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113 Spirit and Life, 8 A Personal Experience Response to Margaret Carney Roberta A. Mc Kelvie, OSF I am here today as the latest recipient of the benefits of the trajectory begun with the Franciscan Educational Conference. On the list of the participants from 1960, which Margaret Carney has shared with us, the first four names are those of the Superior General and three Provincials of the Bernardine Sisters. I am very much aware that I continue a process begun long ago. In order to give my response, it will be helpful if you allow me to include a partial telling of my own story, how I happen to be sitting here before you today. I do this not because it happened to me, but because it illustrates the kinds of things we have been discussing in this symposium. I did not intend to become a research scholar when I began my studies at the Franciscan Institute. At the time, my interest was in the area of spirituality and praxis. I never dreamed what the outcome would be. In the years I studied at the Institute, there were always the questions: “Where are the women? Where are the stories about the Franciscan women?” We had a significantly large group of Third Order women there, and we all asked the same questions. It was only in my second or third summer there that Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., taught a course with a focus on Clare. It is important for you to know that I did not start out as a feminist. It happened along the way, because, given the resources I had, it was the right way to go. This brings me to my first point: women in Franciscan studies face a major issue almost immediately. You will recall Gabriele Uhlein’s comment that radical feminism rejects all aspects of patriarchal tradition as irredeemable, but some forms of feminism claim that there are things which can and should be preserved. We Third Order women have all been trained with an absolute awareness that the charism has always included the commitment of obedience to the Church and to the Holy Father. This was always in front of us as we studied the Rule. Today, Franciscan studies and feminism highlight the difficulties of fidelity 114 / Roberta A. McKelvie, OSF to this tradition in light of patriarchal practices, especially in light of fidelity to one’s personal vocation or congregational charism. My own difficulties with the pervasiveness of patriarchy began when, as an assignment in Maurice Sheehan’s (OFM,Cap.) class, I read Omer Englebert’s biography of Francis. In his chapter on Clare he says: “A woman is generally worth what the ideas of the man she admires are worth, and her capacity for sacrifice allows her to attain the heights of heroism when the man shows her the way. Thus it was for St. Clare. . . .” The first time I read this I was besieged with disbelief. This was not the Clare I wanted to be connected to!1 During my first summer at the Institute, I had taken the course on the Sources and on the History of the Order. I was the only woman in the group; the other thirty-two students were friars, novices, scholastics, and so on. It was an interesting experience for me. In a six-week program, we spent five weeks on the First Order, maybe two days on the Second Order, and one day on the Third Order. That was the picture of the Franciscan world as a whole that most friars knew. Eventually I went to Fordham and encountered Elizabeth Johnson and Maryanne Kowaleski, forceful feminists both. At one point I submitted a paper to Maryanne, a revision and expansion of work I had done for Regis Armstrong at the Institute. It came back awash in red ink, more red ink than I had seen in twenty years of education! I asked myself, what am I missing here? In reading the comments, I became aware of problems with language (e.g., “fraternity” with its male connotations), with questions of male dominance and oppressive praxis, and I began to re-evaluate the way I had learned the stories of Franciscan life. As far as theology was concerned, my response for the first six months I was at Fordham was: “What does this have to do with my life?” I had had the same difficulty when I began at the Institute, because so much of the material...


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