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Monday, August 8, 2011

Why The LCWR's Contemplation Plan Won't Work

The LCWR (League of Crazy Women Religious) kicks off their annual assembly tomorrow, as 600 or so sisters will be convening in southern California over the next four days.

Normally, their annual meeting schedule is filled with talks, presentations and discussions regarding upcoming strategic plans - such as, which corporation to protest, or what nuclear weapon plant to chain themselves to, or what Environmental Injustice to rally around. But not this year.

No, this year they will be spending the conference is quiet contemplation, to "discern the future" as they regard their aging population and dearth of vocations. Something, I think, they should have been doing all along, but hey, better late than never, right?

The National Catholic Distorter has the story: LCWR Begins Next Step in Re-examination of Religious Life [excerpted]
Religious life for the majority of U.S. sisters is at a crossroads. An aging membership and a decline in new vocations have communities probing what to do next to sustain their ministries and their way of life. These women sense a new era is emerging and they have decided to embark together on a new way of discerning that future.

When more than 600 sisters gather in Southern California Aug. 9-12 for the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, they will set aside discussions on strategic planning and talks about mergers and consolidations. There won't be workshops on recruiting new members or on financing retirement. Gone will be the breakout sessions that often follow keynote addresses at their national meetings.

Instead, these leaders of the 334 congregations in the Leadership Conference will sit together in silence, discovering what God is calling forth for religious life today. They will have no expectation of a particular insight or result. Rather, they will spend time in collective contemplation to explore where religious life in the United States may be moving.

"We sense that something new is emerging," said St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn, a member of conference's executive committee, "but we certainly don't yet know what it will look like."

The sisters hope this contemplative process will "open us to a deeper place within ourselves" so "we can create with God the future God intends," said Marie McCarthy, a Sister of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods and a member of the Leadership Conference's Contemporary Religious Life Project, which is spearheading the five-year contemplation process.

It is an outgrowth of a call in August 2000 by the then-conference president, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Nancy Sylvester, for women religious to enter into contemplation for "fostering the transformation of religious life." [it's taken them 11 years to get to this point???]

In response, the conference has developed a process they've used at their regional meetings over the past year. But the assembly in Garden Grove, Calif., will be the first time all the leaders of the member congregations will engage in the process together.


Collective contemplation

The contemplative process developed by the conference appears simple at first — reflect silently on global events of the past two years and how these events shape the mission of U.S. women religious, consider what new realities might be emerging and what responses to these realities are being called forth, then share those insights in a word or phrase with one another.

The depth of the experience, however, belies the apparent simplicity. It's a suspension of rational Western thinking as the participants drop into what Zinn calls "a contemplative way of seeing what God sees."

McCarthy added that the process allows "whatever wishes to emerge from within to do so."


This contemplative process, the sisters assert, has potential far beyond religious communities. It can offer individuals, institutions and political entities a new way of resolving differences through collaboration and peace instead of competition and conflict. And it can help people stay in dialogue with one another in the midst of such differences so they can forge a new vision together.

"We have learned a great deal over the years about managing diversity and living together with polarities," (Sr. Pat )Farrell said. That wisdom, coupled with a deepening access to the Divine, might very well be the unique gift women religious are about to offer the church and the world, she said.

(Sr. Marie) McCarthy points out the growing interest in meditation across all sectors of American society and believes it's a sign of the times, one that garners great hope for the future of the entire planet. "This is not just a New Age fad, but a real experience of opening up to a new place," she said.

Therein lies the problem - the fact she says it "is not just a New Age fad..." She admits that this style of contemplative prayer IS New Age. Totally contrary to Catholic spirituality.

Which is why their plan won't work. The next four days will unfortunately be a complete waste of time and energy. I highly doubt they will come to any meaningful conclusions - at least the ones God truly has intended for them. Because they seem to be neglecting the most important person of all:

Jesus Christ.

The article mentions Christ a total of -zero- times. It doesn't appear they will be praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Instead, they'll be praying before mirrors instead of windows, that only reflect upon themselves rather than allowing them to gaze outward upon the Lord.

Sayonara, LCWR.