By: Sr. Patty Johnson

Sr. Jayne Helmlinger welcomes participants at the LCWR 2019 Assembly.In the past, I have tried to provide a detailed, timely update on what is happening at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) Assembly. With the greatly increased reporting by National Catholic Reporter (NCR), Global Sisters Report (GSR), and live streaming of the Assembly, I have decided to take a different tack and share with you some of the responses of those from the U.S. Federation that attended, along with links to the speeches and NCR coverage.

We were welcomed by Sister of St Joseph of Orange Jayne Helmlinger, who was President-Elect at the beginning of the Assembly and has now assumed her duties as President of LCWR.

Sr. Pat Murray, IBVM, gave an outstanding keynote address. There is a great article in GSR covering it.  Sr. Charlene Diorka (Philadelphia) shared, "I was delighted that LCWR included others to widen the tent for leadership imagining leadership in a global community. I was especially enriched and grateful for Pat Murray's insights to move us in that direction even further."

Sr. Sharlet Wagner's, CSC, President's Address's Address was amazing. Sr. Maureen Erdlen (Philadelphia) said, "Charlotte's talk was practical and challenging — something I can take home that we are all ready to hear." GSR also covered Sharlet's talk. Sr. Lee Hogan (Boston) stated, "Charlotte's talk was terrific. For our team, it was very affirming of the direction we are taking, despite the challenges it brings." Commenting on the Emily Dickenson poem in Sharlet's talk, Sr. Eileen McCann (Albany) commented, "This makes divine sense out of the rollercoaster of madness of the church and our society."

Maria Elena Perales painted a powerful image of how racism, migration and climate change issues are interconnected.LCWR's design team and board had spent the last 18 months developing an emerging strategy for moving forward. Attending her first LCWR Assembly, Sr. Adele O'Sullivan (Carondelet-Los Angeles) shared, "It's very exciting that what we are focusing on is the big picture. It challenges our imagination — there are places we can go to that we've never been before. The 'Emerging Orientations' really challenge us to go to the big picture. I was in a crowd of women in a big room doing this together." 

Sr. Nida Fe Chavez from the Canadian Federation noted, "It was so inspiring, hopeful, and moving from the liturgies, the challenge of the call to justice, and Pat Murray's insightful talk.  Sharlet's symbol of the roller coaster was helpful in reflecting on religious life." Sr. Lyn Szymkiewicz (Baden) shared, "The talks and table conversation were invigorating and a continual challenge to move this forward into action." Sr. Connie Gilder (Philadelphia) said, "The big takeaway is this evolution of LCWR moving to be more inclusive, more global. It is very energizing."  Sr. Margo Ritchie also from the Canadian Federation shared, "It was a wonderful experience. I had the best table discussion of the meaning of our own personal leadership experience. Leaders were vulnerable." 

Sisters Mary Dacey and Thuy Tran connect during a break.Maria Elena Perales, justice director for the Sisters of St Joseph of Orange, was part of a panel on the intersection of systemic racism, climate change, and migration. GSR provides great information about this powerful panel presentation. You can also read our recent resolution on this here.

Guests and visitors were invited to create space for more inclusive dialogue, especially with sisters of color, younger members, and partners. Sr. Joan Gallagher (Brentwood) shared, "The expanded engagement is moving us to a more of a horizontal than vertical conversation. We are interconnected and move forward together." Sr. Jean Rosemarynoski (Concordia) appreciated the different points of view. She offered, "To hear Giving Voice's fresh perspective was truly profound." Sr. Thuy Tran (Orange), an invited guest, said, "I appreciated having young members from Giving Voice to represent the global reality, to include voices of the young and women of color at the conference. Also, I appreciated the sharing of the realities that religious women of color have experienced. The truth came out in front of all of us. It's exciting to know that each of us is invited to look into our gift of leadership and how to contribute it to our global work." 

Sr. Norma Pimentel was presented with the Outstanding Leadership Award for her work on the border. Click here to read about her outstanding contribution.

[Sr. Patty Johnson is executive director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph]