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

17 comments:

Still Smells Bad To Me said...

I wonder what "give up our habits" means.

This is still all so murky that we don't know exactly what is at issue or why Sr. Alix was dismissed. Given that any "reform" of something that is already good is usually from the devil and given that these changes in charism came from the "outside" where the devil romps and wanted by a "minority" inside the order where the nuns wear habits and promote Adoration...it still sounds to me like an Attack of the Modernists.

Still Smells Bad To Me said...

If I was one of these nuns I would be asking my nearest in rank superior who is not part of this "reform" to approach the SSPX for assistance and possible acceptance. Other nuns have fled to the Society. So can these.

Tancred said...

It sure is strange.

Tancred said...

Also, I think Kathnet tends to whitewash things.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they join the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus? http://www.institute-christ-king.org/vocations/sisters/

rjh

Anonymous said...

May I jump in?

I can only imagine being a woman who was drawn to the life of a religious. I'm sure they chose their order because their hearts were touched by the spirituality of Ss. John and Dominic. Why would they feel they could continue as a nun by joining an order of a different charism and spirituality? These nuns were drawn to bring the Real Presence fully into the world and publicly acknowledge Christ's Kingship by doing so. What other orders do, no matter how good is not what they were called to. How could they betray their particular vocation by going elsewhere where they could be protected from all risk of reform on the whim of a few or from an outside source? I know that I could not. I could only seek shelter in a place where I could continue in my promise to God exactly how I was called or I would have to leave entirely and enter the world.

Tancred said...

Surely their vision and whatever mistakes with religious life they may have made, perhaps stemming from a confusion related to their vocation, is of a far smaller magnitude than the flagrant disobedience and scandalmongering of dissident clergy and religious.

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of one of these sisters. I can only witness to the courage, joy and holiness of these young women and those who lead them. For three and a half years they have been villified as they have endeavoured to spend their lives predominantly praying, adoring God and studying the truth. To protect their precious vocations, to be true to what God was calling them to, they even started a new community: the Contemplative Sisters of St John and St Dominic. On Sunday my daughter and her community will in obedience remove their habits. It seems scandalous to me that these beautiful souls ..150 of them ....are persecuted in this manner. What have they done that is so wrong? It is my understanding that when investigated by the Vatican over the past few years, they were not found to be at fault - but their detractors were! But, if one looks at the lives of the saints, such events are often found in the history of our Church. With my daughter I pray that their suffering will be fruitful, I was touched to hear the sisters say that they are offering this up 'for the greater glory of God'. Please pray for them, for it is a heavy and unmerited cross that they carry.

Anonymous said...

It IS scandalous. It is an INJUSTICE committed against holy servants of God just like the INJUSTICE committed against the Faithful in the LIE told for FIFTY YEARS that the HOLY MASS was abbrogated. Also the INJUSTICE of denying the TRUTH of Catholic Doctrine to the Faithful. And the INJUSTICES which continue against the holy servants of God named Society of Saint Pius X!

"It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones."

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Woe to them!

Yes, these holy nuns will be prayed for. I am NOT AT ALL SURPRISED to know that they are offering this all up for the Glory of God but I do hope that they are not going to do something for the glory of blind obedience. I pray that they are on their guard against accepting COMPROMISES as Our Lady has forewarned. Myself I would not be party to this false obedience.

littleme said...

The sisters are my angels. I've been blessed by their presence. Every time I am with them I feel humbled. Truly God lives in them.... And I believe everything will go well.

Anonymous said...

I've been living close by the Contemplative Sisters of St John in France for a little while now and I can tell you it's no happy place, either. My impression and understanding is that the sisters were forced to choose which way to go and none of the options available included living their life and charism as it was originally before the death of their founder, except in that now they're all suffering with the crucified Christ (and it doesn't surprise me that this good community is under attack, especially their women). My heart breaks for the sisters in exile but I'm encouraged by their obedience in removing their habits. It's becoming clearer to me that all the sisters, those who stayed and those who left, are trying to live obedience according to their consciences as best they can in their circumstances. I'm hoping and praying that the circumstances will be favorable for a reunification under their authentic charism within the family of St John as originally intended by their founder Fr Philippe. And I'm hoping and praying that the new Holy Father will give this situation the attention and care it deserves.

Tancred said...

I don't get this stuff at all. Female religious in the US exhibit 0 obedience and get away with murder, while these ladies were loyal before being censored. Amazing hypocrisy, and a shame it goes unnoticed and un reproved.

Anonymous said...

I think "give up their habits" means to no longer wear their habits in obedience to the Vatican since the Srs of St. John and Dominic have been dissolved. Pray that Pope Francis can be open to the Holy Spirit and mend this rift and injustice!

Anonymous said...

before making judge to the sisters be converted God loves you. only
god will tell the truth we dont know when, but im sure all this is from the will of God For Them and for all of Us

Anonymous said...

They are free again! Praise God!

Anonymous said...

I feel a call to the vocation of priesthood and considering the community of st John. Not much info is available online. It was sad to hear about the poor contemplative sisters. Please share with me any info that a candidate should know before i make a decision of joining. I wonder if the brothers in the community have any such problems.

Anonymous said...

@rjt
I agree your suggestion! Between the traditional female Orders, my favourite is undoubtedly that of Adorers of the Royal Heart, where there are some nuns from France and some from USA, and from 2008 it has been recognized by Pontifical Right!

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