Vatican II pioneer nun dies in US

An American Loretto Sr Mary Luke Tobin who played a leading role in the renewal of religious life and who was one of only three women involved in the drafting of Vatican II council documents has died.

Catholic News Service reports that Sr Tobin, aged 98, died at the Loretto motherhouse in Nerinx on 24 August.

An ardent ecumenist and advocate of church renewal, peace, social justice and women's rights in church and society, Sr Tobin was president of her order from 1958 to 1970 and was head of what is now the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) during Vatican II.

Born in 1908 in Denver, US, Ruth Marie Tobin joined the Loretto community and took the religious name Mary Luke when she professed her vows in 1927.

A ballet student and dance teacher before she entered the convent, she became a teacher and principal of elementary and high schools staffed by her order in Missouri, Colorado and Illinois.

Her leadership role in the Sisters of Loretto began in 1952, when she was elected to the community's general council.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI invited her to attend Vatican II as an auditor after Belgian Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens complained that half of humanity, women, had no representation at the council.

She was part of the commission that drafted Gaudium et Spes, the Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Only two other women were members of commissions that drafted council documents.

Speaking to reporters after sitting in on her first Council meeting on 1 October 1964, she expressed hopes that Vatican II would lead to far greater inclusion of women in church leadership.

"I hope some real progress will be made in acknowledging the great potential that remains to be tapped," she said.

In the years that followed Vatican II she was one of the pioneers in renewal of religious life, which she said was chiefly about renewal of the interior life rather than changes in nuns' habits or constitutions.

She continued wrote and spoke widely on women's rights and peace and social justice issues, risking arrest at nuclear weapons sites, picketing farmers, protesting the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars and advocating corporate justice measures at stockholders' meetings.

A longtime friend of Fr Thomas Merton, the noted Trappist monk of Gethsemane Abbey, which is near the Loretto motherhouse, Sr Tobin founded the Thomas Merton Centre for Creative Exchange in Denver in 1979 and headed it until her retirement in 1999.

Photo: Joan Chittister OSB with Mary Luke Tobin SL

Nun who played role at Second Vatican Council dies (Catholic Online, 29/8/06)
Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, visionary leader, dies (National Catholic Reporter, 25/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Vatican II (Wikipedia)
Documents of Vatican II
Second Vatican Council Resource Guide
Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University and the International Thomas Merton Society

30 Aug 2006