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Catholic Voice
 August 20, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Diocese to revamp fundraising
'True presence:' local movie explains Eucharistic Devotion
Archbishop-designate Cordileone continues to administer diocese
Msgr. Breton New monsignor:
A rare honor for the diocese
Vigil draws attention to dispute
between sisters, Vatican

Oakland was one of 37 cities joining in a vigil to support religious women.

About 125 people gathered on the steps of the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Aug. 7 in what organizers described as a sidewalk vigil for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which was meeting in St. Louis, to formulate its response to criticism from the Vatican.

Oakland was one of 37 cities joining in the vigil to support religious women, leaders told the gathering. It was the second gathering at the cathedral since a Vatican assessment April 18 calling for a reform of the LCWR, an umbrella group of U.S. women's religious communities representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. The assessment said reform was needed to ensure LCWR's fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas that include abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality.

With song, prayer and readings, vigil participants prayed for wisdom, comfort and strength for the women religious who were meeting to discern how, and perhaps indeed if, they would enter into dialogue with the bishops the Vatican had put in charge of the leadership group.

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"Sisters give me hope for the church" and "We are all nuns" read two of the signs sprinkled in the crowd, which sat on the cathedral steps or on chairs they brought to line the sidewalk, careful not to obstruct pedestrians. Passing motorists honked their horns and shouted support.

They prayed a litany of women witnesses, beginning with Eve and moving through the women of Old and New Testaments.

Women of Magdala of the East Bay organized the vigil with the help of Nun Justice, a national organization, and a coalition of several national progressive Catholic organizations, said Gwen Watson, chair of the East Bay group.

According to its website, Women of Magdala was founded in 2004 by a small group of women from Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill. Its membership includes women and men, "who carry forth in the spirit of Saint Mary of Magdala, working with competence and wisdom to build an inclusive church through education, prayer and action."

The vigil included a talk by Sister Stella Goodpasture, OP, who described what she called "her journey," as a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

She recounted a childhood in San Francisco, where she was graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy, where she was taught by the Dominican Sisters. "The beauty of religious living was evident in the sisters as they went about their teaching duties," she recalled.

"Following graduation on Dec. 8, 1948," she said, "I was among several classmates who entered the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose."

"For 30 years I taught school, intermingled with other assignments. We went where we were sent," she said, "and I was sent often."

When the crowd laughed, she added: "I had 21 assignments."

She said she loved teaching, community life and the life of prayer.

"It was wonderful to read the Vatican II documents which made me feel that the Catholic Church was not only well-rounded, but showing itself a world leader in social justice." While teaching at Sacred Heart in Los Angeles, she learned about Network, "which was founded by a group of Catholic sisters attending universities. They had studied and shared about the networks of corporate power and decided to begin a national lobby, which they called Network, to promote social justice in legislation. I was so proud of this action and rooted for them from a distance."

Not long after this, she said she read Network material about nuclear weapons. "Reading about the Trident submarine was a traumatic experience," she said. "I cried for three days. It tried not to do it in front of the students. I could not believe that anyone could think this up."

But she was thinking of those students.

"I thought of the young people I was teaching, sixth-graders at the time, and what their world would be like," she said.

Her work for social justice was born. She listed opposition to nuclear, community organizing such as PICO, and work with the Haiti Action Committee.

"Nationally, Dominican congregations have a social justice agenda which they update every two years. They work collaboratively on the issues," she said, citing global climate change, nonviolence, human trafficking, death penalty, immigration and justice. "All congregations have taken a stance opposing nuclear weapons," she said.

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