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When Forest Park resident Margie Rudnik heard that some of the members of her parish, St. Giles Catholic Church in Oak Park, were taking out ads in Wednesday Journal and the Forest Park Review [May 2 & 9 issues] in support of American nuns, she enthusiastically signed the document.

Mary Ziegler, another member of St. Giles, initiated the creation of the ad when she heard that the Vatican was going to investigate the largest organization of American Catholic Nuns called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The ad, which was eventually signed by 218 people, read, “We celebrate the lives of the women religious of the United States of America. We pray in deep thanksgiving for these nuns and the work they do, the leadership they offer, and the example they provide.”

The group chose to make a positive statement about women religious, as the LCWR refers to its members, instead of a statement critical of the Vatican because that was what they understood most nuns wanted. The three sisters in this area who were contacted by the Review all said that they “preferred not to comment at this time.”

Ziegler said she thinks the nun’s response of “no comment” did not arise from fear but from their preference for processing decisions collegially instead of being reactive. “I don’t think it’s a fearful response,” she said. “I think they are saying let’s pause and take time to think.” Rudnik added, “It makes sense that the leaders of the women religious are taking time to reflect and pray over any response.”

The group that decided to run the ad found it easy to praise the nuns in the Catholic Church. “The Vatican’s decision really saddens me,” said Rudnik. “We should be focusing on the tremendous work that has been done by the women religious in health care, education, working with the poor and elderly, working with people in prison and their families. My mom is in an assisted living facility run by the Benedictines; she receives incredible care.”

Like many Catholics, nuns were an important part of Rudnik’s spiritual formation while growing up. They would come to her parish in a small town in central Illinois on Saturdays to teach religious education. She added, “My sister was in the convent in St. Louis for several years. I loved visiting her there.”

An article in the April 18, 2012 issue of the National Catholic Reporter summarized the news that sparked Ziegler’s call for a meeting after church:

“The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious to reform its statutes, programs and affiliations to conform more closely to ‘the teachings and discipline of the Church.’ The Vatican also said Wednesday it has appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which has been the subject of a ‘doctrinal assessment’ by the Vatican congregation since 2009, and has given him power to review and revise the organization’s policies.”

Muriel Quinn, a St. Giles member who has a Master of Divinity degree from Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, said, “American Catholics in the pews have a different lens than does the Vatican in Rome. We demand respect from our leaders, and we expect our leaders to earn that respect, which is why, I think, there has been such a groundswell of support for the sisters. They have earned our respect.”

Rudnik added, “Please ask the readers to take time to say thank you for all the gifts that these women have given to all of us.”