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New Age Conference Sponsored by Old Age Nuns

David Hartline asks a very good question: Why are so many women’s religious orders sponsoring this “New Age” conference?

Here are a few excerpts from the program:

Erectus Consciousness with Kirkpatrick Sale
Erectus Consciousness is embodied in a love of nature, respect for all species, life in harmony, and spiritual connections to Earth. This session features a discussion of the tribes today that live with this perception, the movements today that operate with some of it, and the experience of it by many ordinary people. Participants will have the opportunity to discover how that 2-million-year-old consciousness—that deep identity with nature—still lives within them.

An Earth Theology – Earth Spirituality in Action with Jim Schenck
While all aspects of our lives need to become Earth Centered, it is clear that our spiritual beliefs have a way of coloring whatever we do. Our awe and wonder of Earth need to enhance our spiritual beliefs and support our actions rooted in Earth Wisdom. In this session Jim will reflect on God, Life and Death in terms of an Earth Spirituality and will look at how our beliefs can transform and guide our actions.

Vision and Action with Starhawk
To remake the world, to challenge the structures of power that create inequality and injustice, we need courage and vision. In this workshop, Starhawk helps us find the inner tools that can free our imaginations to envision a society that serves life and honors diversity. We will find sources of strength and renewal of spirit in Earth and the cycles of nature. Starhawk draws on her experience with earth-based spirituality, feminism, permaculture, and nonviolent direct action to teach tools and skills that can help us be effective agents of change.

And just who is sponsoring this pagan drivel?:

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati
Franciscan Sisters of Mary
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Cincinnati Region
Sisters of Providence, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, IN
Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania
Sisters of the Precious Blood
Ursuline Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph
Racine Dominicans
Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange, IL
Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling, WV
The Well, Sisters of St. Joseph, LaGrange, WI

A few of these sponsors had links to their web sites. A look at these sisters shows them to be middle aged or older. None are wearing habits. Which made me think about that second collection for retired religious that comes around every year. I have always contributed because in my mind I pictured Sr. Mary Joseph, dressed from head to toe in a habit and sitting in a wheel chair. She was the dedicated faithful sister who brought the truths of the Faith to the world around her. I now realize that the retired sisters are just as likely to look like Sister Starship who spent her life learning about reiki and contemplating “earth wisdom”. I will continue to support the retired religious, but I think I will be more selective as to who gets my financial contributions. Instead of just throwing money into the generic retired religious pot, I am going to contribute directly to specific orders that I know have been faithful to the Magisterium.

UPDATE: Here are some links to faithful orders that deserve our support!

Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
the Nashville Dominicans
Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker
Sisters of Life
Apostles of the Interior Life


Anonymous said…
Well, they're not all like that. Check out and for two orders who do God's work
Catholic Mom said…

You are absolutely right--and the orders that are growing are the ones that are faithfully doing God's work. Orders like Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. It is just sad to see how many orders got caught up in the whole new age, feminist, secular world view and abandoned their Catholic heritage.
Hilary said…
Lemme guess: they're all over 65, are selling off properties to pay for the care of their elderly nuns, and haven't had a vocation in 15 years.

This is a problem that is taking care of itself.
Bob the Ape said…
Dear Denise,

May I, in charity, suggest that you reconsider this decision? It is not because I have any sympathy with the actions of these sisters or the road they have taken. They are brides of Christ who have been unfaithful; they are spiritual adulteresses -- but we have a precedent for showing mercy to such. If some of them have gone farther and actively worked against the Faith and become our enemies: we are told to feed our enemies when they are hungry and give them water when they are thirsty; we will heap hot coals upon their heads and the Lord will reward us. Finally, I am not talking about giving them anything when they are still vigorous and capable of harm; but when they are old and failing and, perhaps, beginning to face the emptiness that their apostasy has brought them to -- then, maybe, is when they could be reintroduced to a Church that loves them and cares for them and would gladly, indeed joyfully, welcome them back should they wish to return.

Pax Christi,
Anonymous said…
I read your blog with interest and for the first time. I am puzzled why you think the conference is "pagan". Nonetheless I think the sisters are wise in promoting dialogue about the environment and our relationship to the Earth. We need to look at Earth differently if we are going to free ourselves from the old thought patterns that have landed us in the current environmental mess.
If you read the address by the Vatican representative at the United Nations ( you will see at the end that he encourages dialogue among the nations - not just among the Catholics - as necessary to solve the problem. Even if people are not Christian or Catholic, they have a truth that needs to be heard and that can help us change what we are doing to the Earth.
I would think that the actions of so many sisters who have given their lives to God and to helping others would be enough to persuade you that something important is going on here. I might not trust every individual sister to speak Christian wisdom but when together they promote something, I trust the work of the Holy Spirit in that.
Anonymous said…
How awful!
Catholic Mom said…
Perhaps this quote from the top of featured presenter Starhawk's web site gave me the idea that this was a pagan conference:

"Welcome! I'm Starhawk, author of many works celebrating the Goddess movement and Earth-based, feminist spirituality. I’m a peace, environmental, and global justice activist and trainer, a permaculture designer and teacher, a Pagan and Witch. To see how it all weaves together, follow the many strands of my web."
Rosemary Bogdan said…
My jaw is still dropped. We are to serve life? the Earth? Whatver happened to serving God?
Sister Mary Starship-- that's funny.
It would be quite funny if it weren't so very, very sad. These are sisters, for heaven's sake. How did they get so confused?
Anonymous said…
To stir your thinking... I'm a nun of over 50 years now, and I spent many of those years hidden within that most venerable religious habit, teaching droves of kids in Catholic schools, cloistered away from the "wicked world", blithely ignorant of what was outside those secluded secluded I was ignorant even of the homespun abuses being suffered by those kids in front of me who "just wouldn't work hard enough".
Then one day my bishop invited me to study canon law, and I did, and I was exposed to the real world out there, and found myself TOO secure, TOO sheltered, far TOO comfortable. I heard the call of the Church (the Holy Father and Bishops of Vatican COuntil II) to update my religious order and help Jesus redeem that "wicked world". I am no longer secure nor secluded. I am on the front lines in board rooms challenging powerful CEOs, speaking out for the poor against injustice, taking offices where I can influence corporate policy, teaching adults in evenings (when I could be sheltered and comfy sitting on quiet convent sofas), and in all this, risking being judged by righteous Catholics who, I suspect, don't want to be challenged. And I no longer wear a religious habit!
Tell me, mom, is one era of this life of mine holier than the other?
signed: a zealous, unhabited nun
Catholic Mom said…
Dear zealous nun,

I am not saying there is something magical about the habit. But I will say that when many orders threw off their habits they also threw off their Catholicism. Just from a statistical viewpoint, the orders involved in new age spirituality, dissent from Church teachings, and radical feminism are more likely to be without habits than the rapidly growing orders wearing habits like Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist or Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. And I hardly think the Missionaries of Charity are "protected from the wicked world, seated on a comfy convent sofa". I also think the habited sisters appreciate the virtue of humility and see themselves as instruments of God's power as opposed to being individuals doing great things by their own might.
Anonymous said…
Thank you, catholic mom, for the clarification. Nonetheless my main point was the importance of dialogue. Let us listen to each other - the environmental problems are too big for any one group to handle alone. Invite the pagans to the table. If they work to preserve life they are doing God's work - even if they might disagree with us about who that God is.
Don't be afraid to learn from them!They may teach us something useful to consider in creating a healthy world.
Kitchen Madonna said…
Wow, thanks for this post. I have a friend who is joining a third order of one of these groups and i'll pass this on!
Rosemary Bogdan said…
wow, interesting conversation here. I'd like to add that there are orders who do not wear habits that are indeed faithful to Catholic teaching. We have one here in Ann Arbor, the Servants of God's Love. They wear simple clothing of kakhi, navy, or white, with a large crucifix around their neck. They are a wonderful "modern" order who are completely faithful to the magisterium and very much in the world doing great and varied work.
Catholic Mom said…
You are absolutely right. There is no requirement to wear the habit in order to be true to the Magisterium. What is important is for each of us to live our vocation as faithful servants of God in humble obedience to His Church.

I see no problem discussing being a good steward of the earth with anyone. However, good stewardship of the earth is far different than pagan earth worship and earth spirituality. This conference leans towards the latter and therefore, no Catholic, much less Catholic religious orders, should be involved.
Anonymous said…
Dr. Hunnell,

You've written previously that you were once a "cafeteria Catholic" but that you are now far more orthodox. As one of your fans -- I really do learn a great deal from your blog site, by the way -- I hope that you will write more about your decision to become more orthodox and completely faithful to the Magisterium. I, for one, would be very interested in what prompted the change in you.
Rosemary Bogdan said…
CM, I totally agree. The problem with some religious orders, it seems to me, is that they have taken their focus off of God. Yes, it is important to care for the Earth and it is important to work for justice. But if you are more focused on these issues than you are on Jesus then something is wrong. One has to wonder if they may be working their own agenda rather than the Lord's. Since Jesus is so rarely mentioned in the rhetoric of some of these orders, one questions if He is still the center of their lives.
The most "secure" place to be is in the center of God's will.
Anonymous said…
re Rosemary's comment. I wonder if if is a mistake to focus on what people say rather than on what they do. It is what we do that proves our love for God - not what comes out of our mouths.
Re faithfulness to the magisterium - personally I am faithful to God, my Saviour. The magisterium guides me in that faith but they do not own the truth. Thanks to the gifts of the Holy Spirit all baptized Catholics have the ability and responsibility to grow in the understanding of our faith and share that with the rest of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. We each do it a little differently - but that makes being a member of the Church interesting and life-giving.
Catholic Mom said…
This has really been a fruitful discussion. I started to post another comment and realized it was becoming so lengthy I just made it another blog post.

And to Anonymous who wants to know how I journeyed from "cafeteria Catholic" to more faithful Catholic, I will try to post on that soon. Though don't expect any great revelations of wisdom. I am still on that journey, farther along than I was yesterday, but still traveling.
Anonymous said…
I'm intrigued about the judgment that nuns, or some nuns engaged in works of justice or earth care "don't have their eyes on Jesus". How do you know? Where did Jesus look with His eyes? I think of the Good Samaritan story, the hours and days being there for the poor (not all of whom were Mother Theresas, I'm sure), his standing up to the righteous religious authorities in His own church! At the Supper he concluded with, "Do this in remembrance of me." THIS was his sacrificial life and death. At the end of Mass we hear, "GO, you are sent forth!" Maybe we should be hearing, "Stay here..." instead?

The unhabited nun
phbrown said…
Unhabited nun,

I think you're misunderstanding the criticism. The problem isn't works of justice--note the approving references to Mother Teresa. The problem is focusing on those works apart from the Lord Jesus who alone can give them eternal meaning.

When I was a teacher in the Peace Corps, my teaching was good work. But in not-very-many decades, the folks I worked with will be dead, and nothing I taught will be of any use to them. I did not address their hunger for the eternal Truth that does not pass away. In essence, I gave them fish instead of teaching them to fish.

Now, there's nothing basically deficient about giving a hungry person a fish. But there is something basically incomplete; there's a whole context of fishing, of finding and providing food, that's left out.

That's similar to the problem of works of justice considered apart from the Judge of the world; they're intrinsically incomplete. That's what folks are objecting to above, if I'm reading right. It's got nothing to do with staying instead of going; it's got everything to do with going precisely in the footsteps of the Son of God who was obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Hope that helps.

Catholic Mom said…
You have brought up a very important point. Pope Benedict touched upon this in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est

36. When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”.
Rosemary Bogdan said…
I apologize for "judging" that these orders have taken their eyes off of Jesus. I meant to say that it seems that they have, in other words, from what the public can see (the literature and words that come from the order). As I reread my comment I see that I did indeed write "they have taken their eyes off of Jesus," and of course only Jesus knows where their eyes and hearts are. I'm sorry for that statement. It was wrong. BTW, I do still give to the retired religious :-).

Also, yes, actions are important. But when one action is cosponsoring a conference that includes what appears to be almost earth worshipping ("serving earth, serving life,etc.")I think it's easy to understand how even the most well meaning people might wonder.

This is a very interesting discussion and I am very much enjoying the sisters' expression of their viewpoint..
Anonymous said…
In all of the previous statements I have read thus far I think we are missing an important point about the vocation of Religious and the Consecrated Life in the Church. From the early beginings of the various religious congregations, the Church/ Magisterium has recognized a variety of gifts steming from the charism of the original founders and foundresses. Thus not all religious are called to the same life style so we have cloistered, contemplative, monastic and apostolic orders. It seems to me with all this talk about habits, skeptisim about active ministry and the like some are trying to fit all religious into the lifestyle of "cloistered or contemplative" which usualy means enclosure. History tells us this was not the intent of founders or foundreses of apostolic orders who received a call to active ministry. So for me it seems that all of this talk about habit or no habit with labeling of active religious as "spiritual adultresses" and the like is really missing the heart of the matter. It is my opinion that we would all do well to join together and use our energies to improve the condition of our created world. I believe we have much to learn from each other and much would be accomplished. So in the meantime let us praise our God in God's Holy Place which is here on earth as well as in heaven. Amen, Alleluia! signed: "More alive at 65"
Catholic Mom said…
I do believe my comment about nuns in or out of habits has become the focus of this discussion. The point on which I wanted to focus is that Catholic religious sisters, whether they wear a habit or not, have no business engaging in pagan earth worship and New Age spiritual practices. It is absolutely wrong for them to sponsor a conference that advocates such practices.
Hasah said…
I'm one that came out of the new age movement and had become an anti-Catholic for 3 to 4 years and have been delivered from that now too. The new age ideas were peeking my curiosity as far back as late 1970's. Praying for people to see it for what is is.

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