9: Religious Women and Men


Joseph Bernardin acknowledges the importance of religious congregations and the fundamental role played by women in the local and universal Church.

A dramatic decrease in new vocations, together with the perception of the lack of authority in religious life, are both causes of pain for religious women congregations. Women, he notes, feel hostility from the Holy See, local bishops, parish priests, and lay people; as a result they experience feelings of discord, isolation, fragmentation, and polarization is pervading them. Nonetheless, because of their great faith and commitment, women are signs of fidelity and life in the Church.

The Archbishop of Chicago, likewise, talks about men who, together with religious women, have worked diligently to shape then lives and their ministry according to the vision and mandate of Vatican II. In so doing, they have performed a service both for themselves and for the entire Church, providing helpful insight and direction for other Catholics. Cardinal Bernardin also touches on the existing tensions in the Catholic world that, he notes, do not have to be destructive or debilitating.

He expresses that working working hand in hand with auxiliary bishops, diocesan priests, permanent deacons, lay ministers, and religious women and men is a joyful aspect of his ministry, and hopes that his commitment will encourage them to work more closely together.

Cardinal Bernardin concludes by underlining the importance of our own personal relationship with God, noting that religious men and women must allow themselves to become instruments of our Lord.