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LCWR-TIMELINE (CORRECTED) Apr-27-2012 (1,060 words) With logo posted April 18 and photo posted April 26. xxxn

Timeline of Vatican relations with US women religious since 1950s

Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious march in New Orleans in 2009 for a prayer service to preserve the wetlands. The walk was part of the LCWR's annual assembly that year. (CNS/Frank J Methe, Clarion Herald)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Here is a timeline of major events related to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Vatican:

-- 1956: The Conference of Major Superiors of Women was founded as the sole canonical conference for U.S. superiors of women religious.

-- 1970-71: The Conference of Major Superiors of Women is restructured and changes its name to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

-- 1971: Some nuns who disapprove of LCWR's new directions create a new organization, the Consortium Perfectae Caritatis. They are concerned that what they consider necessary, distinctive elements of religious life -- such as a common identifying garb, community life and religious obedience to a superior as traditionally understood -- are disappearing among American sisters. In the early 1970s the consortium seeks recognition from Rome as an alternative conference to the LCWR.

-- 1974: The Vatican Congregation for Religious calls representatives of the two groups to Rome for a three-day meeting to try to sort out differences and improve dialogue. The Vatican rules that LCWR will remain the sole canonical conference for U.S. superiors of women religious.

-- 1974: The Institute on Religious Life is established to promote vocations and religious life in the United States. The Chicago-based organization is open to laity, priests and men religious as well, but women religious -- most of them linked with the consortium -- make up the bulk of its membership.

-- 1979: Welcoming Pope John Paul II to a meeting with 7,000 U.S. women religious in Washington, Mercy Sister Theresa Kane, then LCWR president, raises the issue of the church's prohibition of women priests by asking that women be allowed to participate in "all ministries of the church." Several days before, the pope had reaffirmed that an all-male priesthood is part of God's plan.

-- 1983: Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco is named by Pope John Paul to conduct a Vatican-mandated study of U.S. religious life. He transforms the study into a nationwide dialogue over the next three years. The study is completed in 1986 with a 152-page report to Rome.

-- 1987: As a follow-up to the Quinn study, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the LCWR decide to reinforce strengthened bishop-religious relations on an ongoing basis with a new Tri-Conference Commission of Religious and NCCB.

-- 1988: The Forum of Major Superiors, a new organization of women superiors formed in 1987 by the Institute on Religious Life, unsuccessfully petitions the bishops for a place on the commission.

-- February 1989: In a letter to the U.S. bishops responding to the Quinn study, the pope expresses concern about the "polarization" among U.S. women religious and calls for dialogue to resolve their divisions.

-- March 1989: At a Rome summit of U.S. archbishops with the pope and top Vatican officials, Cardinal James A. Hickey of Washington gives a talk on the "crisis" in U.S. religious life. He says women who do not belong to LCWR "desire some representation with the Holy See."

-- May 1989: The former Vatican Congregation for Religious, now called the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, appoints Cardinal Hickey to a three-year term as official liaison between non-LCWR women religious in the United States and the Holy See.

-- Fall 1991: A group of women's superiors, led by Mother Vincent Marie Finnegan of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, decides to try to form a new council that will receive canonical recognition from the Vatican.

-- Early 1992: Mother Vincent Marie, on behalf of herself and 43 other superiors, petitions the pope for recognition of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and approval of its proposed statutes as a new canonical conference in the United States. According to sources, Cardinal Hickey personally intervenes with the pope and the religious congregation on behalf of the new group.

-- April 1992: Reacting to rumors about the new council, representatives of the LCWR, CMSM and the U.S. bishops meet with top officials of the religious congregation. They report back to LCWR members that congregation officials "affirmed that there will continue to be one canonically recognized, national conference of women religious leaders in the U.S., namely LCWR (and that)... the proposed entity is not a parallel conference nor is it an alternative to LCWR."

-- June 1992: Cardinal Hickey and Mother Vincent Marie jointly announce that the new council has been approved by the Vatican and that the superiors of 84 religious congregations, with a combined membership of 10,113 sisters, have applied for membership. LCWR and CMSM say they are "profoundly disappointed" with the Vatican decision. LCWR says its members represent 94 percent of the 99,894 sisters in the United States.

-- October 1994: The world Synod of Bishops addresses the topic of consecrated life. A past president of LCWR who attended the sessions says the synod "did not suggest that the direction taken by religious life since Vatican (Council) II can or should be reversed" and "wisely chose not to attempt specific solutions to local problems."

-- June 2004: Archbishop (later Cardinal) Franc Rode, newly appointed to head the Vatican religious congregation, says in a talk in Canada that the "secularization of society and religious communities," and Catholic families having fewer children, have contributed to the declining membership of Canadian religious communities.

-- April 2008: Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, is named by the Vatican doctrinal congregation, to carry out a "doctrinal assessment" of the "activities and initiatives" of LCWR.

-- January 2009: Cardinal Rode initiates an apostolic visitation to determine why the number of members in religious communities of women in the U.S. had declined since the late 1960s and to examine the quality of life in U.S. communities.

-- July 2010: Bishop Blair completes an eight-page report on LCWR and submits it to the Vatican.

-- January 2012: The apostolic visitation team completes its work and submits its report to the Vatican.

-- April 2012: Vatican announces major reform of LCWR, citing "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life." Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle is named to provide "guidance and approval, where necessary," of the organization's work. LCWR now says it represents 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States.


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