In a unanimous vote this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution (H Res. #441) praising Catholic Sisters in the United States for their work in the country throughout US history. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) was the lead sponsor. I think it is amazing that anything could go through unanimously this Congress. Good on you, Sisters!
For the sisters, the Congressional commendation comes at a good time. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has launched a sweeping investigation of them. This unprecedented inquiry which is already underway is termed an "apostolic visitation." The U.S. congregations of women religious will receive a questionnaire from the Vatican this month. On-site visitations of some orders will follow.
The House resolution, on the other hand, includes an endorsement of the goals of "WOMEN & SPIRIT: Catholic Sisters in America," a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center. It celebrates this group of innovative American women who helped shape the nation's social and cultural landscape. (For more info and two short videos on the exhibit, follow this link.)
Whereas today, there are approximately 59,000 Catholic sisters in the United States;
Whereas Catholic sisters participated in the opening of the West, traveling vast distances to minister in remote locations, setting up schools and hospitals, and working among native populations on distant reservations;
Whereas more than 600 sisters from 21 different religious communities nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers alike during the Civil War;
Whereas Catholic sisters cared for afflicted populations during the epidemics of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, smallpox, tuberculosis, and influenza during the 19th and early 20th centuries;
Whereas Catholic sisters built and established hospitals, orphanages, and charitable institutions that have served millions of people, managing organizations long before similar positions were open to women;
Whereas approximately one in six hospital patients in the United States were treated in a Catholic facility;
Whereas Catholic sisters have been among the first to stand with the underprivileged, to work and educate among the poor and underserved, and to facilitate leadership through opportunity and example;
Whereas Catholic sisters continue to provide shelter, food, and basic human needs to the economically or socially disadvantaged and advocate relentlessly for the fair and equal treatment of all persons;
Whereas Catholic sisters work for the eradication of poverty and racism and for the promotion of nonviolence, equality, and democracy in principle and in action;
Whereas the humanitarian work of Catholic sisters with communities in crisis and refuge throughout the world positions them as activists and diplomats of peace and justice for the some of the most at risk populations; and
Whereas the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Traveling Exhibit is sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center and will open on May 16, 2009, in Cincinnati, Ohio:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) honors and commends Catholic sisters for their humble service and courageous sacrifice throughout the history of this Nation; and
(2) supports the goals of the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Traveling Exhibit, a project sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center and established to recognize the historical contributions of Catholic sisters in the United States.
In a thirty-second video trailer, the sisters explain the significance of the traveling exhibit "Women & Spirit."