The sisters I know don't glance at people: they look. And this is not The Look that asserted equal amounts of command and threat when a single grade-school nun was teaching 70 of us in one classroom in the baby-boom years.
The Catholic sisters' eyes that I encounter today hold combinations of qualities I seldom find elsewhere. Compassion plus "no BS given or taken!" Authority and integrity without righteousness. Merriment so deep it can spark light in dark times. Courage that's rooted in faith and hope. Powerful love that is trustworthy and unsentimental. Candor without rancor. Confidence in God's presence.
If I could wander the LCWR Assembly next week in St. Louis, I would take hundreds of photos of the sisters' eyes, quick portraits of these leaders. I'd ask them for favorite prayers, sayings, quotes. I'd make them into holy cards. I'd put them in my wallet and around my desk and over my kitchen sink. I'd immerse myself in their eyes, their words, their presence.
This website began with our group's desire to stand in solidarity with LCWR and Catholic sisters during this complicated time. But in seeking ways to stand with them, I have become the receiver: I've been given the almost-daily richness of time surrounded by them. Usually this comes through press reports or their writings or their online publications and resources, which you'll find all over the website. Standing with them is a spiritual journey into the qualities I find in their eyes.
I'm sure that what I see in their eyes is partly projection of what I have found through the years in relationships with sisters who matter to me, most of whom have spent decades in leadership in their congregations and in LCWR. They learned long ago how to create and offer grace through difficulties - often with a twinkle in their eyes.
Why reflect on sisters' eyes today? It's because last night I lucked into a bit of time with Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, executive director of LCWR. Talk about a woman in a tough spot! Yet in her eyes danced all the qualities I mentioned above. Her eyes were so like those of Sister Dot and the others I list at the end of this post. What a privilege for all of us to call these women Sisters!
Their eyes give me confidence that LCWR will find a way to dance into ever deeper grace. Their dedication to the Body of Christ gives me confidence that they will continue to invite us to dance along with them, into God's reign. Their wisdom gives me confidence that they'll continue to be aware of the hopes that many of us load onto their shoulders - and they'll continue to know which of my hopes to discard as they proceed with their difficult and beautiful work of transformation.
I do wish I had a way to make those holy cards of hundreds of LCWR portraits. But I'm rich in my clear images of the wise, strong, straightforward, caring, often merry eyes of Sisters Dorothy Feehan, BVM; Magdalen Kovari, SSS; Jo'Ann De Quattro, SNJM; Agnes Maureen Badura, SP; and many from the US Catholic Mission Association like Kathy Schmittgens, SSND, Mary McGone, CSJ, Judy Gomila, MSC, Madge Karecki, SSJ-TOSF, Mayon Sylvain, RSM, and Anne Louise Von Hoene, MMS.