"Stop Investigating Our Sisters," read a handmade sign carried by Denis Eble of Toledo.
"I'm here for my sister, Sister Miriam Eble, who died five years ago. She was a Notre Dame sister. I don't think she would have liked the bishop's investigation," Mr. Eble said.
The vigil, which was not affiliated with any group, lasted about 30 minutes and ended with a group prayer on the steps of the cathedral that towers over Toledo's Old West End neighborhood. The 23 participants — including one nun, who did not want to be identified — read petitions to female Catholic saints, including Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene, and Clare of Assisi, responding in unison, "Pray for us."
Participants said the vigil's purpose was to pray for and support nuns who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which a Vatican assessment — led by Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair — faulted for failing to clearly follow and teach church doctrine. The leaders of the nuns' organization, which represents 80 percent of America's 57,000 Catholic sisters, plan to meet next week to decide their response to Rome's findings.
Bev Bingle of Toledo, who is studying to become a Roman Catholic woman priest — joining a group that asserts its Catholicism while defying church law — said she expected about five people to take part and was "flabbergasted" by the turnout.
"We all share a great respect and admiration for our sisters," she said.
The Maryland-based conference said in a statement on its Web site that its national board will meet Tuesday through June 1 "to begin its discussion of the conclusions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's doctrinal assessment and the implementation plan put forth by that Vatican office.
"The board will conduct its meeting in an atmosphere of prayer, contemplation, and dialogue and will develop a plan to involve LCWR membership in similar processes," the statement said. "The conference plans to move slowly, not rushing to judgment. We will engage in dialogue where possible and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We ask your prayer for us and for the Church in this critical time."
Responding to that request, the Toledoans plan another prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the cathedral.
In April, 2009, Bishop Blair was appointed by Rome to lead the evaluation of the LCWR after concerns were raised within the church of the nuns' perceived lack of support for some foundational teachings.
After the Vatican announced in April it intends to help reform the LCWR, Bishop Blair said in a statement that "the fundamental question raised … had to do with their doctrinal soundness and doctrinal completeness of [LCWR] materials." He said a review revealed "doctrinal assertions that are problematic" as well as "silence about certain teachings of faith and morals."
After Bishop Blair completed his evaluation, Rome appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the reform effort with Bishop Blair assisting. The Vatican gave the bishops up to five years to complete the task and said they'll work "collaboratively" with LCWR officers.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.