Caring for religious sisters with Alzheimer's disease: one mission of the Superiors General

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Sr. Mary Barron from Ireland has been the new president of the International Union of Superiors General or UISG since the beginning of September. The organization is made up of 1,900 leaders of female congregations from all over the world, representing a total of 600,000 women religious from five continents.

President, UISG

One project—that's in the dreaming stage is one of the challenges facing religious life—is care for elderly sisters and care for sisters with Alzheimers. So that's one of the projects that we're dreaming about at the moment—how we can globally help each other to care for our older sisters, to care for sisters in need of help with caring for sisters with Alzheimers.

But this is not the only project that the UISG is involved in. Other initiatives are well known, such as the Talitha Kum project, a network to combat human trafficking and exploitation created in 2009 and now present in more than 70 countries.

As for more current projects, the UISG created a Commission for the Guardianship and Protection of Minors in 2020. Its purpose is the safeguarding of children and young people. But it also aims to train religious women in this field.

President, UISG

That commission is working to raise the capacity of congregations to prevent and to respond to abuse of children. And side-by-side with that formation of our own membership, the Catholic Care for Children project was set up and it looks at institutional care offered to children around the world, particularly orphanages to see what model of care, a more family-like model of care that can be given to children in these situations.

Sr. Barron participated in a synod for the first time this past October, where the topic of synodality was discussed. Other issues raised included the diaconate in the Church. In fact, it was the UISG that, in 2016, proposed to the Pope to create a commission to study the question of female diaconate.

President, UISG

Let me say first that the diaconate in general came up because we had deacons present and there was a sense of the need to go back to the roots of the diaconate ministry and retrieve the sense of the diaconate has been much broader than its liturgical function, been very related to the service of charity and in the context of that looking again at the diaconate ministry: the question of women's ordination to the diaconate was also considered and again it's a proposal that is in the document that this question continue to be studied and brought to completion in time for next year's Synod.

As a group, the first time the UISG participated in a synodal assembly was in 2014, when Pope Francis invited them to the Synod on the Family. Since then, the presence of the UISG in these meetings has not stopped. This year, five members participated and exercised their right to vote on behalf of all women religious.


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