By Dan Russo, for The Witness
Sister Cathy (Kate) Katoski was one of 870 attendees at the triennial meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), a worldwide organization that provides a forum for leaders of Institutes of Catholic Women Religious, May 9-13.
The meeting that was held in Rome featured prayer, in-depth discussion of issues, and a private audience with Pope Francis and had a theme of “Weaving Global Solidarity for Life.” Sisters from around the world were able to listen to talks in their own languages through the use of translators and technology. There were four major addresses: Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ (US) on the relationship between care of Earth and economic poverty; Sister Mary Sujita, SND (India) on the concept of solidarity as an expression of how women religious live when they are present to individuals and groups on the margins; Sister Grazia Loparco, FMA (Italy) on the 50-year history of the UISG, and Sister Miriam Ambrosio, IDP (Brazil) on the subject of our lives as witness to God’s love in the world.
Sister Kate emailed updates to the congregation periodically during the meeting, reflecting on the content.
“Today’s primary talk was “Solidarity for Life on the Periphery” by Sister Mary Sujita from India,” wrote Sister Kate. “Mary was a delightful, passionate speaker, calling us, as Pope Francis has, to meet our God on the periphery. She pointed out that our world of dehumanizing poverty, conflicts, refugees and human trafficking challenge us all to be women of global solidarity.”
The table discussions provided further insights to those who attended.
“At our table we 10 from different countries had good conversations about the periphery in our globe, in our local areas and even in our local houses,” wrote Sister Kate. “Given so many retired in our congregations, we felt called to encourage all to meet God in all members, even the difficult person for each of us, the lonely and the isolated.”
During the papal audience, which occurred at the Vatican May 12, Pope Francis took questions from the women religious on a range of topics, including whether he would “establish an official commission to study the question” of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate. The pontiff responded that “It would be useful for the church to clarify this question,” according to reports.
The sisters were generally pleased with the dialogue they had with the pope, including in the case of the question about women as deacons that generated the most media interest.
“The pope’s answer regarding the possibility of women deacons was very well received by the religious women attending,” said Sister Cathy. “He was very clear however that he was interested in the subject, but recognized that it may not be supported by the Scriptures as we know them.”
For Sister Kate, the meeting was an enriching experience.
“It was a very moving experience to share with religious women around the world, often to hear of the poverty and violence that are a way of life for their people,” she said.
Photo caption: Sisters Carol Wagner, Kate Katoski, Faustina Hasford, and Marilyn Geigerat at the UISG meeting in Rome. Contributed photo.
This article first appeared in The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.