ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious announced Aug. 19 at the close of their assembly and national board meeting in Orlando that they were pleased with dialogue they had with the church official appointed to oversee their organization as part of a Vatican assessment and hoped for “continued conversations of this depth.”

During the Aug. 13-16 annual gathering at the Caribe Royal Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando and a three-day national board meeting afterward, women religious met with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, appointed by the Vatican doctrinal congregation last year to oversee a reform of LCWR.

Last April, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said a reform of LCWR was needed to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

In a statement released Aug. 19, the sisters said the discussion with the archbishop gave them “hope that continued conversations of this depth will lead to a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of LCWR and is healthy for the whole church.”

Archbishop Sartain addressed the assembly of 825 participants Aug. 13. He spent time during the gathering “to meet members, experience firsthand the conference’s annual gathering, and hear the members’ concerns about the doctrinal assessment finds and plan for reform,” the LCWR statement said.

LCWR officers held three executive sessions during which they shared with one another their impressions of the meetings that have already taken place between them and Archbishop Sartain, as well as the two bishops appointed as his assistants, Bishops Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

At the other executive sessions, they heard members’ response to Archbishop Sartain’s remarks to the assembly and also heard the direction members gave to LCWR for “next steps in working with the three bishop delegates.”

Finally, LCWR invited Archbishop Sartain to a two-hour session with the organization’s 21 board members at the beginning of their national board meeting immediately following the assembly.

LCWR said in its statement that the “session with Archbishop Sartain allowed a profound and honest sharing of views.” It noted that because of time limitations during the assembly, the archbishop did not have the time to answer many of the members’ questions.

“Clearly, however, he had been listening intently and heard the concerns voiced by the members, and their desire for more information. The extraordinarily rich and deeply reverent conversation during the board meeting gave us a greater understanding of Archbishop Sartain and we believe he now also better understands us.”

The statement also noted that the LCWR leaders are uncertain about how their “work with the bishop delegates will proceed.”

LCWR, which representing the majority of 57,000 religious sisters in the U.S, is granted canonical status by the Vatican.

In interviews with Catholic News Service after the assembly, LCWR members said they valued the chance to discern what was being asked of them as they considered their way forward.

Sister Catherine Bertrand, a School Sister of Notre Dame from St. Paul, Minn., said the value of the gatherings “flows out of the contemplative process” that begins at the regional gatherings.

“It’s more about reflection, deep conversation moving toward action,” she said.

Sister Mary Jo Nelson, a member of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters from Fort Wayne, Ind., said a key part of the gathering was “the deep listening in the sharing process at the tables trying to distill wisdom and insight in a group.”

“The bottom line is that this is about discernment … and something bigger than ourselves,” said Sister Bertrand.


Contributing to this story was Laura Dodson.