The passion of Sr. Pat

Sr. Pat Farrell is head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and so is at the heart of the showdown with the Vatican over its plan to take control of the organization that represents most communities of American sisters.Sr. Pat, like the bishops who are in charge of the takeover plan, has spoken publicly about the controversy and the LCWR's views on Rome's criticisms and the membership's plans to develop a communal response (they will meet next week in St. Louis; I'll be there and should be filing daily).But what has been missing in large part is an exploration of the spiritual context and experience that Sr. Pat Farrell (like many of the sisters) is speaking from -- that biography both informs the story and serves as kind of response in itself to some of the criticisms.Farrell was reluctant to speak about her life in Chile and El Salvador during some terrible times in those countries but she finally relented (thanks to the entreaties of her fine friends) and here is a taste of the story we ran at Religion News Service:

The Catholic Church in Chile those days [NOTE: 1980, when she arrived], from the hierarchy to the laity, was a leading voice for human rights, standing with the people on the margins, she recalled. It made an indelible impression.It was far and away the most wonderful experience of church Ive ever had, Farrell said. It was a situation that just made me proud to be a Catholic.But Farrell was restless again, and knew there was a great need in El Salvador and great risk. If Chile was a repressive state in the 1980s, El Salvador was in open civil war, and Catholic priests and religious were on the front lines.Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford was one of four Catholic missionary women who were tortured, raped and murdered by a Salvadoran military death squad in 1980. That happened just months after Ford had arrived in El Salvador from Chile. One of her last tasks before leaving Santiago was helping Farrell learn the ropes.When word of Fords murder reached Farrell, she said she actually felt strengthened.I thought if she could be faithful to the end, giving her life, then maybe the rest of us, who are not too different from her, can be faithful to what is being asked of us, Farrell recalled.

Read the rest here.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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