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Nuns say talks with archbishop had 'great openness and honesty'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 14, 2012 - In hopeful spirits, the board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ended its initial meeting with the archbishop assigned to oversee the group's Vatican-mandated reform Saturday afternoon in St. Louis.

The board members and the Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle agreed to meet again in the fall.

"The LCWR board members believe they were able to express both their concerns and their feelings about the CDF report with great openness and honesty, and that Archbishop Sartain listened carefully," LCWR spokesman Sister Annemarie Sanders emailed Monday evening.

The LCWR, an umbrella network of elected leaders of 80 percent of the nation's sisters and nuns, met for about three hours face-to-face the day after the conclusion of the LCWR's membership's four-day annual assembly last week at the Millennium Hotel downtown.

In the spring, the Vatican's theological department, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had assigned Sartain to lead a reform of the leadership group.

Sartain asked the LCWR board members for materials to assist him in learning directly from them, more about the conference and about the members’ experience and understandings of religious life. The LCWR will provide him with resources, Sanders said.

The next meeting of the LCWR as a whole will be a year from now in Orlando, Fla.

Tuesday Sartain's office said that he would not be releasing comments to the press. All comments he has will be circulated through the LCWR, a spokesman said.

Before the Saturday meeting, he released a statement that emphatically praised the work of sisters and nuns in the history of the Catholic Church in America and then said, "I remain committed to working with leaders of the LCWR to address the issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue. I look forward to our meeting and our future discussions as we continue to collaborate in promoting consecrated life in the United States."

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who has covered religion for many years. She also writes about cultural issues, including opera.