In a world that moves as quickly as ours does, it is comforting to know there will always be a certain stability to the Catholic Church. It is no great secret that the Catholic Church changes slowly, very slowly. She does so because she wants to be confident that, after much prayer and reflection, any developments will bring about a more authentic and Gospel oriented Church, and not one that is merely giving into contemporary ideas and values. The Church recognizes it has a great responsibility for the spiritual lives of its members and for their eternal destinies. Therefore, any modications in Church teaching, practice, or worship must be done carefully and judiciously. is, of course, frustrates those
who think “Why can’t the Church get with the times and change their teaching on x, y,
and z ?!” , but the Church has never felt the need to be “trendy”. In recent times, at least from the perspective of the long history of the Church, one place that has experienced a great deal of change is religious life. For centuries, priests, nuns and brothers maintained a lifestyle that was fairly regimented and uniform. And while these consecrated men and women served the church and the world selflessly, Vatican II encouraged religious congregations to look back to the reason why their communities were founded in the first place, and recapture the initial enthusiasm and spirit their founders had. The world in which many religious congregations began was a much different one than of today. Some communities were founded with a very specific mission, e.g. to teach poor girls how to do domestic work, or to ransom Christians taken by non-Christians, or to minister to a particular immigrant group.
When the need for these apostolates disappeared, the congregations founded for these particular works were then left asking, “what is our role in the world to be ?” So, they examined the situation around them, discovered what the current needs are, and adapted their charism so that they would continue to live out their religious vocation in a modern context. This was not an easy process as it meant modifying traditions and customs that may have existed for centuries; it meant years of careful discernment and
study, and it meant experiments that sometimes worked, and sometimes didn’t. Always attentive to the Church’s directives, Mother Angeline embraced the Vatican Council’s call for revitalizing religious life. She sent Pope Paul VI’s Exhortation on the Renewal of Religious Life (1971) to all of her Sisters, and had the Sisters read and reflect on this important document. She believed wholeheartedly that religious life was not some static, never changing reality, but a way of living that is open to adaptation: “since we were established in 1929 we have not allowed ourselves to stand still”. And while Mother certainly believed the homes her community administered should be up to date with the
latest advances in geriatric care, she told her Sisters, “we must never allow ourselves to forget our original purpose, and our growth spiritually must never suffer as a result of professional training.”
Mother Angeline was not afraid of change. In fact, she was courageous enough to leave her former religious community when she discerned that the Holy Spirit was leading
her in a different direction. But Mother, by temperament, was not in any way reckless
or impulsive. When she did decide to leave her community, she only did so after a long
period of prayer and in consultation with people whose judgement she could trust.
In the same way with the new community she founded, she made sure that she and her
Sisters understood what was being asked of them in terms of religious renewal. Any changes would have to be carefully studied; the consequences would have to be prayerfully considered. She wrote, “We have endeavored to keep our Congregation in step with the times, holding on, however, to the basic principles of religious life, and remaining faithful to Rome.” Ultimately, Mother Angeline reminds us that, regardless of our state in life, our lives must be oriented towards the Divine. How we do this may change over the years, but the goal always remains the same: faithful service to God and to our brothers and sisters.