Aloha! Someone emailed to me this open letter in the Times Leader newspaper in NE PA. Seems a little scary to me…what do you think?
Sister explains reason why she won’t teach at Holy Redeemer
As I locked the door of classroom 26 for the last time, I realized again how much being a Bishop Hoban High School teacher for the past nine years has meant to me. I encountered wonderful young women and men there, some of whose parents I had also taught years ago at Gate of Heaven or St. Aloysius.
I expected to end my teaching career where I began, here in the Diocese of Scranton. Not so.
You see, although I made the cut for Holy Redeemer because of seniority and credentials, there was one last requirement I could not bring myself to do: ask my pastor to furnish a letter to prove that I am a practicing Catholic.
First, the lay teachers were told to get such letters as proof of good standing in their respective faith traditions. Then the sisters were told to do so, too. Most of the 10 sisters at Bishop Hoban, of whom three will serve at the new Holy Redeemer, viewed this as personally demeaning and insulting to our religious congregations.
Our pastors had other reactions: They laughed or apologized.
At a meeting, I privately asked the bishop if he thought that any sister teaching in the diocese would miss Mass on Sunday or teach about the Eucharist if we did not love Jesus Christ.
When another sister from Hoban asked the superintendent of schools about the letter, he responded, “Two reasons: fear of lawsuits by the lay teachers if they alone had to furnish a letter” and “Many sisters in the diocese are living in apartments and we don’t know how they are living their lives.” Strangely, even the few sisters fortunate enough to have parish convents in which to live had to provide the letters.
The superintendent’s latter comment reminded me of a law on the books in the state of Georgia up until the mid-20th century: In an earlier century, the anti-Catholic Georgia state legislators passed a law permitting them to enter and search convents any time they wished. Given the climate in this diocese, perhaps that is next.
I followed up my conversation with the bishop by writing a letter to explain, in detail, how I live my life: rise at five, morning office, scripture reading, daily Mass, school, night prayers, CCD classes on the weekend, etc. I thought that giving my word that I strive to be a loyal daughter of the church would be good enough. Not so.
I thought that recognition of the works of mercy done in this diocese by thousands of sisters for 150 years would be good enough. Not so. I thought that a reminder that if any sister were living a life unworthy of her calling, her religious superior would speak to her directly and that would be good enough. Not so. I thought that being a sister for almost 45 years would be proof enough. Not so.
Since Vatican II, according to the directives of our religious congregations, most religious women live structured — but not monastic — lifestyles. We are used to helping shape the rules by which we live, whether as members of our religious congregations or as U.S. citizens. By vow, we obey lawful authority. But we neither accept nor lock-step to abuse of power, which is a breach of the cardinal virtue of justice.
When I told my students my reason for leaving the valley, one suggested that I “just go through the motions” and get the letter in order to stay. I explained that I could not encourage them to be people of integrity, to question or protest injustice, if I were unwilling to do it myself.
Yes, there was one last lesson to teach.
Sister Regina Werntz, Bishop Hoban High School Wilkes-Barre
P.S. – Arrived in Honolulu yesterday, was delivered to my 2:00 meeting not too late by the kindness of Sr. M. (Mahalo!), got lost walking from my hotel to the convention center, got exhausted from the long trip, and today I’m booked solid with meetings, but I’m skipping the 7 am session, even though I woke up at 5:15.