Thoughts from the Prioress on the LCWR Conference

Thoughts from the Prioress on the LCWR Conference

I have recently returned from the annual Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR). It was held in Los Angeles and that alone could be enough to hold one captive. California is a beautiful state. It was the perfect setting for the gathering of congregational leaders and council members of women’s religious communities in the United States.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Mystery Unfolding: Religious Life for the World.” The purpose of the conference was to develop leadership, promote collaboration within the church and society, and serve as a voice for systemic change. The keynote addresses, the various speakers, the dialog, the conversation — all of it, in keeping with the conference’s purpose, was directed to helping leaders make courageous choices for the future.

One of the two keynote speakers was Barbara Reid, a Dominican theologian that we had for a community gathering here in Erie a few years back. Her reflections on the Gospel stories and messages were refreshing and new, challenging and engaging. Barbara’s premise was simple: God abides within each and every one of us. One of her thoughts that continues to engage my mind and heart in reflection is this: “God is drawing us inward into love, and impelling us outward in ever creative patterns of generative love.”

The other speaker, Maricarmen Bracamontes, is a Benedictine sister from Torreon, Mexico. She brought to the gathering of predominantly white, North American women a view of issues and ideas from a multi-cultural stance, particularly from her home country. We were inspired, challenged and proud of her presentation to this national audience. In her words, “Once we realize that cultural models are human creations and therefore, can be changed and adapted, we become more creative and dynamic in our search for transforming alternatives: other worlds become possible, other ways of being church become possible, other forms of religious life become possible.”

A third experience that touched everyone was that of three local women, only one a collegian, who told their stories of immigrating as children from Mexico to the USA. Especially poignant was the way all three of them spoke of their parents, who, as young adults, risked physical, mental and psychological trauma to make the decision and subsequent trip to this country in order to make a better life for their families. Their stories were beautifully told and, of course, resonated strongly with me since our St. Benedict Education Center is deeply involved with the new immigrants to the Erie area. The stories I hear from the sisters at SBEC parallel the stories shared by the women in Los Angeles. It was a strong affirmation that what the Erie Benedictines are doing in this regard is needed; it was an indication that our mission and ministry in response to the needs of the world at this time are signs of our life and vitality. Together, let us remember and support these brave people who look to this country, as did our foremothers and forefathers, for new life, freedom and peace for their families.

Let us be one in our efforts to seek God by continuing to respond in love to the concerns of our world, promoting the common good, and reaching out to those in need.

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.