Editor's Note: Deborah Rose-Milavec is a member of the Voices of Faith Advisory board and served as the moderator of the first VOF panel discussion in 2015. Since then she has been a key organizer for the panel discussions each year.
In 2012, along with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Simone Campbell and her organization, NETWORK, were censured and investigated by the Vatican. NETWORK, in particular, was criticized for focusing too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same sex marriage. After years of strong pushback from U.S. Catholics and a change in leadership at the top, the investigation finally ended.
And it felt like Justice was having her day when Sr. Simone spoke as one of the panelists during the Voices of Faith annual event held for the fourth time on March 8, 2017, inside the Vatican.
In her interview with America Magazine, Sr. Simone admitted that she wept just before the event. Referring to the investigation, she confided, “I have to tell you that I was talking to one of the religious women before our panel [at the conference], and I just started to cry because there’s a way in which I stayed focused on mission and didn’t let the hurt sink it. But being here is a treasure, it’s a huge treasure to me and to women in the United States.”
At the conference, she recognized the courageous work that is being done by women of faith of all ages across the world. Still, she also detected “some sadness, because there is a feeling that the church is getting left behind. Everyone else is waking up to women’s leadership, but our beloved church, slow as it is, is not benefitting from the opportunity,” said Sr. Simone.
The Voices of Faith event, “Stirring the Waters: Making the Impossible Possible” opened this year with Father Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
He told those gathered, “Although Pope Francis has voiced his support for broader participation of women's voices in the decisions of the Catholic Church, that inclusion, which would bring the gifts of resilience and collaboration even more deeply into the church, remains stymied on many fronts.”
“If we are honest, we acknowledge that the fullness of women's participation in the church has not yet arrived.”
He concluded by quoting St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Fr. Sosa said it was in that spirit that they gathered “to listen to Voices of Faith, to hear stories of resilience, collaboration and inclusion. We have more than started. We will not stop.”