The contributions of religious women to the Church, the Diocese of Cleveland and beyond are celebrated during National Catholic Sisters Week. This year’s observance was March 8-14.
NCSW is an opportunity to uplift the work of Catholic sisters. In the past few years, the Northeast Ohio community has celebrated the occasion by bringing together sisters and their partners in ministry to discuss issues that are important to the community.
This year, Sister Janet Mock, CSJ from Baden, Pennsylvania, was a presenter and the facilitator of “Civil Discourse: How to Have Difficult Conversations,” which took place on March 3 at Magnificat High School in Rocky River. Co-sponsors were the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland; the Conference of Religious Leadership, also known as CORL; the Coalition with Young Adults, also known as CYA; and National Catholic Sisters Week.
More than 150 religious sisters, associates and lay partners from across Northeast Ohio gathered to discuss civil discourse and its role in society. Sister Janet offered her perspective for attendees to consider during today’s divisive times.
She served as executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious when it was undergoing doctrinal assessment, an investigation by the Vatican assessing the sisters’ belief in Church doctrine. During her presentation, she shared her experience of the assessment and subsequent mandate and insights about relationships and dialogue learned during that challenging time that can be applied to other situations.
Sister Janet’s messages included a recommendation to practice “humble love,” meet people where the they are, don’t flaunt authority when you are the one who has it, own your anger and direct energy away from it in a positive way. Many of the stories, lessons and quotes she shared were drawn from “However Long the Night,” a collection of essays by Sister Janet and other sisters reflecting on the six-year investigation.
She also shared thoughts from “Rules for a Dialogic Community” by Father Bernard Lee, SM. His rules include four key points: when he speaks, the reason for speaking is to give another person his/her best chance to understand him; when he listens, the reason for listening is to give him the best chance to understand another person; participants in true dialogic communities each agree with others that they will not leave the conversation – no matter what – which gives them permission to say whatever they feel is needed and not wonder if it will ruin the relationship and they must engage in a “loving battle,” with the goal not to win an argument but to live together in truth. A fifth rule, to trust that the argument can be very wholesome, was added in 2004 by Sister Mary Daniel Turner, SNDdeN.
After Sister Janet’s keynote speech, attendees were invited to reflect within small groups before coming together to share their experiences.
Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA welcomed attendees and led an opening prayer. She was followed by Sister Margaret Taylor, SIW, who heads the Conference of Religious Leadership in the diocese, which represents 16 religious congregations in the dioceses of Cleveland, Youngstown and beyond. Sister Margaret explained CORL’s mission, which is “to call forth a vital presence and shared commitment to the Church of Cleveland as together we witness the hope and truth of the Gospel.” She also acknowledged the NCSW Committee, which planned the event, and invited Sister Kate Hine, SND, project coordinator of the Generative Spirit Initiative, to say a few words.
After the keynote, small and large group discussions, there was a brief period of quiet reflection followed by the closing prayer.