Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CIB: Benedictine Women Making Connections

1968: Given the Vatican II mandate to reclaim and renew religious life according to the spirit of its founders, Benedictine communities, all over the world, began the arduous yet deeply gratifying work of unearthing and embracing our unique charism - or gift. For most American houses that meant years of study, often painful discussion related to the habit, the renewal of the monastic liturgy and a gradual appropriation of the texts and tradition that are the birthright of Benedict's children. (See: Climb Along the Cutting Edge: an Analysis of Change in Religious Life (Paperback)by J. Chittister, et al.) In the midst of this all-consuming work, an important conversation began about the need to connect Benedictine communities of women on a global level. The Benedictine Confederation of Monastic Congregations (of men) was a well-established entity and monasteries of women were free to affiliate with this structure though not in a way that would offer full participation. (For more on the Confederation see yesterday's blog.) This desire for global conversation and alliance which began in the wake of the aggiornamento, came to flower over twenty years later.
1987: The Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing were the gracious hosts of the very first meeting of international Benedictine women. Held here, at Casa Santo Spirito, these first delegates met to discuss the future of such an organization and lay the groundwork for a more official structure. Subsequent meetings were held every five years in Rome until 1999, when the delegates decided to make the meeting an annual event - much ground to cover, many issues to discuss. This first annual meeting was held in the United States. (Photo above: Rome, 2000 at Sant' Anselmo)

2001: At the 3rd annual meeting, held in Nairobi, Kenya, the delegates approved the name, CIB - Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum - a most exciting moment! This dynamic group has met in Poland, the Philippines and Australia. There are now 19 regions within the CIB. The US and Canada are Region 9 - and, according to the CIB website, we are 3,595 sisters! (I refer you to the website which has been my source of information. A more complete and accurate history may be found there as well as the CIB Handbook, statutes and papers delivered at various meetings. Our prioress, Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB, has attended the CIB several times as both delegate and presenter.
From Rembert Weakland, OSB to Notker Wolf, OSB, the creation and growth of the CIB has found support in the Abbot Primate. It has been officially recognized by the Abbots of the Confederation. Perhaps, one day, our two organizations might have a gathering...for simple conversation and a good meal. Holy conversation can change the world. I think Benedict and Scholastica would approve.