From October 22 to October 24, 2018 at the Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin, a group of Irish women religious leaders came together at the invitation of Sr Patricia Linehan, RSC, to be briefed on the work of the United States-based CWR (Communicators for Women Religious).
After welcoming the group and formally introducing CWR Executive Director Nicholas Schafer, who travelled from CWR’s international office in Chicago to join the gathering, Patricia explained that she has been a member of CWR for eight years and during that time had attended CWR conferences in the US. Moved by her positive experience with CWR, she believed there was a need for the voice of women religious to be heard at home. The negative story in Ireland started 20 years ago and has prevailed now for at least nine years as the established narrative. There is still no countervailing public voice.
To implement her plan to redress the situation, Sr Patricia approached Sr Thomasina Finn, RSM—then responsible for the website and newsletter of the Conference of Religious of Ireland—and requested her help in contacting the leaders of women religious congregations to explore the possibility of setting up a CWR pilot group in Ireland. Since January 19, 2016, Sr Patricia has hosted this CWR pilot group at her congregation’s generalate premises at Gilford Road, Dublin. This group is composed of communicators mandated by a variety of religious congregations to promote the religious life stories of their institutes.
Over the course of October’s extended pilot group meeting, Nick listened carefully as the story of CWR in Ireland unfolded through both the voices of those who had been present from the beginning—two and a half years ago—and new voices interested in joining this CWR venture in Ireland. One memorable moment occurred when Sr Peggy Collins RSM traced with great care and reflection the evolution of the painful position in which women religious in Ireland find themselves today.
CWR meetings over these years have been, in Sr Patricia’s words, ‘grace-filled and bonding’. The overarching account is one of collaboration, hospitality and welcome. Everyone agrees that they leave each group meeting feeling energized and empowered. The model of the group has been one of solidarity and support without hierarchical structure.
Nick provided assurance that CWR is committed to the empowerment of its members, offering collaborative space and opportunity for networking. He was available throughout the meeting to answer questions and to explain and elaborate on CWR policy. He discussed with the group the process by which CWR Ireland could become a Regional Group of CWR and how funding could be made available for CWR training projects. He agreed to formalize the ratification of Ireland as a Regional Group with the CWR Board of Directors.
To formalize this moment in the history of CWR Ireland, a ritual sub-group was asked to prepare a ritualization of the ratification of the group for a meeting on December 13 when Nick and members of CWR from around the world joined the ceremony via Zoom.
Patricia Lenihan was asked to continue as liaison for the group while maintaining her own membership on the CWR Board of Directors.