First Steps Towards Networking Between Benedictine Women
after Vactian II (1968 – 1988)
In Paragraph 23 of the Decree “Perfectae Caritatis”, that Council document concerning the renewal of religious life, conferences and councils of major superiors are expressly encouraged as a means of bringing small communities out of isolation and of sharing potential. Since 1893 the Abbots’ Congress had been such a conference of major superiors including all the monasteries of Benedictine men. From around 1965 on it was becoming clear, that something must be done to create a similar possibility for Benedictine Women.
The Synod of Abbot Presidents under Abbot Primate Rembert Weakland voted that the Abbot Primate should form a Commission for nuns and sisters and that this commission should be divided into two sections, one for nuns and one for sisters, but both under the same secretary. It was also decided that these two consultative bodies should be formed from an equal number of men and women. (Circular letter of the Abbot Primate to Benedictine women dated October 28, 1968.) These two Commissions met separately with the Abbot Primate a number of times during the next few years.
At the Synod of Presidents it was decided to invite the Commission of Nuns and several Prioresses General of the Benedictine Sisters to the Congress of Abbots as observers.
The Confederation organised a Centenary Symposium to celebrate the 1500 anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict. As representatives of the women 55 abbesses/prioresses were invited. This was the first time that Benedictine Abbesses and Prioresses, Moniales and Sorores, from different traditions and different parts of the world met together in Rome – as yet only as guests of the Abbots’ Congress.
The two commissions met for the first time together to discuss possibilities of a joint meeting of nuns and sisters.
The Benedictine Sisters invited 16 nuns to join 40 sisters at an assembly on the theme: “Implications of the Benedictine Rule for the life of Benedictine Women,” in Casa Santo Spirito, the Generalate of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing in Rome. This first Symposium organised by the sisters broke new ground for co-operation between nuns and sisters.
The two Commissions under Abbot Primate Victor Dammertz merged. Membership was to be delegated to women representing 18 regions (later 19 regions) throughout the world, as well a Prioress General of an international congregation with its Motherhouse in Rome and a representative of the organisation AIM. An Executive Committee was to organise a next joint Symposium. The Executive Committee drafted the first statutes of the Commission with the help of Abbot Primate Viktor.