This profile was last updated in 2005
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is “a canonically approved membership organization which exists as a support system and corporate voice for leaders of institutes of women religious (Catholic sisters) in the United States.” The purpose of LCWR is to promote understanding about the religious life of Catholic sisters by: “assisting members to carry out more collaboratively their leadership in their congregations in order to further the mission of Christ in today’s world; fostering dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations within the Church and in the larger society; developing models for initiating and strengthening relationships with groups concerned with the needs of society, thereby maximizing the potential of the conference for effecting change.”
Originally founded in 1956 as the Conference of Major Superiors of Women (CMSW), the organization received canonical status in 1959. In a deliberate effort to uplift the leadership of women religious in the Roman Catholic Church, the organization changed its name to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 1971.
Membership is open only to Roman Catholic sisters in the United States who are the principal administrators of their orders, though associate status is available to some exceptions. Today there are approximately 1,000 members and associate members, representing a diverse range of congregations. Annual dues help to pay for LCWR’s various programs, publications, workshops, retreats, and meetings.
Social justice is an integral part of LCWR’s focus. Members work together to create a corporate voice that amplifies the efforts of local congregations. Rather than solutions that temporarily assuage injustice, LCWR members strive to think strategically about systemic change. Each year during its annual assembly, LCWR considers at least one resolution for action on a variety of issues ranging from ecological to economic concerns. Concrete, programmatic opportunities to live out those actions, such as the annual “Systemic Change Think Tank,” are provided throughout the year.
Research and Resources
LCWR conducts research on relevant issues, such as the “National Study on Women’s Roles in the Church” it presented on International Women’s Day, 2002. LCWR communicates with its membership through publications, including UPDATE, the LCWR newsletter, and Occasional Papers, the LCWR journal, as well as through the LCWR website. Another publication, Leading from Within: Mentoring Leadership Manual is a tool designed to facilitate mentoring among LCWR members, improving individual and communal leadership development.
LCWR is governed by a president, working in collaboration with the president-elect and the past-president in consultation with the secretary and treasurer and with the national board. The organization is divided into 15 geographical regions, each with its own chair who represents the region on the national board. In between the annual assemblies and the twice annual meetings of the national board, the executive director and the staff of the national office manage the organization’s work. LCWR has four standing committees: the executive committee, the finance committee, the nomination election committee, and the global concerns committee.
Center for the Study for Religious Life
LCWR co-sponsors the Center for the Study for Religious Life with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and Catholic Theological Union (CTU). Founded in 1998, the Center “conducts interdisciplinary and intercultural reflection on the life of Catholic religious sisters, brothers and priests in the United States and serves as a resource to religious congregations and their leadership.”