Moving Forward in Hope Gatherings

Today's Catholic Sisters

Today’s Catholic Sisters Gatherings Executive Summary

By Br. Paul Bednarczyk C.S.C.

Click to view complete Executive Summary

In dedicating the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis called on the Church to celebrate the legacy of religious life and to renew the Church’s appreciation for this unique form of discipleship with a hope that others may join its ranks in the future. Religious sisters, in particular, have had a remarkable legacy in the United States, for they were some of America’s first pioneers who quickly became the backbone of the Catholic hospital and health care systems, parochial schools, and social services agencies that have been integral to the health, education, and welfare of generations of Americans and helped ensure the strength and endurance not only of the Church in the U.S. but the nation itself. 
    Recognizing the unique and significant gifts of women religious, NRVC sponsored the Today’s Catholic Sisters gatherings to provide a greater awareness and more informed understanding among laity, clergy, media, and other interested parties about women’s religious life today and why a younger woman would consider being a part of it. 
    The participants’ positive response to these gatherings affirmed that the faithful witness and selfless service of religious sisters continue to inspire and have a positive impact on our Church and world. Undoubtedly, there is a need to continue to tell this extraordinary story of faith, love, and service.    
    NRVC hopes that these gatherings will spur other church constituencies (especially Catholic colleges and universities) to engage in similar projects supportive of women religious and their unique and essential vocation, which in turn will contribute to an environment more conducive to religious vocation discernment among young women and men. The future of religious life depends on the efforts of an entire Church that benefits from the lives, works, and prayer of those who choose religious life.


Women Moving Forward in Hope

Final Report

Our very well-received Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope gatherings have concluded. Click to download or view the Final Report.

Report Highlights

Regional Gatherings of Women Religious

A total of 115 congregational teams took part in gatherings between Nov. 2012 and May 2013 representing more than one fourth of apostolic women’s congregations in the United States. These workshops were held in Chicago, IL, Burlingame, CA and Latham, NY.


Five Guidelines for Dialogue

The participants were asked to follow five guidelines for dialogue:

  • Be fully present, open to grow in understanding and new insights.
  • Listen attentively and ask clarifying questions
  • Suspend certainty and judgment
  • Trust in the sincerity and commitment of each other
  • Appreciate the diversity among us.

Action Plans

Congregational teams developed concrete actions plans that largely fell into four categories:

  • To share the information from this gathering with each of their congregations and educate their membership about the generational and ethnic diversity of young people in the Church today;
  • To prepare and involve more sisters in vocation efforts, with the goal of a greater outreach to the Millennial generation;
  • To actively reach out to young adults where they are;
  • To invite young adults to places where the sisters live and minister.

Congregational teams also agreed to increase their outreach to young adults and further educate their membership on what people are seeking in religious life today.





Original invitation sent to the vocation director and major superior of all canonically recognized U.S. religious institutes of women:

INVITATION LETTER to Women Religious: Moving Forward in Hope

National Religious Vocation Conference

JUNE 4, 2012

Dear Vocation Director:

I am pleased to invite you and your major superior to apply to attend Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope, a gathering for women religious funded by the GHR Foundation and sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference. Building on the momentum of the 2010 Moving Forward in Hope Project (MFIH), which proved to be a milestone symposium, the Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope gathering will be in fulfillment of the National Vocation Plan developed at the 2010 symposium.

The purpose of Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope, offered in three separate locations, is to explore the ethnic and generational demographics of Catholic women in the United States, and the opportunities, challenges, and implications they present for new membership to religious institutes.

As highlighted in the NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations to Religious LIfe, successful vocation ministry calls for a corporate ownership for promoting and supporting new membership within religious congregations. The Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope gathering will provide a unique forum for vocation and leadership personnel to assume this ownership with a greater awareness of the profile and diversity of today's Catholic women.

Please read on to learn more about the terms and benefits of this extraordinary opportunity.



Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, professor of sociology and religious studies at Emmanuel College and visiting professor at Trinity Washington University for the 2012-13 academic year. Sister Mary is co-authoring with Sister Patricia Wittberg, SC, and Dr. Mary Gautier, a book on the new generations of women religious.

Father Donald Senior, CP, president of Catholic Theological Union and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Sisters Kieran Foley, FSE, and Gloria Marie Jones, OP.

Sisters Lorraine Reaume, OP and Anne Walsh, ASCJ, who will attend each of these gatherings and prepare a final document on the three gatherings.

Who is invited to this special program?

NRVC invites both the vocation director and the major superior or leadership team member of any canonically recognized religious institute to apply to this program. A total of 150 women will participate in this project. Each gathering will host 50 women from 25 individual congregations representing the diversity of apostolic religious life.

What will the program consist of?
In addition to significant input, time will be devoted to prayer, dialogue, reflection, and celebration of our vocations.

What are the criteria for acceptance?
Priority for acceptance will be given to NRVC member communities. If a congregation is accepted and agrees to participate in the program, both the vocation director and leadership team member must:

  • Make a full commitment to the schedule, process, conversation, and follow-up to the program in fulfillment of the grant requirements

  • Be open to dialogue across differences

  • Desire to invite new members into their institute

  • Commit to some action or purpose

Where will these programs take place?
These programs will take place within three regions of the country. Communities may prioritize on their application their first, second, and third choice of gathering.

  • November 26-28, 2012, Felician Sisters Motherhouse, Chicago, IL

  • January 7-9,2013, Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA

  • March 5-7,2013, Carondelet Hospitality Center, Latham, NY

    Additional Offering! May 28-30, 2013

Communities may prioritize on their application their first, second, and third choice of gathering.

How much does this program cost?
Communities are only responsible for their travel to and from the gathering location. The entire program, including meals and accommodations for all participants, is covered by the grant funding.

What if my congregation cannot afford our travel?
A limited amount of funding is available for those communities who find unbudgeted travel expenses a financial hardship. Please call the NRVC office at 773.363.5454 for further information.

How do I apply?
Simply click the following link and complete the online application:

Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope Online Application

No additional documents are necessary, nor will they be considered in the selection process. All applications must be received by Monday, March 15, 2013. Any application received beyond that date will not be considered.

When will I hear whether or not my congregation is selected?
A selection committee will review all applications. Applicants will be notified of their status by July 26. Communities not accepted will be placed in an established “waiting pool” of applicants. If both selected applicants from one congregation are unable to attend, they should notify NRVC as soon as possible. NRVC reserves the
right to select other participants from the waiting pool of applicants to take their place.

What will be the outcome of these gatherings?
In addition to providing a forum for dialogue among sisters and setting a direction for future vocation efforts, NRVC will publish a final document for wide distribution gleaning the shared wisdom of the three gatherings.


I would like to express my deep gratitude Mrs. Maryellen Glackin, project coordinator, for her careful preparation of these gatherings and to the planning committee for their dedication and commitment to this project: Sisters Paula Marie Buley, IHM, Joyce Candidi, OSSH, Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Donna Markham, OP, Maureen Martin, ASCJ, and Miriam Ukeritis. CSJ.

If you have any further questions, please contact Mrs. Maryellen Glackin.

With prayerful best wishes and blessings, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC
Executive Director

Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope

Final Report

By Carol Schuck Scheiber and Compiled by Carol Schuck Scheiber

Click to download the Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope Final Report.


Religious priests and brothers gathered at St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, in December 2013 and at Holy Name Retreat Center, Houston, TX in January 2014 to focus on new membership issues. Approximately 125 men attended one of the two identical events. They listened to presentations on what canon law says about religious life, Catholic demographics, the contemporary social context for vocations, and how their own institute's "vocation culture" can enhance new membership efforts.

These gatherings took place in fulfillment of one of the objectives of the Moving Forward in Hope National Vocation Plan developed in 2010. Funded by an anonymous foundation, each of the participants received a tool to assess the vocation culture within their own institute. As highlighted in the NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life, successful vocation ministry calls for a corporate ownership for promoting and supporting new membership within religious congregations.


The keynote speakers for these workshops were:

  • Father Thomas Gaunt, SJ, PhD, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Washington, DC;
  • Father Francis Morrissey, OMI, JCD, PhD, former dean of canon law at the University of St Paul, Ottawa;
  • Brother Sean Sammon, FMS, PhD, scholar in residence, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY, former superior general, psychologist, and acclaimed author on religious life.

The facilitator was Brother Paul Michalenko, ST, director of the Institute of Religious Formation at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, IL. Brother John Mark Falkenhain, OSB developed and presented the "Vocation Culture Assessment Tool" which all participants received.


NRVC expresses deep gratitude to Sister Deborah Borneman, SS.C.M., project coordinator, for her preparation of these gatherings and to members of the planning committee for their dedication and commitment to this project: Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC; Father Thomas Enneking, OSC; Brother John Mark Falkenhain, OSB; Brother Ronald Hingle, SC; Father James Kent, OFM Conv.; Brother Paul Michalenko, ST; Father Robert Lombardo, CFR; Brother Sean Sammon, FMS; and Father Vince Wirtner, CPPS.

For further information, please contact Sister Deborah Borneman, SS.C.M., at

To see or download photos of the event, go to

Photo above:  Father Hank Lemoncelli, OMI, of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life talks with participants in the January 2014 "Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope" event held at Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center in Houston, TX.

More images from Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope

Participants at the St. Meinrad event bless each other during a prayer service.


Brother John Mark Falkenhain, OSB presents the Vocation Culture Assessment tool.Every participant received this tool to use with his own community.


Vocation directors and superiors talked together about steps their communities could take to move forward in new membership. Pictured here are Fathers Thomas Smolich, SJ and John Bentz, SJ.

MFIH: Keys to the Future

Keys to the Future -- A Great Success!



Click to view final report

Moving Forward in Hope: Keys to the Future

June 4-6, 2012 San Antonio, TX

Moving Forward in Hope: Keys to the Future workshop is funded by the GHR Foundation and sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC). In fulfillment of one of the objectives of the Moving Forward in Hope National Vocation Plan developed in 2010, this special project is meant to provide religious institutes with a “conversational tool” to allow members to engage in a deeper exchange about the results of the NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life and the implications for apostolic religious life, specifically around the areas of community, visibility, communal prayer, and the celebration of Eucharist as they are experienced in individual congregations. Sr. Lynn M. Levo, CSJ, facilitated this training for women and men religious to gain a deeper understanding of the study and be given skills and training in how to facilitate discussions around these critical issues in their own congregations and elsewhere.

In June, 89 women and men religious who represented the diversity of religious life in North America came together at the Oblate Renewal Center to experience this workshop. Religious brothers, sisters, and priests came from 24 states as well as Canada, representing all three leadership conferences. They were from different generations, ethnic backgrounds, ecclesiologies, and spiritualities. Fifty-nine percent of the participants are vocation ministers; 23 percent are in religious leadership; and 18 percent are in formation or other forms of ministry. The planning committee consisted of: Brother Jonathan Beebe, CSC; Sisters Deborah Borneman, SSCM; Charlene Diorka, SSJ; Maria Therese Healy, O. Carm; Virginia Herbers, ASCJ; Lynn Levo, CSJ; Ms. Jeanne Dennison, and Father Mark Soehner, OFM.

Every religious institute has received a complimentary copy of a CD which includes this comprehensive program for use in their religious institutes. Please read the following quotes from our participants:

  • The video of newer members was powerful. I think it will be very useful for our sisters to view. I appreciated the idea of the "stable table" and the image of journey.
    Sister Marybeth Antonelli, Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia
  • I gained so much insight from all the tools that were used in this workshop. I'm very hopeful as well as excited to go home and share. Excellent ideas!
    Sister Mary Stephen Beauford, Oblate Sisters of Providence
  • The prayer atmosphere was so helpful to the contemplative atmosphere! The video is amazing and will help move hearts!
    Sister Janice Bernowski, rc
  • I love the telling of stories as ice breakers to gradually 'peel the layers' to go deeper into the discussions, one step at a time. The process questions were effective in deepening individual insights, as well as small group discussions.
    Sister Maria Eleanor Caisido, Congregation of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament
  • It will help us to get real/concrete. Thank You! Brother John Celichowski, Capuchin Province of St. Joseph
  • I'm hoping this will be the fuel in the gas tank to get us moving forward! It gives me great hope!
    Sister Kathy Claflin, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia
  • It was especially helpful to have such a diverse participant list -- seldom the opportunity for such broad based quality time together.
    Sister Mary Catherine Clark, Adorers of the Blood of Christ
  • The materials are excellent. The staff of NRVC was helpful and Lynn Levo was a good facilitator. Thank you.
    Sister Lucy Clynes, DW
  • It unpacked a new confidence and a desire to challenge negative attitudes. I pray that members will participate and allow themselves to be transformed anew and to share in vocation ministry.
    Sister Maureen Corcoran, Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth
  • It could not have been more hands-on and practical. I am so looking forward to using the tools with my community. The witness of the newer members was particularly engaging.
    Brother Robert Croteau, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, New England Province
  • It gave me a clearer understanding of the study and increased my energy to 'doing something' about vocations! It was non-threatening and truly engaging, in an honest manner.
    Sister Yolanda Cruz, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur
  • This will strengthen our efforts. Thank you for all the hard work invested in helping us. I knew it would be great and it was!
    Sister Donna Del Santo, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester
  • The video, Power Point, and process stimulated honest sharing! Seeing that newer members are very hopeful and echo our commitment to the essentials of religious life should be especially helpful.
    Sister Dorothy Ann Dirkx, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
  • I feel comfortable taking thisback to our leadership team to discuss how we can moveforward. Thank you to the committee, to GHR and NRVC for the insight to envision this process for communities.
    Sister Pat Dowling,Congregation of Sisters of BonSecours
  • The car imagery is fun to work from! The video is outstanding and the Wordle is clever. I especially appreciated the presence of such a diversity of congregations.
    Sister Peggy Doyle, Congregation of NotreDame
  • The facilitator was excellent and provided gentle, knowledgeable guidance throughout the process. The video of newer members was excellent. It is always valuable to hear from the newer members themselves.
    Sister Patricia Dual, Dominican Sisters of Peace
  • Our journey through the process is helpful in being ready to take others through it. Sister Lynn was very supportive and directed in a subtle, helpful way.
    Sister Mary Elizabeth Endee, Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist
  • You've given me the tools, now I need to gather our sisters for deepersharing and planning. It surpassed my expectations!
    Sister Fran Fasolka, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart
  • We are already speaking and planning, this will move us in a more specific way. It will be very helpful. Our chapter theme is: "Inviting New Members -- Inviting the Future."
    Sister Carmel Therese Favazzo, Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate
  • It gives us a step by step process that we can adapt. It's great to have a theme and a way to carry it through, very comprehensive. There was a great spirit of collaboration.
    Sister Michele Fisher, Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth
  • The materials are excellent. The opportunity to really move through the process was excellent.
    Sister Joanne Gallagher, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston
  • The table talk was most useful. It exceeded anything that I had expected. Sister Lynn was fantastic, she truly modeled how to facilitate as we went through the process.
    Sister Mary Terese Giblin, School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King
  • It made me more aware and got me thinking of different ways in which engagement between generations can take place including the modern means of communication. We move forward together.
    Father Christopher Gibson, Passionist
  • I intend to incorporate all the components. It is very helpful, provides members to enter the process with an open mind.
    Sister Jeanne Gilligan, Franciscan Sisters of Peace, New York Archdiocese
  • I truly appreciated having all three conferences of religious in the room at the same time--this is a first for me! I am so grateful and excited for more events of this tenor by the NRVC.
    Sister Jeanne Marie Gocha, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
  • I am glad I came. It was well worth the effort. Thank you for making this workshop possible and making it possible for me to participate.Sister Regina Marie Gorman, CMSWR President
  • The 'ready to use' resources are invaluable. Thank you so much for the privilege of participating and for all you did to make it such an excellent experience.
    Sister Violet Grennan, Executive Director for the Religious Formation Conference
  • Our congregation, like many congregations, has been looking at the issue through assemblies and area gatherings, but we needed something more. I think this process will lead us deeper to concrete ways. Thank you for this opportunity.
    Sister Madonna Harvath, Bernardine Franciscan Sisters
  • As a vocation director for my congregation, it is just the tool I need! It is not crafted in the head, but allows us to begin in the heart, returning to our original dream for religious life.
    Sister Maria Therese Healy, O, Carm. Committee Member
  • It renewed my hope! It was creative, simple, but a profound process. It should be fairly easy to use. The 'goodies' on the CD are nice to have and should make it even easier to use!
    Brother Ronald Hingle, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, New Orleans Province
  • It was well beyond my expectations. It is a marvelous help! We were in touch with reality and still invited to engage in hope with the future. I feel this tool is essential.
    Sister Carol Ann Jokerst, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
  • The part of naming the present reality honestly will be really helpful in supporting vocations in local communities.
    Sister Donna Marie Kemberling, Sisters of Christian Charity
  • The 'car-imagery' -- using driving as a metaphor to move through the stages of reflection, imagining, planning -- was really perfect, especially non-threatening for men's community settings.
    Brother Mark Knightly, Congregation of Holy Cross, Moreau Province
  • I wasn't sure what to expect but I'm very grateful for the experience. It's a good process which will lead to good conversations.
    Sister Sarah Kohles, Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque
  • Excellent questions and reflective process. The careful planning created the necessary support structure. It exceeded my expectations.
    Father Daniel Lackie, Franciscan Friars, Province of St. Barbara
  • I appreciate all the resources given to us and Sister Lynn's facilitation style.
    Sister Mary Lange, Sisters of the Holy Family
  • I thought I was going to get lots of information but instead I received a great process with all the tools and materials! It was great for reflection, application, and moving to action.
    Denise LaRock, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
  • It more than met my expectations. It has given me hope and every possible help to do it. I was in awe at the depth and honesty in sharing at our table.
    Sister Lourdes Leal, Congregation of Divine Providence
  • The facilitator's guide is wonderful. I'm looking forward to pursuing its implementation.
    Sister Joyce Lehman, Sisters of the Precious Blood
  • I'm so grateful you have consolidated such priceless information in a user friendly format. My table partners were so passionate about sharing that we could have talked for days. I am on fire to share it with my community and Region IX.
    Sister Vicki Lichtenauer, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth
  • The video of the newer members will be a hit! Sister Lynn facilitated with such love! You could tell she had a great deal of information and enjoyed doing it!
    Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, Religious Sisters Filippini
  • This is perfectly timed for me. We have community meetings at the end of July. I already knew I had to present our vocation team's progress towards a comprehensive vocation plan. Now I have everything I need for that meeting. This is perfect! It took all the anxiety out of it all.
    Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, Benedictine Sisters of Cullman
  • I couldn't think of a better facilitator. Lynn set a great tone and modeled the process in a very effective manner. It met and exceeded my expectations!
    Father Adam MacDonald, Society of the Divine Word
  • I am most grateful to NRVC for reaching out and including representatives of all conferences and inviting the representative from the USCCB as well as RFC, etc. to join us.
    Sister Maureen Martin, Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • I think I will have to do it regionally, but now I know how to talk to my leadership team about scheduling it.
    Sister Mary Carol McClenon, Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  • It is a very effective conversation tool supported by visuals that capture the conversation flow and depth of the study.
    Father Gary McCloskey, Augustinians, Villanova Province
  • Before I came, I had no clear idea of what I was expected to do. Now I feel confident about leading my community through the process. Once again, it was a quality event, as all NRVC events are.
    Father Don Miller, Franciscans, St. John the Baptist Province.
  • We have already had conversations in our community about where we are at. This tool will help deepen that discussion. I truly appreciated experiencing it with other religious first before bringing it home.
    Sister Margaret Mary Mitchel, Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration
  • I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I feel prepared to facilitate this conversation with the community. I had done very little in the way of engagement with the findings (beyond reading them), so this was helpful.
    Sister Belinda Monahan,Benedictine Sisters of Chicago
  • It models a way for me to imitate the facilitation for my own community. The presentation allows me to recognize the findings and implications in a more concrete way.
    Sister Sandy Nguyen, Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
  • Ifound the process to be better than expected. What will be most helpful is the video and handouts. It is very practical and easy to use.
    Father Jim Osendorf, Congregation of the Mission
  • First of all, I'm so grateful to NRVC for using time and resources to secure theGHR grant to enable these services. I'm also grateful to the committee that evolved these resources and Lynn Levo for the process.
    Sister Lisa Paffrath, Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence
  • The fresh approach to the topics will allow for new thinking, fresh ideas and new enthusiasm for the tasks ahead. I became more knowledgeable about the NRVC/CARA study and current thinking, and am very comfortable with the conversation tool itself.
    Sister Margaret Palliser, Dominican Sisters of Sparkill
  • It exceeded my expectations. This was a broad exposure to a diversity of communities. Thank you for inviting me and welcoming me here. I shall share thiswith the conference.
    Father John Pavlik, CMSM Executive Director
  • I feel so blessed in having been selected and I learned so much. The process was well done and thought through. Each step did build well on the previous step and took me deeper.
    Sister Lucy Povilonis, Dominican Sisters of Hope
  • The car imagery will be especially helpful...the journey hopefully will happen! I have great hope for it! Sister Anita Quigley, Society of the Holy Child of Jesus
  • Remarkable. Remarkable. Remarkable. Thrilled to take it back to the 93 CAVA members representing the 65 congregations and my own sisters.
    Sister Elyse Ramirez, Archdiocese of Chicago, Office for Religious
  • Thank you so much to the time, energy, and resources that were put into this gathering. I feel blessed on many levels to have been here personally and for my congregation.
    Sister Mary Catherine Redmond, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Thanks so much for inviting LCWR to this. You did a fantastic job!
    Sister Annmarie Sanders, Director of Communications for LCWR
  • I found most helpful the techniques of having one set of questions for personal reflection and another set of questions for group discussion. Asking the deeper questions is always important.
    Sister Mary John Schik, Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
  • This calls us to be responsible for being present to and for each other, and the new people we invite. It is very useful to tell our stories and to get my sisters excited about vocations. I will share it with the other vocation directors of Region XII at our fall meeting in October.
    Sister Marietta Schindler, Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel
  • We have already independently begun some larger vocation efforts/committees/resources, but I hope this will engage the larger province. This workshop exceeded my expectations.
    Friar Paul Schloemer, Conventual Franciscans
  • Some very good resources to work with.It gave me some good language to use. The video of newer members was very real, informative, and conveys great hope.
    Brother Michael Sheerin, Marist Brothers
  • I think the video and process handouts are particularly helpful. They are excellent and I believe they have the potential to engage my community. It was a great workshopand Lynn Levo's facilitation made it!
    Sheila Stevenson, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, NYPPAW
  • The process is well balanced and designed to generate positive action. I not only understand, but am motivated to spread this good news.
    Sister Josephine Marie Streva, Allegany Franciscan Sisters
  • It fits nicely into a process we have already begun -- and will save us a lot of work as we move on to the next stage, giving us a framework and resources.
    Father Norm Tanck, Congregation of St. Basil
  • I think the video and the handouts with the questions will be particularly helpful. The questions are very well done and should lead the congregation to deeper reflection and conversation.
    Sister Sharlet Wagner, Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross
  • I'm very grateful for the diversity, for the different conferences present, for the respect shown to each. Sister Mary Wegher, Benedictine Sisters of Rapid City
  • It was a renewal for me personally! It is so useful -- all the materials and the experience itself.
    Sister Carol Welp, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters
  • We've had a 'vocations summit' based on the NRVC/CARA study, and need another step to energize our members -- this tool will provide that step in our ongoing cultivation of a culture of vocations. I think the fresh questions and the car metaphor will provide helpful inroads for our conversations.
    Brother Tom Wendorf, Society of Mary, Marianists
  • It was way beyond my expectations, it was outstanding. The video with the newer members is outstanding. Their witness is so life-giving and enthusiastic.
    Sister Christine Wiltrakis, Missionaries of the Precious Blood
  • The video will give us great discussion points, real people sharing their stories help us relate to our own experiences. This process enhances a process we have shared recently regarding vocations.
    Father Vince Wirtner, CPPS
  • I feel well prepared and I am excited about bringing it back to community leadership. I believe this tool will enable us to ask the hard questions and to have an honest conversation in community.
    Sister Laura Zelten, Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross

2010 Symposium overview

Main Links

NRVC NATIONAL ACTION PLAN, approved by the NRVC Executive Board, Feb. 17, 2011.

Letter from Cardinal Rode
Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
Letter from Cardinal Seán O'Malley, OFM Cap,
Archbishop of Boston, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations
Syposium Schedule

Catholic News Service stories on the Symposium:
Next steps for vocations; Fr. Robin Ryan on young adults (scroll to second story)



General Overview

Moving Forward in Hope Project
Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL
September 16-18, 2010

In December of 2009, the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) was awarded a $47,450 grant by the GHR Foundation to sponsor a vocation symposium as a follow-up to the NRVC / CARA Study on Recent Vocation to Religious Life in the United States. This symposium was to serve as a think tank composed of highly skilled experts in various fields of church life and ministry. Currently, there is no structure for a gathering such as this to occur.

Given the significance of the study results, the NRVC executive board recognized that we needed to take the research to the next level. The board asked the question: How can we constructively use these important findings to help sustain the viability for religious life for generations to come? Because NRVC is the officially recognized professional organization for religious vocation directors in the American Catholic Church, and since NRVC sponsored the study, it only made sense that this next initiative rest with our organization.

The goals for this gathering were threefold:

  • To review the data and best practices for vocational promotion as outlined in the NRVC/CARA study;
  • To suggest creative strategies based on the study's findings to advance religious life from the various disciplines represented in this gathering;
  • To develop a strategic plan of concrete action steps that would increase the number of candidates in religious institutes.

A planning committee was established. The members of this committee included Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, NRVC executive director, Sister Charlene Diorka, SSJ, NRVC associate director, Sister Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP, coordinator of religious vocation ministries for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Robin Ryan, CP, director of Catholics on Call, Brother Sean Sammon, FMS, former superior general of the Marist Brothers, and Ms. Patrice Tuohy, executive director and publisher of TrueQuest Communications. Sister Joan Scanlon, OP, was hired to serve as the symposium facilitator and joined the planning group in April.

The planning committee focused on the evidence in the NRVC/CARA study that showed a renewed interest in religious life found in a segment of younger Catholics. Given this reality, it was agreed that we definitely needed to champion new perspectives, fresh ideas, and innovative approaches to vocation ministry by generating new energy in our promotion of religious life.

Gleaning the wisdom of the 2002 North American Congress on Vocations, the committee compiled a list of potential invitees to this gathering that would be representative of the various diverse constituencies in our Church. The final list consisted of vocation directors, Catholic educators, major superiors, diocesan personnel, parents, youth, young adult and campus ministers, younger religious, media and communications experts, and church researchers and statisticians.

The symposium was held at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, IL, from September 16-19. It was important that we host this gathering at an institution associated with religious life. CTU is the largest theological union in the United States and is also home to the NRVC offices.

Because of the diversity of the participants, after some initial tone setting on the opening night, an entire day was dedicated to placing the vocation question within the context of the study's findings, religious life as it is lived today in this country, and the faith and spirituality of young adult Catholics, whom we hope to attract. The second day was a work day where, through a facilitated process, all participants gathered in seven interest groups: church leadership, religious life, communications and media, youth and young adults, parents and family, ethnic and cultural diversity, and Catholic education. The task of each group was to develop a plan from their given expertise to promote religious life. This was to be done through the lens of the study's findings of today's candidates, the characteristics of the communities who receive them, and the best practices of vocation promotion.

A final report on this symposium with its proposed plans will be submitted to the foundation by December 31. An executive summary of this plan will be posted on the NRVC website by Christmas. The NRVC board will review and promulgate the final plan at the February board meeting.

For those of us who had participated in this gathering, it was an extraordinary experience. As one participant eloquently wrote in the final evaluation:

I met other religious with what I perceived to be a differing and even offsetting ecclesiology and approach to religious life from mine. I saw them as "other" and expected them to offer little that would be helpful or instructive. Instead, through speaking and listening, praying and altering my own narrow perspective, I found in that encounter other consecrated persons also committed to lives of ministry, prayer, and community in albeit very different lifestyles. In the course of the days at CTU, I realized that consecrated religious life is a large and amazing tent into which God invites a spiritual menagerie of charisms, communtities, and characters. Who am I--who are any of us--to set ourselves up as ringmasters or ticket-takers at the door of that mysterious tent?

Through honest dialogue and respectful listening, what started as a vocation symposium became an encounter with the sacred, which resulted in greater understanding, reconciliation, and solidarity.

The name for this symposium, the Moving Forward in Hope Project, was taken from the homily given by Pope Benedict XVI to priests and religious in St. Patrick's Cathedral in 2008. The Holy Father prayed: "May our Lord Jesus Christ grant the church in America a renewed sense of unity and purpose, as all-bishops, clergy, religious, and laity-move forward in hope, in love for the truth and for one another."

With a renewed union of hearts and minds, the symposium participants left Chicago with a clearer truth about religious life and its future, and a mutual commitment to "move forward in hope" with one another inspired by the wonder of God's Providence.

2010 Symposium participants


List of Invited Participants

Ms. Lisa Bagladi
Public Relations and Marketing
World Library Publications

Mr. Heherson O. Balabbo, CMF
Claretian Missionaries

Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC
Executive Director
National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)

Mr. DeKarlos Blackman
Supreme Knight and CEO
Knights of Peter Claver, Inc.

Sr. Mary Charlotte Chandler, RSCJ
Province Leadership Team
Religious of the Sacred Heart
Former Director, Center for the Study of Religious Life

Mr. Peter Cunningham
Membership Coordinator
USA Council of Serra International

Sr. Charlene Diorka, SSJ
Associate Director
National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)

Dr. Mary Gautier, PhD
Senior Research Associate
Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)

Sr. Angela Gertsema, ASCJ
Apostles of the Sacred Heart

Ms. Julie Gilberto-Brady
Communications Coordinator
School Sisters of Notre Dame
Board Member, National Communicators' Network of Women Religious (NCNWR)

Mrs. Maryellen Glackin
Vocation Director
Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart
Board Member and Leadership Team Member, National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)

Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM
Senior VP of Mission & Values Integration
Catholic Healthcare Partners
Former President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Former President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Sr. Maria Hughes, ASC
Institute of Religious Formation
Board Member, Religious Formation Conference (RFC)

Sr. Mary Hughes, OP
Amityville Dominican Sisters
President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Br. Charles Johnson, SM
Former Vocation Director
Society of Mary (Marianists)
Institute of Religious Formation

Sr. Mary Johnson, SNDdeN
Professor of Sociology
Emmanuel College

Sr. Mary Emily Knapp, OP
Vocation Director
St. Cecelia Congregation Dominican Sisters

Mr. Matthew Kuczora, CSC
Congregation of Holy Cross, Indiana Province

Fr. Hank Lemoncelli, OMI
English Language Department
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Vatican City

Sr. Maryann Seton Lopiccolo, SC
Episcopal Delegate for Religious
Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens
Former President, National Conference of Vicars for Religious (NCVR)

Sr. Bernadette McCauley, SCC
Vocation Director
Sisters of Christian Charity

Fr. William Shawn McKnight
Executive Director
USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations

Dr. Kathleen Mahoney, PhD

Sr. Donna Markham, OP, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Former Prioress, Adrian Dominican Sisters
Former President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Fr. Edwin H. Obermiller, CSC
Assistant Provincial
Congregation of Holy Cross, Indiana Province

Br. Hugh O'Neill, CFC
Province Leader
Congregation of Christian Brothers
Board Member, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Sr. Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP
Coordinator of Religious Vocation Ministries
Archdiocese of Chicago

Mr. Matthew Robaszkiewicz
Membership Services
National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM)
National Association of Catholic Youth Ministry Leaders (NACYML)

Sr. Marcy Romine, OSF
Vocation Director
Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Board Member, National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)

Sr. Mary Joanna Ruhland, RSM
Associate Director
USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations

Fr. Robin Ryan, CP
Vicar Provincial
Passionists, Eastern Province
Former Director, Catholics on Call

Br. Sean Sammon, FMS
Visiting Scholar
Marist College
Former Superior General, Marist Brothers of the Schools
Former President, Conference of Majors Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP
Council Member
Dominican Sisters of Peace

Ms. Carol Schuck-Scheiber
Publications Editor
National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)

Ms. Kathy Schmitt
Seminary Department
National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)

Ms. Tami Schmitz
Campus Minister
University of Notre Dame

Sr. Katarina Schuth, OSF
St. Paul Seminary

Fr. Donald Senior, CP
Catholic Theological Union

Ms. Laurie Svatek
Campus Minister
St. Catherine's College
Vice Chair, Executive Board, Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) Board

Sr. Patricia Tekippe, FSPA
Vocation Minister
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

Ms. Patrice Tuohy
Publisher/Executive Director
TrueQuest Communications

Ms. Terry Tuohy
Development Director/Catechist
St. Matthias Church

Mr. Len Uhal
National Vocation Director
Society of the Divine Word

Mother Shaun Vergauwen, FSE
Mother General
Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist
Board Member (Treasurer), Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR)

Sr. Julie Viera, IHM
A Nun's Life Ministry

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Fr. Freddy Washington, CSSp
Director of Formation
Spiritan Fathers and Brothers

Br. Patrick Winbush, OSB
Vocation Director
Benedictine Monks of Newark Abbey

Fr. Andrew-Carl Wisdom, OP
Vocation Director
Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great

Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC
Professor of Sociology
Indiana University

Sr. Shu Chen Wu, MM
Maryknoll Sisters

Sr. Leonard Zielinska, OP
Vocation Director
Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

Sr. Judy Zielinski, OSF
Director, Faith and Values Programming
New Group Media

2010 Symposium photos

Photos from the Moving Forward in Hope Symposium, Sept. 16-18, 2010


Sister Joan Scanlon, O.P., facilitator of the symposium.










Keynote speakers of the symposium included (from left):  Father Robin Ryan, C.P.; Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C.; Mother Shaun Vergauwen, F.S.E.; Sister Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M.; Dr. Mary Gautier, Ph.D.; and Brother Sean Sammon, F.M.S..











Liturgy and prayer were essential components to the symposium. Sheila McLaughlin, director of the Bernardin Center at CTU and former director of the Liturgy Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago, served as liturgist












Invited participants of the Moving Forward in Hope Project.










Father Hank Lemoncelli, O.M.I., delegate for the Vatican's Congregation for Consecrated Life, and Brother Hugh O'Neill, CFC, board member of CMSM and province leader of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, listen intently











Dr. Mary Gautier, Ph.D., senior research associate at CARA and co-author of the NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations, presents the research to the participants.

Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN., carries the session's conversation over to the lunch table.











Sister Donna Markham, O.P., former prioress of the Adrien Dominicans, makes a comment about the pertinence of the NRVC research.











Father Donald Senior, C.P., President of Catholic Theological Union, served as the main presider for the Friday Eucharist.











Brother Sean Sammon, F.M.S., former superior general of the Marist Brothers, gives a provocative talk on the contemporary state of religious life in the United States.











Sister Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M., former president of the Sisters of Mercy and LCWR, was one of the respondents to Brother Sean's presentation










Mother Shaun Vergauwen, F.S.E., mother general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and CMSWR board member, was one of two respondents to Brother Sean's talk










Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo, S.C., episcopal delegate for religious from the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Sister Mary Hughes, OP, LCWR 2010 president, listen to the talks of Sister Doris and Mother Shaun.











Father Robin Ryan, C.P., former director of Catholics on Call, speaks about the research from his perspective of working with young Catholics.










Mr. Heherson Balabbo, C.M.F., was one of the younger religious participating in the symposium. 










Sister Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M., and Mother Shaun Vergauwen, F.S.E., were respondents to Brother Sean Sammon's presentation on contemporary religious life in the United States. 



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