The Vatican has just announced an Apostolic Visitation “in order to look into the quality of the life” of women religious in the United States. The announcement was made public in a news conference at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, on January 30.

At the news conference, Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, FSGM, of the Alton Franciscans (Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George) announced that Cardinal Franc Rodé (the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life), appointed Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as Apostolic Visitator. In this role, Mother Millea will oversee the process of visiting and studying apostolic women religious communities (not cloistered or contemplative communities) and then submit a report to the Cardinal on “women’s apostolic religious life in the United States and on each of the congregations assessed.” Although there is no deadline for completing the Visitation and submitting a report, Mother Millea hopes to complete the task by 2011.

Sister Ackerman, who is Mother Millea’s spokesperson, outlined the process of the Apostolic Visitation: “First, Mother Clare will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal visits with her in Rome or in the United States,” she said. “During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices. Selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage.” (Catholic News Service)

Says Mother Mary Clare Millea of the task ahead:

“I know that the object of this Visitation is to encourage and strengthen apostolic communities of women religious, for the simple reason that these communities are integral to the entire life of the Catholic Church, in the United States and beyond.”

The website of Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States has more information about the Visitation including the following:

  • approach and goals of the Apostolic Visitation
  • reference materials and news
  • frequently asked questions