Monday Starter: Book attempts to lift the veil on abuse within women’s religious communities


Swiss guards stand at attention as a nun passes by the Vatican on Nov. 9, 2020. (CNS/Reuters/Remo Casilli)

Rome- “I understood that we were all like dogs. They told us to sit down and we sat down, to get up and we got up, to turn around and we turned around,” said a nun from Australian descent identified only as “Sister Elizabeth” in the book, veil of silence.

After 30 years of religious life, she said she realized that she too had treated younger members of the congregation in this way.

“Many still use this abusive behavior that has been passed down from generation to generation,” she told Salvatore Cernuzio, journalist and author of The Bike of Silence (veil of silence), a book in Italian whose publication was scheduled for November 23.

This is the cover of the Italian book Il Velo del Silenzio (Veil of Silence), by journalist Salvatore Cernuzio.  (CNS/With the kind authorization of San Paolo editions)

This is the cover of the Italian book Il Velo del Silenzio (Veil of Silence), by journalist Salvatore Cernuzio. (CNS/With the kind authorization of San Paolo editions)

In an author’s note, Cernuzio speaks of a surprise encounter with a childhood friend who had joined a cloistered community of nuns; 10 years later, a “tribunal” of older sisters decided she had no calling and sent her packing.

This encounter, he said, came just days after La Civiltà Cattolica published an article by the Jesuit Father. Giovanni Cucci, professor of psychology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, calling for greater attention by the Church to psychological and physical abuse in communities of nuns.

The book includes interviews with 11 women; one was sexually assaulted by a priest, but her superiors told her she must have trained him. The others recount abuse of power and psychological or emotional violence, mainly through acts of cruelty, humiliation and refusal of medical or psychological assistance.

Several of them mention how, particularly in the novitiate, they were required to ask permission to do or have anything — including taking a shower or having sanitary products during their menstrual cycle.

Aleksandra, who told Cernuzio about being abused by a priest, said she was looking for a way out of her community.

“I don’t know where I will go, I just want to follow Jesus, and that’s not possible here. I can’t live in this situation anymore and I’m afraid of destroying my physical, psychological and spiritual health. I j hope to find some help, maybe from lay people because I know my congregation doesn’t care about me,” she said. “As I’ve heard so many times: the the fault always lies with the one who leaves.”

Cindy Wooden, Catholic Press Service

Laudato Si’ action platform continues to gain support from religious congregations

Congregations of sisters in the United States continue to sign the Laudato Si’ Action Platformthe seven-year initiative to take concrete steps towards an environmentally sustainable future.

On November 4, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Community of Loretto, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville joined together to announce that they were joining the popular seven-year campaign to put the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis,Laudato Si’on Caring for Our Common Home,” in action.

The Platform for Action defines seven categories of sustainability goals, including addressing societal and climate challenges, rethinking ecological education, reclaiming ecological spirituality, and adopting a sustainable lifestyle. The platform is already serving as a driving force for many around the world seeking to address issues of sustainability and climate justice.

On November 15, the Springfield Dominicans announced their engagement.

“In fact, like many other female religious congregations, we have been engaged in these actions for many years,” said Sr. Sharon Zayac, who leads the congregational committee overseeing the effort. She cites the Dominican Sisters’ 22-year stewardship of the 164-acre ecological spirituality center, Jubilee Farm, their study and advocacy for human and land rights, and their recognition that global climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poorest. world, especially women and children. “I strongly believe that while no one person can do enough to reverse the course of the global climate catastrophe, without everyone’s individual commitments, we will never reverse that course.”

Earlier this fall, commitments were made by the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Dan Stockman, National Correspondent of the Global Sisters Report

Gardener at sister-run school receives international environmental award

The gardener and gardener at the Sainte-Louise inclusive school in Nouna, Burkina Faso — a project of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, for children with and without disabilities — received Misean Cara Individual Climate Action Award.

Lucien Diarra, the recipient of the award, transformed the school environment by planting and cultivating “a microclimate within the school grounds”, according to Misean Cara.

Misean Cara – an interfaith missionary organization based in Ireland – launched these awards in 2020. Its three climate action awards were given to “individuals and member projects who demonstrate innovation and commitment to countering the effects and impact of climate change on communities in the developing world,” according to the website.

Throughout the school grounds, Diarra has planted a significant number of trees, in addition to planting vegetable gardens so that the vegetables grown can be served in school meals. Originally, when the school opened in 2017, the lack of vegetation resulted in significant dust peaking outside and inside the school, which was already located in an area where the The rainy season only lasts an average of three months a year.

The gardener has also shared the benefits of the microclimate with a wider population, carrying out awareness activities with the inhabitants of the ten surrounding villages (each with around 5,000 inhabitants), teaching them how to plant and maintain young trees on their properties.

Sr. Toyin Abegunde of the Daughters of Charity wrote that the sisters nominated Diarra “for her resilience in promoting climate change and encouraging others to do so in a difficult climatic zone.”

Sr. Anita Baird, a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, addresses the National Black Catholic Congress in Chicago August 30, 2002. (CNS/Northwest Indiana Catholic/Karen Callaway)

Sr. Anita Baird, a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, addresses the National Black Catholic Congress in Chicago August 30, 2002. (CNS/Northwest Indiana Catholic/Karen Callaway)

Virtual event features the history of the National Conference of Black Sisters

Join Sr. Anita Baird of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary at 8 p.m. EST on November 30 as she presents the story of the National Conference of Black Sisters in a virtual conversation moderated by FutureChurcha Catholic reform organization.

The event is in recognition of November as Black Catholic History Month. According to the event’s press release, “There is hardly any aspect of our shared history more important than the emergence of the National Conference of Black Sisters in 1968. The powerful witness of Black Catholic nuns is integral of the struggle to overthrow racism and white supremacy in the church and in society.”

Today, the National Conference of Black Sisters includes more than 150 Black Catholic nuns and associates in the United States “striving to promote a positive image of themselves among us and our people,” the press release continues. “Together, they form a strong and cohesive voice advocating for the dignity and rights of women of color, creating mentorship and support systems for black women in religious formation, educating the African American family, and confronting the sin of racism, which continues to permeate our society and our Church as we work tirelessly for the liberation of the African American people.”

Baird, who will lead the event, is a longtime member of the conference and has served as its president, vice president, and sits on the board of directors. She has long been recognized for her activism, dedicating more than two decades of her ministry to racial justice, and in 2018 received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

To register for the event, which is free to the public, Click here.

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