Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award Recipient -- Theresa Kane, RSM

Acceptance Response of Theresa Kane, RSM

Recipient of the 2004 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award

LCWR Assembly – August 2004
Fort Worth, Texas

I come before you this evening as one woman blessed indeed to be among you!  It is with profound gratitude, pride and humility that I joyously accept this moment of recognition.  When Sr. Carole Shinnick called to invite me to accept the award and to be here this evening, my sentiments at that moment and my sentiments throughout these months were that other leaders among us are more deserving of this moment than I.  I know from personal experience the strength, the inspiration and the extraordinary courage some of our leaders have evidenced.  So for other leaders who deserve this award and in gratitude to so many LCWR women who have gifted me through the years, I accept it.  

As I speak with you for a few moments this evening, I am in awe of the gifts I am privileged to have in our midst tonight.  They are: members of my family–my sister and my niece; Sisters of Mercy friends; our present Mercy leadership at the Regional and Institute levels; women from other congregations; former LCWR members; special friends and colleagues; the former LCWR Presidents and Executive Directors and so many other human vessels of God’s Presence and Grace in my life.   I cannot express adequately the awe I have for the extraordinary LCWR Staff–Srs. Carole Shinnick, Annmarie Sanders,  Eleanor Granger, Suzanne Delaney and their colleagues.  Each of these women has received and befriended me with such Gospel care and attention.  They remind me of precious gems that we so need to continue to treasure. 

This occasion has afforded me an opportunity to reflect on some aspects of my life journey as a woman religious.   I entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1955, almost the time this organization was being born.  In 1966, I was appointed to the Provincial Council and became knowledgeable immediately about LCWR, known then as CMSW.  My first direct encounter with LCWR was in St. Louis, Missouri in 1971 when I attended my first Assembly.  I was present when Mercy Sr. Betty Carroll from Pittsburgh, LCWR President, known then as Sr. Thomas Aquinas along with Sr. Mary Luke Tobin and other leaders struggled valiantly to obtain a resolution from the body to support Sr. Anita Caspary and the IHM Sisters of Los Angeles.  Much to the suffering of the leaders at that gathering, the resolution did not obtain a majority.  At the previous Assembly, the name change from CMSW  to LCWR had occurred and its effects were being felt deeply in St. Louis.  The birth of a new organization, Consortium Perfectae Caritatis began  inMissouri at the 1971 Assembly.  The tensions and conflicts of differing understandings of religious life were highly evident at this gathering and continued throughout the 1970's and into the 1980's.  So, it was into a challenging, vibrant, provoking and truly paradigm moment that I began my journey in religious leadership.  1971 was clearly a new, defining moment for the renamed LCWR!  

In those years and continuing through today, the critical, sacred, social justice issues of women, of poverty in all its forms in our world today, world peace, non violence and care for our earth have shaped and influenced LCWR gatherings.  These sacred causes of social justice have become an integral part of our vision for the 21st Century, which is itself God’s sacred gift to us.  How blessed we are to have LCWR, a dynamic, influential, significant ecclesial community! 

In 1979 when, as President of LCWR, I was privileged to extend greetings to Pope John Paul II, my expression of concern about women being in all ministries of our Church came directly from the vision and formative education I had inherited from this Conference.  Beginning in 1972 and continuing throughout the decade of the 1970's, the annual  Assembly theme had been the role of women in church and society.  

This evening I stand as one woman with and among  you.  I stand also in solidarity with women across the globe, who comprise 53 % of our world population.  Massive numbers of us are uneducated, live in fear, in poverty, in desperation.  Many spend much of our days carrying water to and from our homes to our families.  Women worldwide anguish and beg to be reverenced and not raped, women worldwide long to be agents and not objects, women worldwide desire in the depths of our being to be called and known as dignified, innate fully human creations of a loving, compassionate God.  As I accept this award, I do so with a continuing, passionate concern for the plight of women.  

As I reflect upon our corporate experience as women religious, I believe a significant, radical shift has taken place.  Our long, revered tradition of ministry has been to serve those most in need.  We have done so throughout the centuries and have done it  extraordinarily well.  The major shift that occurred in the latter part of the 20th Century and into this 21st Century is that our service has assumed a new dimension.  We are developing a consciousness to no longer view ourselves as women religious  exclusively in service; we know and identify ourselves as women in solidarity with other women.  We experience this solidarity as we acknowledge the painful realization that all women in church and in society are colonized, that all women are patronized, that all women are viewed as objects; that all women are conditioned and expected to be complementary.  We need to acknowledge this reality without a severe judgment on ourselves, our church, our society.   The conviction that women are called by nature and by grace to be significant primary agents of change in all aspects of church and society is a radical new insight not yet fully appreciated.  The miracle of our times amidst the many forces pressing against respectful dignity, equality  and agency for women is that we still continue to reach for the stars, to hold up the skies and the heavens as well! 

As I  receive your gift to me this evening, I share a gift of a vision I have for LCWR and for myself.  The vision is threefold.  It is:  first, a passionate, lively radical commitment to the fullest development of women throughout our world–in church and in society; second, to work to eradicate war and the growing militarization of the planet while promoting  a profound respect for our earth and our environment; and third to work with persons and organizations to direct our economic and human resources to the fullest  development of peoples, to eradicate illiteracy, homelessness, refugee camps, hunger and poverty.  Historians have documented that civilizations have existed and perdured without war and without massive poverty.  The social situations of war and poverty are not of God.  If we find ourselves complacent or helpless in the face of their existence, then indeed we have strange gods before us.  Such idols replace the Presence of God in our times.  So a vision of a new way of being compels us to live fully, to love tenderly, to play joyfully, to pray with a deep faith, to seek sacred justice, to walk in solidarity and humility with all peoples of our earth and in communion with our God. Our vision is of a loving, compassionate God who has created the universe, the planets, the earth, this global community.  The Book of Wisdom, Chapter 2 relates the powerful belief that we are made in the very nature of God–women and men–the 6.2 billion people who inhabit this planet; Africans; Asians, Americans, North, South, Central;  Europeans–and others–each and everyone one of us is an agent of God, an agent of a Supernatural Power and Being, however we name this Divine Presence.  

Finally, a vision of fullness of life for all humanity propels us to continue to believe in the words our God has spoken through Holy Ones in the past.  These words compel us to act with a conviction that nothing is impossible with God and that with God all things are possible.  This vision of fullness of life  will continue to energize and recreate us anew at every moment.  This vision empowers us to proclaim our Magnificat in the 21st Century as Hannah and Mary did before us.  The Magnificat prayer is itself a vision that God has done great things for us and God continues to do great things for us and through us. We are called to live our vision, our moment of mystery in this 21st Century with a profound peace and a deep conviction that with God’s grace, we can truly make all things new!  My Friends, I carry this sacred evening always in my heart.  Thank you. 

Theresa Kane, RSM
August 22,2004
Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas