and injustice.  I saw that suffering in the face of Claudette at Caritas in Jerusalem, as she told her story symbolic of the fate of Palestinians in the whole region.  “As a Palestinian, I am a refugee in my own city, expelled by the Israelis from my own home.  When I was a child, my father rented the third floor of our house to an Israeli family.  I and the Israeli daughter in the family became friends.  Now, my childhood friend lives in my house.”  I heard that suffering in the story of Tania, a 24-year old Russian Jew, and a member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.  In Tania’s simple heart-breaking words, “House demolitions occur very early in the morning.  Sometimes we stand in front of the bulldozers; sometimes we sit with the family.”  For her action Tania has been disowned by her Jewish family of origin.  In so many of the stories there, we heard about the complicity of the United States in the injustice of the Israeli Occupation.  Returning from this experience, as our plane was making its final descent into the Newark airport, our captain announced, “I want to be the first to welcome you to the U.S.”  My eyes welled up; I knew that from now on, I would live in my U.S. home with the ache of homelessness.

We in LCWR leadership have the opportunity to participate in a variety of meetings where ecclesial issues are the content of our dialogue.  During one meeting, our conversation turned to a discussion of the church’s position on homosexuality.  As some of the participants made their appeal to ethical directives based in natural law and the intrinsically disordered nature of homosexuality, I found myself tapping into a place of grief and alienation.  In my heart’s eye, I saw faces of men and women I know whose sexual orientation is gay or lesbian and who live compassionately, justly yearning for a return of compassion and justice on the part of a church they love.  I thought of men and women whose passion for wholeness in relationship is lived in deep commitment to life-long same-sex partners.  I heard deep in my own being, their struggle to find a home in our church. In the image of our two trees, I could feel my roots moving toward theirs and they leaning toward me as together we want nothing more than to shape a home space for those who are “other.” Around that meeting table, I was compelled to speak on their behalf, to tell the story of the beauty of their relationships, and to offer an alternative ethic of sexuality.  The moment felt frozen in time; I felt the ache of my own homelessness in the church that is my home. 

And yet, as cruciform as it feels and is, the acute pain of homelessness is a gift. Where we do not fit, where we experience ourselves ostracized to the margins from our privileged place at the center, we are given the opportunity for transformation. Sallie McFague calls this a “wild space,” a space opened up by any rifts with the standard way of being, deciding, and acting.   In her words, “It is the wild space in each of us, whatever does not fit the stereotypical human being, that questions the definition of the good life.”  The feeling of being an outsider in places we once called “home” is the wild space of our possibility (Life Abundant, Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001). 

In the “wild space” we recognize the limitations of the self-sufficient power of the privileged and, like the older tree in our story, lean toward the more fragile, vulnerable and less privileged.  Our “power over” becomes “power with” in a compassion that creates a home for any and all who are “other.”  Like Sophia-God, incarnated in Jesus, we set wildly inclusive tables in the household of God where our friends on the margins find a place of honor. Out of our homelessness, we make a new home, where around tables with room for infinite expansion, we tell new stories of salvation.

I hear evidences of that “wild space” in some of our salvific actions.

· Last summer at this assembly, we voiced our commitment to create and to participate in inclusive tables where laity, women and men religious, clerics, and bishops sit together to share our hopes for our church.  In response to that desire the National Board designed a suggested process of  “healing circles.”

· In February our Executive Committee endorsed a statement drafted by a collaborative group of individuals and organizations. The statement calls for a church that includes around its tables of conversation “silent subjects” as “active partners,” and names these processes as being at the heart of healing in our church.

· At our May meeting of the Bishops’ Committee for International Justice and Peace an African doctor from Zambia told how the Zambian people, in collegial processes, decided not to accept genetically modified organisms even though such acceptance would have helped to alleviate the severity of their hunger. I believe it was from my “wild space” of “homelessness” that I was able to say so clearly, “Doctor, your story challenges us to resolve the food distribution crisis in ways that give people the power to make the decisions that are true to them—culturally, politically, socially, ethically.”  I could feel the healing that fell between the doctor and me.

The thoughts of Elizabeth Johnson are appropriate here. 
Women know the breakthrough of their own strength, usually under duress.  The kind of power they evidence is a vitality, an empowering vigor that reaches out and awakens freedom and strength in oneself and others. It is an energy that brings forth, stirs up, and fosters life, enabling autonomy and friendship.  It is a movement of spirit that builds, mends, struggles with and against, celebrates and laments.  It transforms people and bonds them with one another and to the world.  And it operates in a relational manner.  
She describes those actions as “granting fragmentary experiences of salvation” (Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is, New York: Crossroad, l992).

If you listen, you’ll hear--not just in the silent woods, but in the silence of this room—the secret of the trees, our secret: “Leaning can make you live forever and your weakest places can be someone else’s home.”

Women Freed by an Embrace: Claiming the Liberating Power of Resurrection in the Embodiment of Truth-telling

We turn now to our third story, the story of Karen Ridd and Marcela Rodriguez, arrested by the National Guard in El Salvador.  Although we do not know what brought these two women to prison, we can surmise that it had something to do with the fierceness of their sense of relatedness to the people of El Salvador.  More than a clue for that interpretation is found in the way they are with one another in an inseparable camaraderie.  They cling to one another desiring that their freedom come together or not at all. Told boldly in their very bodies is the only truth that matters: against impossible odds, relatedness liberates. It is their unnerving authenticity that sets them free.

This story echoes with other stories of this year.  I hear this story in Mercy Sister Moira Kenny, on trial for an act of civil disobedience at SOA.  “As a sister, my primary reason for taking part in the annual protest at SOA is to honor the memory of Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan. I also participate in order to stand in solidarity with my friend Jennifer Harbury whose Guatemalan husband was tortured for two years and killed by SOA grads.  I took this action as an act of conscience.”

I hear this story in the story of two women peace activists, Israeli Terry Greenblatt and Palestinian Amneh Badran, who are working together to bring women’s perspectives to the Middle-East peace negotiations.  In the words of Greenblatt, “We women assemble, sit on the same side of the table. We put the strife and pains in front of us, look at the male diplomats courageously, and come up with a win-win formula.”  They are both accused of being traitors, of being naïve and impractical daydreamers, but they persist in sitting side by side at the table as” long as it takes to achieve a peaceful solution” (Anat Cohen, Wenews correspondent, Jerusalem).

I hear this story in the story of three Dominicans, Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson, and Ardeth Platte, who, on October 6, 2002, the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, and with thousands of U.S. troops poised to overtake Baghdad, snipped through a chain-link fence on the site of the Minuteman silo near Greeley, Colorado. According to the article in the Denver Post, “Some say it was a charade. Some say it was a sacrilege. Some say it was idealism run amok.”  But for the sisters, the intent was clear, “We are people of conscience, required to bear witness”  (Diane Carman, Sunday, April 6).

And I hear this story in us. 
· A year ago at our assembly we reiterated our call to “use our corporate voice and influence in solidarity with people who experience powerlessness or any other form of violence or oppression” (LCWR Goals).  We reclaimed with greater clarity our desire to speak the truth of the Gospel more publicly in the media.  We acknowledged that a more public witness on our part draws us as women religious into a place of deeper integrity, communion, and hope.  As a Presidency, Executive Committee, and National Board, we have honored that Conference desire by drafting statements and signing on to statements directed toward more just relationships within our church and our world.  Sometimes, precisely because our approach is relational rather than adversarial, the media has chosen not to publish them.  Our stories, too, insistent on relationships, resistant to the violence of dualisms, can be dismissed as irrelevant, naïve, hopelessly idealistic. Yet, we trust in the liberating power of holding on tenaciously to what is true for us.

· During our annual LCWR visitation to Rome in May, we deliberately chose, given the U.S. participation in the conflict, both in Iraq and the Middle East, to meet with the United States Ambassador to the Vatican.  It was out of our sense of relationship that we were able to name clearly the arrogance of the U.S. in the global arena and to speak our hope that our government will enter more humbly into relationships of sisterhood and brotherhood with the nations of the world.  Our unequivocal description of U.S. policy as arrogant moved the Ambassador to question that descriptive.  His question opened up further conversation and engendered in us a sense that we had been heard.

· Also, in Rome, our visits to the various offices were stories of truth-telling in relationship.  Although many of the meetings were challenging to the depth of my very soul, I celebrated with every fiber of my being our way of being present as women religious.  We were women of integrity, calm, non-defensive, and well prepared.  It was like being in a clear, blue pool of water.  We spoke the truth of who we are and were firm in our communication that our expression of religious life is authentic, faithful to the direction of Vatican II and the inspiration of our founders.  Something happened in those rooms in our clear and truthful speech freed to be so by the sure and certain relationships among us as LCWR leadership.  I would never presume to call it transformation of the Roman Curia; I will, however, dare to name it respect.

For me, these stories are stories of resurrection.  Very early in the morning, the women go together to the tomb. Whatever it is that they learn as they sit by that place of imprisonment together, they are afraid.  I like to believe that, in the en-couraging company of one another, they see clearly that they themselves are to be the ongoing presence of Jesus’ inclusive way of life.  They realize that, in so doing, they will bring upon themselves the costly judgment of the Roman government and the religious authorities.  As did the soldiers in our core story of the women in the El Salvador prison, these resurrection women know that the powers that be do understand the power of “inseparable camaraderie.”  In their bodies become the Body of the Risen Christ they cling to one another, freed from religious and political entombment, to proclaim the good news that the way of Jesus is alive in them. 

These women live on in the Resurrection story we tell by the truth of our lives.  As we live this story, may we hold in our hearts the simple prayer-poem of Alice Walker: 

The children of Earth 
Are starving 
For the sight 
Of something 
Real 
Dying for the sound 
Of something 
True. 
Pray for us 
To know 
That nothing 
Stops a lie 
Like being 
Yourself 

(“Reverend E. in her Red Dress,” Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth, New York: Random House, 2003).

Celebrating the Power of our Sisterhood

Having let a nursing bear, leaning trees, and embracing women tell their stories and, in doing so, tell ours I go back with gratitude to the ancient basswood tree that directed me, in the first place, to stay with these stories.  As I sit on her trunk still firmly rooted in the earth and peer into the hollow, hallowed darkness of her crone-womb, I can feel her smile; she knows that I have discovered an irrevocable intimacy with her.  This intimacy is born of the realization, made even more conscious through this reflection, that we women religious are living out of and growing more deeply into an ecofeminism that is a communion of companionship, responsibility and accountability to the whole web of life.  In the words of Ivone Gebara, “The first thing to be affirmed in an ecofeminist perspective is relatedness. Relatedness is the primary reality: It is constitutive of all beings.  It is the foundational reality of all that is or can exist” (Longing for Running Water, Ecofeminism and Liberation, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999).

In this interrelated web of life, the whole system changes when there are even slight changes in patterns of relationship. Every act sourced in the power of genuine relatedness subverts the power of hierarchy and patriarchy.  In the stories we have told this morning, we have uncovered within ourselves the power most necessary for the creation, salvation, and resurrection of our church, our world, and our earth.  It is the power of relationship, of our sisterhood with all that is.  This power is prophetic; it is the most radical act of dissent.

With Clarissa Pinkola Estes,  
Let’s admit it.  We women are building a motherland; each with her own plot of soil eked from a night of dreams, a day of work.  We are spreading this soil in larger and larger circles, slowly, slowly.  One day it will be a continuous land, a resurrected land come back from the dead. This world is being made from our lives, our cries, our laughter, our bones.  It is a world worth making, a world worth living in, a world in which there is a prevailing and decent wild sanity (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., quoted in Alice Walker,Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth). 
  
 

(Members of the Executive Committee and regional chairs will come forward as their point of celebration is being read.  Each will scoop up some soil from a container and spread the soil on the stage.)

· The Executive Committee celebrates the way we work together for the good of the Conference in a spirit of prayer, trust, honesty, attentiveness to one another, and genuine joy. 
·  Region l celebrates our Wisdom’s Way project, whereby the linked resources of regional organizations and individual congregations provide support to women on welfare in their quest for an education. 
·  Region 2 celebrates the work of our Justice Committee particularly our development of the Land Ethic and the corporate stance of our region against the war. 
·  Region 3 celebrates our establishment of the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center and Shrine and the 100 percent affirmative vote creating the merger of the Ringwood Franciscans and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. 
· Region 4 celebrates our sponsorship of a tuition free Catholic middle school for girls created by the collaboration of The Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Bon Secours Sisters. 
· Region 5 celebrates our sisterly presence in the northeastern Louisiana town of Lake Providence where we provide salaries and housing for an interracial team of four sisters engaged in a wide variety of ministries. 
·  Region 6 celebrates our Founders Project, the collaboration of eight Congregations in the Cincinnati area in providing a van that transports persons in neglected neighborhoods to doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals. 
·  Region 7 celebrates our witness to the power of collaboration as our leadership teams and our congregational Justice Coordinators share resources in responding to the war in Iraq, gathering others to pray with us for peace, and taking public action. 
·  Region 8 celebrates our Billboard Project, a collaborative effort of leadership and Communications Directors resulting in Chicago area billboards proclaiming: “Peace Because Good Planets Are Hard to Find,” and signed the “Catholic Sisters in your area.” 
·  Region 9 celebrates our sisters imprisoned for their actions of conscience at the SOA: Sister Kathleen Long, Sinsinawa Dominican; Sister Caryl Hartjes, Sister of St. Agnes; and Sister Dorothy Pagosa, Stevens Point Franciscan.  
·  Region 10 celebrates our Intercommunity Environmental Council, a group of 15 St. Louis area religious congregations working together to raise awareness around ecological issues. 
·  Region 11 celebrates in a poem:

Women religious crisscrossing the horizon, 
Partnerships creating access: 
To the needs of life, 
The seeds of life planted in holy ground. 
Education, health care, the arts. 
All is holy: The People Native to the land; 
The newcomer shaking your hand; 
The poor, the wealthy; 
The sick, the healthy. 
Those giving birth; 
Those flowering the earth; 
All is holy, especially the folks who live there!

·  Region 12 celebrates our Border Projects, including meeting annually on the border with Mexico in solidarity with maquiladora workers and women religious ministering in the area and supporting an intercongregational Border Projects Fund for systemic change. 
·  Region 13 celebrates our ongoing commitment to encourage right relationships with our bishops by sitting at table with them and emphasizing the importance of the role of women in our dioceses and in the larger Church. 
·  Region 14 celebrates our involvement in the plight of incarcerated women, particularly the awning we made possible for inmates at the California Institution for Women in Corona.  The awning covers the area where women receive their daily meals. 
·  Region 15 celebrates our Intercommunity Ministry Volunteer Program providing volunteers of all ages opportunities to live and minister with Catholic religious communities in service with the poor.

They were nothing more than people, by themselves.  Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves.  But all together, they have become the heart and muscles of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great.  Together, all together, they are the instruments of change (Keri Hulme, The Bone People, New York: Penguin Books, l983). 
  
 

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has approximately 1,000 members who are the elected leaders of their religious orders, representing 76,000 Catholic sisters in the United States. The Conference develops leadership, promotes collaboration within church and society, and serves as a voice for systemic change.