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Sisters in a storm

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13 May: When Sister Florence Deacon invited us to look around the packed hall of Milltown Park, what we saw was the Vatican Two generation, predominantly (perhaps 20 to 1) grey-haired sisters whose religious youth had been lighted up by the explosion of hope at the second Vatican Council. Now Francis, the new Bishop of Rome, has lighted another candle of hope – which is under threat.

Florence (herself a Franciscan and CEO of the million-strong Franciscans International) was describing both the flame and the winds that threaten to blow it out. That was the crisis that had filled the hall to overflowing. As leader of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Florence is in the eye of a storm generated by one of the Vatican offices. They published an “assessment” of LCWR which astonished and dismayed the hard-working sisters in USA. Now hers is the firm hand conducting negotiations and clarifications, and puzzling out whether the offensive document has the Pope’s backing.

Some lectures are forgotten before the hall is empty. This one was an event, a happening, kindling febrile and delighted excitement, waves that will spread. Thanks to Florence, and the We are Church body that brought her here.