Connecting the Voices of Younger
Women Religious

by Lori Golaszewski

When Cindy Broderick, OP, gets together with friends from other religious congregations, she's often teased about her "Dominican-ness." Indeed, the call to preach and to study permeates Sister Cindy's life, and nowhere was this charism more apparent than at Giving Voice, the national conference for women religious under 50.

This past July in Cleveland, Sister Cindy came together with nearly 200 sisters to "Proclaim and Rejoice" their shared experiences of religious life, the challenges they face and their hopes for the future. Sister Cindy not only participated in the conference, she helped to plan it.

Adrian Dominicans visited Cleveland in July to attend the Giving Voice Conference. From left: Sisters Mary Soher, Mary Jones, Mary Sue Kennedy, Jackie Stoll, Cathy Olds, Luchy Sori, Mary Ann Caulfield, Raphaela Lee, Sara Fairbanks, Cindy Broderick, Heather Stiverson, and Lorraine Reaume.
Seated is Sister Janice Brown.

"We focused on the visitation passage in Luke's Gospel where Mary and Elizabeth rejoice in each other and proclaim the great things God is doing in their lives," Sister Cindy explained. "As a planning team, we wanted participants to have an opportunity to share with one another the amazing things God is doing in their lives and in religious life."

"We also wanted to begin planting seeds within younger religious about defining for ourselves what it means to be a religious in the world today, in light of the cultures we have been raised in and the ideals which we share," she continued. "We feel the only way to really begin to articulate a contemporary theology of religious life for new/younger members is to gather them together and give them an opportunity to share their stories and become a support for one another."

That support, along with the camaraderie that results from being with younger members who "walk in shoes similar to my own," is what Sister Cindy relishes most about her involvement with Giving Voice. In her religious counterparts she has found great friends who share in her dreams and struggles, and who are a great source of fun and laughter. "They encourage and challenge me in ways that are different from my Adrian sisters," Sister Cindy noted. "I have found this group to be very life giving."

"I have found this group to be very life giving."
- Sister Cindy Broderick

Sister Cindy also has discovered that being with sisters from other congregations and who have different charisms helps to reaffirm her own Dominican vocation. "I begin to see more clearly why I am a Dominican," she said. "Preaching and study are two of the characteristics of the Dominican family that attracted me, and I felt enormous affirmation from the conference participants after my preaching at the closing liturgy."

She added that it was a "huge honor" to be asked to be part of the Giving Voice planning committee, and that the long hours and hard work were well worth the effort. In particular, Sister Cindy was touched by the support and encouragement she received from Congregation members. "People were curious about the event, many of the younger members of the Congregation were in attendance, and leadership was very supportive in many ways," she said. Three Chapter Prioresses — Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Mary Sue Kennedy, OP, and Cathy Olds, OP — even attended the event.

"Attending the conference was a mutual experience of entering each other's lives," Sister Cathy, Chapter Prioress for the Dominican West Mission Chapter, said. "I wanted to support our women who are under 50, to have the opportunity to be with them and get to know them better, and to listen."

"I was delighted and honored to be there," added Sister Mary Ann, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter. "It was great to see the energy of our women as well as the women from other religious congregations. Because women religious today don't enter in large 'crowds' that were the norm 40 years ago, it's important for newer members to bond with one another and stay connected."

As it turns out, Giving Voice is the perfect avenue for Sister Cindy to do just that.