By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. communities of women religious Nov. 24 continued to send in their responses to a multifaceted questionnaire meant to gather information as part of the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of U.S. institutes of women religious.
Although the official deadline was Nov. 20, Sister Kieran Foley, the recently appointed assistant for communications for the visitation, told Catholic News Service that some congregations have said “they’ll be late.”
She also said that since the questionnaires were first distributed to communities in September, three questions, including one about property and another about finances, have been dropped at the suggestion of several superiors who said they were not comfortable answering them.
Sister Kieran, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, was unaware of how many congregations had returned their questionnaires by the deadline.
“They’ll come in when they come in,” she said in a Nov. 24 interview with Catholic News Service.
Completed questionnaires go to the apostolic visitation office in Hamden, Conn., and the answers will be used to determine which religious communities will be visited by teams of apostolic representatives in 2010. Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is overseeing the process as the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator.
The questionnaire covers various facets of community life, spiritual life, the promotion of vocations and administration.
Distribution of the questionnaires marks the second phase of an unprecedented study of U.S. communities of women religious ordered by Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The study covers about 59,000 American nuns, all but those living in cloisters.
Since the questionnaire was sent to the congregations Sept. 18, three questions have been dropped. In a Nov. 5 letter to the nation’s 341 communities of women religious, Mother Clare said “many superiors” expressed concern about the confidentiality of the information they were being asked to provide.
The questions, from Part C of the questionnaire, asked each congregation for a list of each member, her year of birth, address and the type of ministry in which she is involved; a list of properties it owns and/or sponsors; and a complete copy of the most recent independent audit or most recent internal financial statement including statements of financial position, financial activity, changes in net assets and cash flows.
Sister Kieran said Mother Clare reached her decision to ask the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to delete the questions after a period of discernment and prayer. The congregation subsequently concurred, she said.
Responses to the deleted questions will be returned to the congregations that have already sent their completed questionnaires, Mother Clare said in her letter.
“She wanted this to be a positive experience for the orders and if people had questions about it, even though she is aware the Vatican has every right to ask for all of that information, she was willing to change the questionnaire,” Sister Kieran said. “She felt if we can get along without (that information), she felt it was best to delete those questions.”