Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon (center), newly installed president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, is joined by president-elect Sister Carol Zinn (left), a Sister of St. Joseph, and immediate past president Franciscan Sister Pat Farre ll during the closing Mass at the organization's assembly in St. Louis Aug 10. (CNS photo/Sid Hastings)

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle “listened carefully” to the concerns and feelings of board members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and asked for the board's help in learning more about “members' experience and understandings of religious life,” the LCWR said after an Aug. 11 meeting with the archbishop.

Archbishop Sartain was charged with overseeing the group's reform after an assessment issued in April by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith questioned the organization's fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality.

An Aug. 13 statement from LCWR said the board had been charged by its membership at an Aug. 7-10 meeting in St. Louis with articulating “its belief that religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised.”

The board also told Archbishop Sartain that “the expectation of the LCWR members is that open and honest dialogue may lead not only to increasing understanding between the Church leadership and women religious, but also to creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church.”

In his own statement after meeting with the LCWR board, Archbishop Sartain said he remained “committed to working to address the issues raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.”

“We must also work toward clearing up any misunderstandings, and I remain truly hopeful that we will work together without compromising Church teaching or the important role of the LCWR,” he added. “I look forward to our continued discussions as we collaborate in promoting consecrated life in the United States.”

The LCWR, an umbrella group of 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's religious communities representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious, said the board planned to meet again with Archbishop Sartain “later in the fall.”