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Inside NCR

Ads tell their own tales of religious life

Readers will already have noticed that this is an unusually hefty issue of NCR. Another glance reveals that a special section on religious life is a contributing factor. Further investigation will show that a superabundance of advertisements is also part of the cause. In fact, it is our unofficial estimate that this is the greatest volume of ads we’ve ever had in one issue in the history of NCR -- so long as we don’t count Summer or Fall Listings, which, experts say, fall into a different category.

So, without further ado, let us salute our advertising team of Jan Branning, Bob Gately, Marcie Ryan and director Chris Curry. We in editorial are well aware not only that ads are our bread and butter, they are also an important reason why people read this newspaper.

In this issue, for example, not only do the articles in our supplement give a good account of religious life in general and in particular, the ads are a story in themselves.

Many church observers seem to harbor the suspicion that religious life is waning if not dying. There are no vocations any more, this body of opinion holds -- except (the same sources say) to conservative groups whose spirits were spent before the Second Vatican Council.

But if religious life is so endangered, why all those ads in NCR? Don’t look now, but religious communities are up to all kinds of activities, missions, causes. Sure, there’s a debate about who will put out the lights eventually. But in the meantime, the ads indicate, religious men and women are far from resigned to going gently into retirement or extinction.

Not only the articles but the ads express the immense vitality that circulates in religious life. A perceptible cloud of resignation bordering on defeatism that hovered on the horizon 10 years ago is cast aside with purpose and hope and imagination. In this regard who would deny the lioness’ share of the credit to Sr. Joan Chittister, in these very pages, when she wrote at white heat about the challenge and exhilaration of rising from the ashes and flying even higher (NCR, Feb. 21, 1992, and elsewhere; Chittister followed up the article with her best-selling book, The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life, Sheed & Ward, 1995).

This issue, by the way, is not the last word on religious life, even in NCR. Editor at large Arthur Jones has been studying the lives and times of women religious for nearly a year. His report is so extensive, there just wasn’t space for it this time. But some week soon.

The church and its various manifestations are equally unpredictable. Yes, there is a tentativeness, as the church pauses -- takes stock at the end of a century, a millennium, a pontificate. There will be new energy anon, even if it’s only in our minds. But look what religious have done for the world when they put their minds to it.

Those concerned about the possible dangers of medical products containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride), may want to join the campaign, outlined in the report on page 5, to rid our hospitals of such products. For more information, contact Health Care Without Harm, P.O. Box 6806, Falls Church VA 22040, phone: (703) 237-2249. On the Web: www.noharm.org

Her ministry is the Spirit in song welling up within her," was the headline of a profile of Notre Dame Sr. Kathleen Deignan in the Special Ministries section of Jan. 22. This article obviously made a favorable impression because people have been trying -- in vain -- to reach Deignan. We neglected to include her particulars: c/o Judy Warren, 6 Brookdale Lane, Brookfield CT 06804; or (914) 235-0816; or www.animaschola.org

National Catholic Reporter, February 19, 1999