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Women religious inquiry begins

WASHINGTON (CNS): Orders of women religious in the United States will be asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at six areas of religious life in preparation for a series of apostolic visits set to begin in January.

Topics to be considered are outlined in a working document distributed on July 28 to the 341 leaders of the religious congregations to share with their members.

The topics are related to the life and operation of the orders: identity; governance; vocation promotion, admission and formation policies; spiritual life and common life; mission and ministry; and finances.

Members of the orders are being asked to reflect on the working document.

A separate questionnaire based on the working document will be distributed to superiors general on September 1.

Distribution of the questionnaire on September 1 will open the second phase of a comprehensive study of US institutes of women religious announced in January and ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life under its prefect Cardinal Franc Rode.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitator charged by the Vatican with directing the study, said the reason this was being done was “to help assess and promote the vitality of all the sisters”.

Mother Millea, a Connecticut native whose religious institute is based in Rome, said the superiors would have until November 1 to complete the questionnaire and return it to the apostolic visitation office in Hamden, Connecticut.

“Once we get all the questionnaires, we will analyse and select which congregations to visit,” Mother Millea said.

The apostolic visits are scheduled to begin in January and continue throughout 2010, according to the study timeline established by the apostolic visitation office.

“For some congregations, their participation will end with the questionnaire,” Mother Millea said. “We want to get a cross section (for the visits).”

The working document was developed and reviewed by clergy, including bishops, and women religious, Mother Millea said.

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