Thursday, February 7, 2013
The Tragedy of the Sisters of St. John and St.Dominic
A big storm around the contemplative women's branch of the Community of St. John. In the background there was a struggle about changes in the charism and questions of power. There are vocations of young women still in the drive way.
Vienna (kath.net/rn) The Community of the Sisters of St. John, the de facto women's branch of the Community of St. John, has been stuck in a deep crisis for years. The Community has recently revealed this information. The Community of Contemplative Sisters of St. John was founded on the 8th of December 1982 by P. Marie-Donique Philippe. The Archbishop of Lyon established it as a Congregation of Diocesan Right, among others there is a Cloister in Austria, that after years of preparation, large charitable gifts and yet even now stands empty.
In essence it happened that the responsible Bishop proposed reforms, these which the majority of the sisters refused, because these were considered to be against their fundamental charism. In order to manage this crisis, a Papal delegate was named, which clearly accomplished little. Affected, according to information from kath.net were clearly more than 230 sisters, who in the mean time have even struggled to undertake a new foundation in Spain. The Institute of "Sisters of St. John and of St. Dominic" was de facto banned.
The reforms, which from reasons not completely clear were imposed from outside, were endorsed only by a minority of the sisters, which led to a tremendous crisis. Almost all the Austrian sisters of the Community have rejected the "Reforms". The situation has been so tense and drastic over the years, that many of the younger sisters are now hanging in the air and don't know how they should continue.
Kath.net spoke with a sister concerned, from Austria, who entered the Order with much enthusiasm. Sr. N.N. explained in the interview that the disunity over the charism began after the death of the founder (2006). Originally there were many vocations and Bishops around the entire world worked to get them for their Diocese. According to this sister, who waited years to make her solemn vows, also desired, along with a small minority of the sisters and the men's branch of the Community to "reform" the Contemplative Sisters of St. John. As to the question which "reforms" were meant, the sister disclosed that the open attitude for interested parties will be limited. The sisters are contemplative, but not cloistered. There has always been an openness to receive new people or also to be active outside, for example for perpetual adoration during a youth meeting. "The youth of today need the witness of sisters, who have given everything to Jesus and are full of joy over it."
According to sister then there were also significant structural issues. Obviously it was at the wish of the brothers, that the General Prior of the brothers had the highest authority over all three branches of the Johannine family. Most of the contemplative sisters wanted, however, to maintain their autonomy and to live the united of the Johannine family on a spiritual level. The crisis has been growing since 2009 and began concretely with the dismissal of Sr. Alix, the foundress of the contemplative sisters, by Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon. It was from outside that new leadership was initiated, which in any case was, according to Sr. N.N., not recognized by the majority of the contemplative sisters.
In the Summer of 2012 there were then a lot of sisters, who were not bound by vows (Novices and sisters on the end of their simple vows) who left and founded the sisters of St. John and of St. Dominic, a community, formed under the authority of the Spanish Bishop, Don Demetrio Fernandez and quickly received 150 young sisters between 25 and 30 years of age. Actually, on the 19th of January 2013 the Institute was suppressed again on the 19th of January, 2013 by Roman authorities, according to Sr. N.N. the sisters there were never party to, visited or asked. "I would like to make clear, that we love the Church and would like to remain true to the Holy Father. So we will obey and give up our habits. We pray, and don't know, what the future will bring us, but we place our trust in Jesus and it's all we can do now", said Sister N.N. sadly.
Link to kath.net...
Foto: © www.johannesgemeinschaft.at