1. Women Religious are Facing Difficult Choices and Questions about The Future of their Communities and Sacred Spaces
Many inspiring communities of sisters are at a critical juncture in their history, facing challenging questions about the future of their orders and their ministries. Sisters are in the process of transitioning a wide range of institutions and missions they have started—hospitals, schools, community education, emergency shelter, spiritual training programs, affordable housing programs and properties, organizing and advocacy programs (for immigrant rights, against human trafficking, for divestment from fossil fuels), and so much more—and are passing on a wealth of wisdom in the process.
In particular, many of the spaces and properties of women religious are in transition, posing challenges and heart-wrenching questions. No transition of a congregation’s property comes without significant discernment, questions, challenges, and often a wide range of reactions by local community members, as the presence of sisters and their spaces have been such vital elements of community. Sisters are also holding and weighing tender questions about the cost of maintaining aging properties, missions, and their own eldercare.
2. Millennials Are at a Precarious moment and Long for New Forms of Community, Grounded in Spirituality and Service
In response to these longings, and the challenges of sisters, we are asking: how might we join the insights, expertise, and energy of these two populations to create new communities of belonging, rooted in love and equity, and standing for justice?
In listening to the needs of our time, one thing has begun to speak louder; at a moment in which loneliness, isolation, a desire for belonging rooted in place and for spiritual practice held in community are widespread among Millenials (and many more, besides), community itself, is perhaps one of the most valuable and critical missions sisters have to pass on.
Millennials attending Nuns & Nones our gatherings have expressed a deep desire to learn from sisters and carry these seeds of wisdom into new forms in our generation.
3. Together, we have a rare and timely opportunity to help forward sisters’ legacies and missions by partnering to keep sacred spaces in service to community.
Rather than losing convents, motherhouses, and retreat centers to for-profit developers or the wrecking ball, we believe we can work together to simultaneously meet the financial and community needs of sisters, the housing and gathering needs of a younger generation of spirited activists and organizers, and the broader need in society for sacred spaces of sanctuary and community.
We recognize that such spaces are in short supply and of utmost importance. Whatever challenges await in the years and decades ahead, we know that meeting them will require strong communities of spirit and safe spaces to gather, to hold difficult conversations and build bridges across difference, to offer sanctuary for those in need, to organize and envision, and to build beloved community. In an era of increasing technological speed and distraction, we need sacred spaces to invite us out of the trance of ordinary time and into life’s prophetic and contemplative dimensions. In a society that prioritizes profit over people, we need spaces that model the opposite, showing what's possible when we create a culture of care and compassion, and orient ourselves in right relationship with the earth and with each other.
What would it take to ensure that the sacred living and gathering places of sisters continue to serve unmet needs in communities across the country for the next hundred years and beyond? Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work across generations—and at a significant scale—to preserve not just these physical spaces, but the histories of the sisters who created, lived in, and tended them, the prayerful energy that has grown there, the ministries that have emerged from these communities, and the essential living legacy of community as a way of life.