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Australian Religious Institutes leaders elect new president

Sr Bernadette Keating PBVM has been elected President of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI), the peak body representing Catholic and Anglican religious congregations in Australia.

Sr Bernadette was elected to the ACLRI presidency by the leaders of the 110 congregations who participated at the ACLRI's National Assembly in Hobart last week. Her two year term, which runs until mid-2004, follows that of Br Michael Godfrey CFC, who did not stand for re-election as he has been elected to the General Council of the Christian Brothers in Rome.

Sr Bernadette, the congregational leader of the Presentation Sisters, Victoria, has had a long and varied career in secondary and adult education. She currently lectures at the Catholic Theological College in Melbourne.

An ACLRI statement released yesterday comments that Sr Bernadette accepts the role of ACLRI President at a time of significant challenge for religious congregations. This includes what it describes as 'post-modern conditions', while it seeks to respond to social injustice with fewer and older members, and continues to hand over institutions to lay management and deal with the effects of physical and sexual abuse.

Sr Bernadette characterised current uncertainties as a time of 'passing of the baton' from religious to lay people.

"I like that image because it is active, not passive," she said. "The amazing thing for me is that this diminishment of our numbers does not cause deep disappointment and regret in religious men and women - we are not sitting around crying about this change we did not choose."

"We know that the race must go on, and that it is the race - of the reign of God, the ministry, the being Church - that must go on in different ways," she continued. "We take heart from the stories of our congregational founders who invariably encountered setbacks, and overcame adversity and institutional resistance - in some cases excommunication - to give witness to the prophetic voice."

Presentation Sisters of Australia and Papua New Guinea


27 Jun 2002