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U.S. church invited Americans to help churches of Eastern Europe

The “Forum for Sisters” developed as an outgrowth of a volunteer project established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist the re-establishment of religious life in Central and Eastern Europe after more than 40 years of communism.

From 1992-1998, more than 200 volunteers, most of them American women religious, traveled to Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine to assist the church there in any way they could. Some sisters taught theology, English, catechetics. Others instructed religious and laity on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council -- which the church under communism had never been permitted to experience -- or helped with the re-establishment of religious training. The volunteer program ended in 1998, but the American sisters involved in the program wanted to reciprocate the hospitality they had received in Central and Eastern Europe and maintain the connections they had made there. In 2000 they began planning an intercultural retreat that turned into “Forum for Sisters,” raising most of the funding necessary for the retreat from women’s religious communities in the United States.

-- Margot Patterson

National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2002