Several nuns agreed that the Indian Church is male-dominated and the women religious have not yet joined the decision making.
Posted on July 15, 2012, 8:32 AMBy Ritu Sharma
New Delhi: Sr. Jees Theresa, like any nun, is committed to her religious life. She wears a white habit and greets everyone with a smile.
With a laptop in her hands, the Mother of Carmel nun was among more than 200 young men and women who attended the first national convention of young religious.
The July 9-12 meeting took place a few weeks after nuns from the United States took a bus tour to convey the message that the people of their country can be a better union and to highlight social injustice.
The trip was mooted in May after a Vatican report charged the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents most US nuns, of "radical feminism" and not focusing enough on fighting gay marriage.
Even in India, two former nuns created ripples with their controversial autobiographies that alleged sexual abuse in convents in the past two years.
However, the participants at New Delhi convention, who were in early 30s, seemed little worried about such developments.
Sr. J. Florice of Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary said the scandals surrounding the Church have not affected her desire to serve God and people.
Commenting on the nuns’ autobiographies, Sister Tessy Jacob, one of progressive nuns at the convention, said what they wrote is their personal experience and that should not be an excuse to discredit other religious.
The sari-clad nun wants people to treat each religious individually and not to be influenced by what a particular nun or a priest does.
“The perception that nuns are frustrated inside the convent is wrong,” asserted Sr. Jacob, a member of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit congregation working among tribal people in Odisha, eastern India.
Some nun participants expressed ignorance about the controversy surrounding their counterparts in America. The few who knew about the protest refused to comment fearing their superiors’ wrath.
However, several nuns agreed that the Indian Church is male-dominated and the women religious have not yet joined the decision making.
Sr. Jacob says the Indian Church is patriarchal but what the nuns want is equity not equality.
This precisely was the aim of the convention, said Brother Mani Mekkunnel, national secretary of the Conference of Religious, the association of major superiors that organized the program.
“The meeting aimed to bring the young religious out from the conventional boundaries of their congregations and face the realities of the world,” the Montfort Brother explained.
The participants agreed that the times are changing and they need to adapt to the modern world accordingly.
Sr. Theresa, who sat in a corner engrossed in some presentation on her laptop, said she is very comfortable with modern technology as it keeps her up-to-date with the happenings in the world.
The 30-year-old nun termed the convention as enlightening and said that the change has to come from within only then can a person think of changing his/her surroundings.
The ease with which the nun was making use of the modern technology indicated that these young men and women were ready to march with the time while keeping their commitment to religious life intact.
Sr. Neena Varghese, 32, said that the world has changed tremendously since she took the vows in 1997. “It is high time the religious of my age started making use of the modern technology to spread the mission,” said the Clarist Franciscan Missionaries of the Most Blessed Sacrament nun.
The convention was paperless in an effort to make the young religious adopt new technology.
Brother Mekkunnel said about 70 percent of participants came with laptops. Despite initial hiccups, they learned quickly to move fingers on laptops as they presented ways to meet modern challenges.
While some congregations seemed changing fast, a few still held on to their traditional customs and tradition.
The most obvious was the way the nuns dressed at the convention. Some came in civil dress while others felt comfortable in their traditional habit.
Sister Florice said her congregation “gives us the liberty to wear the dress according to the place where we are sent for our mission.”
Some nuns said they wore the traditional dress because people respect them.
However, Sister Jacob says it is not the dress that brings respect but the way one interacts with people.
The convention ended with the participants forming a parliament to revolutionize consecrated life for 2020.
Nearly a quarter of India’s more than 130,000 religious are in their 30s, said Brother Mekkunnel. He said these people would be leading their congregations in the next decade.
He said the convention, with the theme “Leadership for Consecrated Life 2020,” brought out the best among the young men and women. “It gave them a new thinking and approach toward consecrated life,” he added.