Thursday, August 31, 2006

"May the Angels Greet You With 'You're Beautiful!'"

As a coda to this, the summer of ecclesiastical women, Sister of Loretto Mary Luke Tobin, the only American woman -- and one of 15 overall -- to sit at Vatican II, has gone on to her eternal reward:
One of only 15 women auditors invited to Vatican Council II, Tobin watched church fathers open the windows to vent fresh air through the ancient institution. Although cautioned to listen, but not speak while in Rome, she later became one of only three women - representing half the Catholic world's faithful - allowed on the planning commissions for documents on the church in the modern world and on the laity....

The trust Tobin put in lay leaders, such as Fitzpatrick, she also placed in religious women. Upon her return from Rome, "it was almost impossible for her not to let her thoughts flow directly from deep meditation on the Gospels to their message of hope and action for us women religious," said Coyle.

At the time nuns were so used to being obedient to the voice of God as expressed via church officials and superiors that "we'd lost track of the gifts and talents God had given us individually to make the world a more just one for all," Coyle said.

Tobin began the renewal of Loretto both in the classroom and at chapter sessions. The community's current president, Sr. Mary Catherine Rabbitt, was a novice when Tobin was attending the council. Rabbitt remembered Tobin's homecomings as full of hope for a renewed church.

"She took risks, accepted challenges, encouraged others to develop their own talents and always, always, kept current with the latest thinking in theology, ecclesiology, and all that was happening in her many peace and justice circles," Rabbitt said.

Sr. Maureen McCormack, a former Loretto president, had Tobin as a high school teacher and an instructor in the novitiate. McCormack remembered a marginal note Tobin had jotted on a paper the student was assigned on St. Paul's epistles. "How about making up for what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ?" Tobin asked the novice.

After the May death of Sr Rose Thering, whose thought was instrumental in the conciliar decree on interreligious relations Nostra aetate, arguably the two US churchwomen most heavily involved in the Council are now gone from our midst.

The title of this post is taken from a friend's e.mail which contained Tobin's obit. It's a reference to the moment when a certain American religious woman of a progressive bent (guess who) concluded a TV interview by telling the anchorwoman, "You're beautiful."

Just so you know, I've been looking for the soundbyte to dub it into the James Blunt song.... It'd be wonderfully wild.