Sunday, August 26, 2018

McCarrick and the Institute of the Incarnate Word

UPDATE 9/3/18: While the IVE try to distance themselves from McCarrick let us remind you how close they really were.  The IVE Superior General Carlos Walker followed McCarrick around Rome during his visits.  Does this look like a group that reluctantly accepted the patronage of a (homosexual predator) Cardinal? 

UPDATE: McCarrick moved from the Neocat seminary to the IVE Seminary in 2011.  It may have coincided with Pope Benedict's sanctions on McCarrick for homosexual predation.  The sanctions would have made living at an actual seminary impossible, but living at a suburban "house" would be ok.  Nobody needed to let the Pope know the house was next to a seminary and full of seminarians. 

It's been reported elsewhere that McCarrick lived with the IVE, but those news articles were a little light on details for our taste.  We’ll try to fill in some of the backstory below.  If you have more info email us and we’ll add it.
Buela and McCarrick about to embrace
Cardinal McCarrick was a homosexual predator that abused young catholic boys and seminarians.  Carlos Buela - founder of the Institute of the Incarnate Word - was a homosexual predator that abused his own seminarians. It’s no surprise the two were friends.

McCarrick being a homosexual predator
We’re told McCarrick developed his taste in Latin men while president of the Catholic university of Puerto Rico.  As Archbishop of DC he often visited the Argentine-founded and heavily hispanic IVE seminary, joining them for dinner, parties, and events.  When he retired he initially lived with the Spanish group the Neocatechumenical Way.  After a couple of years the Neocats asked him to leave (gee, I wonder why) and he moved in with the IVE.

McCarrick ordaining one of his favorite IVE seminarians
The IVE American major seminary is in Chillum Maryland, a suburb of DC and right down the road from the Neocat seminary.  The seminary is really just a parish with some extra buildings on the property.  Somehow (probably with McCarrick’s help) the IVE were put in charge of it.  While large, not all the IVE seminarians fit on that property so the IVE (or perhaps McCarrick) bought houses adjacent to the parish.  McCarrick lived in one of these houses - usually with two IVE seminarians as roommates.

McCarrick ordaining a very loyal American to the IVE
One of the seminarians was always an American “company man” quite loyal to the IVE.  The other was hispanic, usually an illegal alien.  Nothing strange about that arrangement, is there?  Oh, did we mention that at least half of the IVE seminarians were illegal aliens who never underwent background checks yet were allowed on parish property and around children - against the diocesan child protection policy - even after Wuerl was notified?
An Excerpt from an IVE newsletter
McCarrick did 99% of the IVE ordinations in both the USA.  He also did most of the ordinations in Argentina because none of the Argentine bishops would ordain IVE seminarians  That’s right.  McCarrick regularly flew down to Argentina to visit the seminary there.  We bet he made those trips out of the goodness of his heart.  Why else would a homosexual predator make trips to far-away seminaries in South America that depended entirely on him for ordinations? 

From the IVE website.  What's the story here? 
Everyone at the IVE looked up to McCarrick.  Yes, we found it strange that such a liberal “cleric” dogged by rumors of homosexual predation would find himself at such an ostensibly conservative order - yet nobody else at the order found it strange - which made the situation... stranger?

They all thought McCarrick was great - an almost mythic figure.  They especially loved it when he took them out to baseball games and Atlantic City casinos.  Yes, McCarrick took the seminarians (usually the handsomer ones) to casinos in Atlantic City and many were happy to tell you about it.

Most appreciated was McCarrick’s visit to the IVE minor seminary in Mankato MN where boys as young as 13 are begin their training to join the IVE.  This was a man with a real dedication to youth.

Uncle Teddy visiting the IVE Minor Seminary in Minnesota - how old are those kids?
What affection he showed for those young, young men at the IVE.
They were quite proud that their benefactor paid them a visit. 

McCarrick also visited the IVE's "Youth Fest" at the Maryland seminary
And let’s give credit where it’s due: he also had a large role with the female branch of the IVE, the SSVM, also known as the Servidoras.  They always enjoyed his visits.  It's like he was just one of the girls!

McCarrick with the "head" of the SSVM Servidoras
McCarrick also did all the vows and investitures for the SSVM
If you were at the IVE when McCarrick was there and want to share your story, please email us!  All emails are confidential.  We’ve been around for 6 years and haven’t disclosed an anonymous source yet.

*** Or comment!  We'll give that a try on this post and see how it goes ***

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Institute of the Incarnate Word Founder Carlos Buela Guilty of Sexual Misconduct with Seminarians

The title says it all.  To make it worse, the most recent spate of public activity was sparked by accusations of sexual abuse at the IVE’s minor seminary in Argentina.  This led to public statements by many of the actors involved, including the Bishop of San Rafael where the IVE were founded.  These have been picked up and broadcast in multiple languages across a plethora of media outlets.   The most detailed press report in English can be read at Crux Now here.  A very thorough summary of the latest round of news shared with us by someone very close to the IVE can be read at the latter half of this post following our comments below.

As it stands now, the indisputable facts related to Buela are: 
  • Buela committed homosexual acts with IVE seminarians [1]
  • These acts came to light over time as various IVE priests left and requested dispensation [2]
  • The repeated pattern of abuse sparked a Vatican investigation [3]
  • Buela was found guilty, forced to resign, and sentenced to penance at a monastery [4]
  • Buela was also ordered by the Vatican to cut off all interaction with the IVE [5]
And to the best of our knowledge the timeline has been:
  • 2010, January 22: Buela found guilty, ordered to live at monastery & restrict contact with the IVE [6]
  • 2010, May 8th: Buela resigned his position as General Superior of the IVE claiming poor health [7]
  • 2010-2013: Buela continues to visit, sleep at seminaries worldwide and live at IVE houses [8]
  • 2013, July-Oct: Buela succumbs to Vatican pressure and stays at Cistercian monastery of San Isidro de Dueñas in Palencia, Spain [9]
  • 2013, Oct: Buela moves back to IVE parish in Genova [10]
  • 2016, Summer: Vatican intervenes in IVE general chapter, appointing new leadership [11]
  • 2016, December 16: Vatican (CICVSA) appoints advisor to IVE leadership [12]
  • 2016, Dec: IVE finally tells members that Buela is to have no contact [13]
If you’d like to follow up on the references we have shared a few here.  This list is by no means comprehensive:

[8] This was common knowledge and experience for anyone in the IVE during these years.
[13] Will share this memo if/when it is made available

From this we’d like to call your attention to three points: 

1) IVE/SSVM members were lied to: Almost 7 years later neither the IVE nor Buela have ever disclosed or shared any of these facts with their IVE priests, seminarians, or SSVM sisters.  The leadership told the public that Buela’s resignation was due to "poor health" while they told members it was due to “Church politics.”  (From [13] above it appears the IVE may have finally been forced to inform it’s priests that Buela was ordered to cut off contact - seven years later.)

2) IVE Seminarians were not protected: After his resignation for sexually abusing seminarians, Buela continued to visit and stay at IVE seminaries worldwide for at least three years and then continue to live at an IVE parish despite being found guilty of sexual misconduct with seminarians.

3) No apology or repentance: Neither the IVE nor Buela have publicly acknowledged Buela’s sexual abuse.  In fact both the IVE (see here) and SSVM (image below) continue to promote Buela on their websites and maintain a website for Buela to post blogs and videos of himself (here.)

Fr Buela is still promoted on the SSVM Website:

We maintain this blog primarily as a warning to discerners who are thinking about joining the IVE or SSVM.  To those readers we would like to reinforce that if you join the IVE or SSVM you are joining groups whose leadership has demonstrated it will: 

A) Lie to you and actively conceal information very relevant to your discernment
B) Put you at risk of abuse or - in the case of Buela - actual abuse
C) Disobey the Vatican while demanding absolute obedience from you and your peers

As you can imagine, we have much more commentary to come in future posts.  For now we are content to share a summary of recent events from someone who has been close to the IVE for many, many years:

My intention is to share with the English-speaking world the latest events in this Father Buela’s saga, which started last November 30th. There is nothing in English yet, it is still very local, but people are talking in facebook groups by the many hundreds, if not thousands. That’s the reason for this simple and succinct account. I decided to add the links because I am confident that many would like to use Google translation. So it goes!

In the last week of November 2016, a known institute for the education of the deaf, Instituto Provolo (in the city of Mendoza, Argentina), came out in the media news as a place where child abuse happened. From five culprits, two of them were priests. Furthermore, one of the priests, 82 years old, had a history of child abuse in his native Verona, Italy. As details came out, everyone was outraged.

On Nov 30, 2016, MDZ Online, an online newspaper from Mendoza Province, Argentina, breaks the news of a minor seminarian abused at the tender age of 12 years old, by one of the superiors at the IVE Minor Seminary in the city of San Rafael, in Mendoza Province (the city of San Rafael is about 150 miles south of the city of Mendoza). The abuser was at that time a deacon and now is a priest. Though not public, the alleged abuser’s name is now known. People who were contemporaries at the time identified him in facebook groups as “Paicho”. At the time of this news, he last residence was the IVE monastery in Los Coroneles, in the outskirts of San Rafael, Mendoza.

Years later, in 2005, when this victim was in his second year of Philosophy at the IVE Major Seminary, he opened up to his then superior Father Gabriel Zapata, IVE. 

The victim followed through his seminary formation and then became a priest, but to his sadness, he realized that after years of denouncing the abuse, nothing has really been done. Furthermore, after becoming a priest, he came to know some other victims sexually molested by Father Carlos Miguel Buela. They were many. It is then that the victim (only public known name is Luis, though many know already this victim’s identity) decides to go to bishop Eduardo Taussig of San Rafael in Mendoza Province, Argentina, since the IVE did very little about it (only moved the molester from Peru to an IVE monastery in San Rafael, Mendoza). Bishop Taussig took all the evidence to the Vatican, as well as other cases that were coming to the chancery (as many as 20 young priests have accused Father Buela of sexual harassment, if not more!) and that was the beginning of a process that led Father Buela to be found guilty of committing such abuse and therefore being removed as Superior General of the IVE and additionally also barred from ministry by two popes, Benedict and Francis.

Father Buela keeps his agenda of guiding and visiting communities of the IVE, (he even runs a website with spiritual advice, He was ordered to be in a monastery in Spain, but it is not truly known how long he stayed there. Then, by claiming bad health, Pope Francis allowed him to live in Genova, Italy, in one of the churches run by one of the IVE priests. The pastor is Father Omar Mazzega, IVE. Father Buela also had in Genova a young priest secretary, Father Codutti, IVE. 

This boldness of Father Buela with his lack of repentance plus the turmoil for the Instituto Provolo’s scandal gave the energy and timing for the MZA Online’s Nov 30 article, I guess. Luis came out with details of the abuse he suffered and the cover-up by IVE’s authorities. With such news, it was also mentioned that Father Buela has a history of accusations of sexual abuse. News of other cases of abuse followed in the media.

Many other media took it from here and erroneously reported that Father Buela sexually abused of Luis. In fact, as far as we know, that is NOT the case. They did not read well the first article in MZA Online “Una historia de abusos en el Verbo Encarnado”.

After all this noise, Father Pablo Federico Rossi, as official spokesperson for the IVE, refused to be on local TV but issued an official media report (XII-2-2016) in which it is affirmed that Father Buela did not abuse of any minor. Implied in the report is that there is no acknowledgment of Father Buela’s sexually abusive behavior because so far all known victims of Father Buela’s harassment were molested when they were in their 20’s. They were no minors, but were definitely vulnerable adults, since Father Buela was their Superior General and Founder.

The official media report by the IVE Leadership signed by Father Rossi was so weak in its content that the following day Luis writes a public letter to MDZ Online proving the fallacies and falsities of the IVE official report.

Furthermore, the chancery of the diocese of San Rafael, when visited by reporters the following day, confirms that Father Buela has been found guilty of the crime of sexual abuse on many occasions with many victims.

So far, the IVE Leadership is telling all his members, priests, nuns, seminarians, families, to keep painting the mast of the ship for the thousandth time, con gran alegria, while the ship is sinking...


On December 12, 2016, Bishop Taussig of San Rafael, Mendoza read an official press release and welcomed questions from journalists for almost an hour. I have found all these links by mere using the words “taussig san rafael verbo encarnado” in Google News Search. This link contains the official press release from Bishop Taussig. Video of the press conference XII-12-2016 in San Rafael, Argentina by Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig.

For those having some difficulty reading Spanish, this is an English version of the previous ACI Prensa article.

On December 16, 2016, the leadership of the Institute of the Incarnate Word was called to a meeting with the CICVSA at the Vatican. What is known from that meeting is that the leadership of the Institute received the appointment of a Pontifical Assistant ad nutum Sanctae Sedis in the person of Monsignore Vito Angelo Todisco. He is not a pontifical commissioner, only an advisor to the leadership of the Institute. Father Ricardo Clarey IVE, moderator curiae, informed all the members of the Institute of the assignment and role of Mons. Todisco, as well as a clarification of a Vatican decree from CICVSA regarding Father Buela’s prohibition of any kind of involvement in the life of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. So far, the news of Father Buela’s separation from the IVE was not fully disclosed to all the members. The last official word from the IVE’s authorities was the official press release from Father Pablo Federico Rossi on December 2, 2016, where it is affirmed that Father Buela is innocent of abusing minors, but making an obvious omission of Father Buela having found guilty of sexual harassment of seminarians and young priests at their major seminary in San Rafael, Argentina. This link is the same one I included earlier in this narrative.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Confirmed: IVE & SSVM Founder Buela was Sexual Abuser and Leadership Lied About It

The reputable Spanish-language Catholic Press site InfoCatolica confirms that Institute of the Incarnate Word and SSVM founder Carlos Buela was sentenced by the Vatican (first by Pope Benedict, then again by Pope Francis) due to sexual abuse of seminarians, supporting the points we made eight months ago in our post here.

The article which can be read here (use the Chrome browser to translate automatically) confirms that:

- Buela resigned because of sexual abuse 
- He was sentenced by two popes, first Benedict, then Francis
- The Vatican intervened in the recent general chapter as a result of complaints from members

The article also says that the Vatican prohibited the Superior General or any provincial leaders from being re-elected to their posts.  This is probably because the superiors in question (and likely others as well) knew of Buela’s sexual abuses, yet covered up and lied about them.  In fact, they even continued to allow Buela access to IVE seminaries and seminarians until as late as the summer of 2013, a year after Benedict’s sentence and three years after Buela’s resignation.  This proven participation in the denial and coverup makes the IVE leadership complicit in Buela's abuse. 

We mention all this because it illustrates the culture of dysfunction and abuse Buela established at the IVE & SSVM that we have highlighted and will continue to expose on this site.  Unfortunately, the lies and abuse extend well beyond this set of leaders.  Anyone still in or considering these groups is at risk.  

Therefore to protect the faithful of Christ’s church we call on the IVE to:

- Publicly acknowledge the abuses of your founder
- Apologize for the years of lies from your leadership 
- Stop recruitment into the IVE and SSVM until the abuse is rooted out

These steps will not undo damage already done, but will prevent others from falling victim.  They would be uncharacteristic steps for Buela or Walker, but we hope the new IVE/SSVM leadership is willing to abandon it’s previous ways and embrace Truth in order to protect the young faithful seeking to serve Christ's Church.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Vatican Intervenes in Institute of the Incarnate Word

We have confirmed that the Vatican plans to intervene in the IVE General Chapter (like a board or leadership meeting) this summer.  This means that the Vatican will be taking control and have final word on all proceedings and decisions.  Recent examples of this process include Vatican interventions in the Legion of Christ and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  

The intervention is an extreme step likely brought on by increasing turmoil inside the IVE -exemplified by the acceleration of of IVE priests leaving the group.  The turmoil and the exodus are the results of issues including but not limited to those shared on this site over the last three years.

This turmoil has led to the publication of many stories and documents that were previously kept secret by IVE leadership.  We share these below.  We will attempt to translate all Spanish documents and reports as time permits.  Until then, please use the Google Chrome browser (which translates automatically) or Google Translate. 

--> See here and here for more details on the Vatican intervention into the IVE.

--> Read here for detailed information and documents describing how IVE Founder Carlos Buela was forced to resign and sentenced to a monastery for "morally inappropriate behavior ... with several youths of the Institute." 

--> Read here for an internal account of Buela's abuse, resignation, and attempts to evade punishment over the last decade - which also sheds light what may have caused internal dissatisfaction to boil over.

--> Read here for a list of IVE Priests that have left.

In addition to the above links, over the last three years this site has been exposing the issues with the IVE & SSVM.  A summary of that information is linked below.   If you are wondering what this site is about go here


We encourage you to contact us via email if you have any questions on the IVE or discernment in general.  Even if posting is light, we are checking the email.  We don't give spiritual advice, but we can connect you to groups and orders that can help.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Letter from Ex-SSVM Superior

NOTE: The Vatican will be intervening in the IVE General Chapter, meaning the Vatican will be taking over and reforming the IVE like it did the Legion of Christ and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  This is likely due to the issues and high attrition rate we highlighted here.  See here and here for more info (use Google to translate.)  We will have a post on this soon. 

The letter below came to us from a woman who was a member of the SSVM (Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara - the IVE's female branch) for 8 years.  She left before taking final vows.  She was a superior over professed sisters (those under permanent vows) for four years and vocations director for the SSVM in the US/Canada for two - all while under temporary vows. 

If you are discerning with the SSVM, please consider the concerns expressed in her letter.  If you would like to contact her please email us here at the blog and we will forward your contact info to her.  If you are an ex-SSVM looking to reconnect with other former ssvm from this province, she has a private Facebook group here.


Dear Readers,

While my preface here is a post in itself, it is actually the letter below that I intended to share with readers.  I write this  preface to provide some background to the letter, which was directed specifically to the superiors and sisters who I knew personally and who knew the details of my time in religious life with the SSVM.

I was a sister of the SSVM known as Maria Lumen Christi for almost 8 years (2004-2011) in the Province of the Immaculate Conception (ie. North America.)  I went through the novitiate and juniorate in Maryland and Washington DC respectively.  Post-juniorate I was assigned as the Local Superior at St. Paul’s Church in East Harlem, NYC. 

At that point,  I was just turning 26 and had been under temporary vows for nearly two years. I was asked to be the superior of a convent of sisters who were all older than me both in age and religious life. Three of them had been Perpetually Professed sisters for many years. In addition to being superior of that house, during the next four years  I was also  Vocations Directress, Provincial Liturgist, and for one full year held the position of parish Director of Religious Education when a fellow sister returned home to take care of her mother. I was hosting many young girls in our convent, talking discernment, interviewing them and encouraging them to live our lifestyle. I am sure some readers are family or friends of girls who entered the Institute under my supervision.. 

In short, I was a young woman, with zero experience in the missions, with an unfair and insane amount of work and responsibilities (including other sisters and their religious life,) placed in a position to lead others while I was technically still (or should have been) in formation. I attended daily Mass and adoration, but was always in charge of the music and liturgy, so even my prayer time was never fully without “work.” Granted, while inside, I did all of this with an innocent intention, trusting that “God would give me the grace” and doing my best to spin all the plates with a smile on my face. However, the end result was my ultimate breakdown, mentally and emotionally. 

"In true servidora fashion, I had “lost myself” and yet there was no “joy” in that. Like many fellow SSVM, who in the name of generosity, try to die to self, I was depressed, exhausted and unhappy, yet tried for a long time to remain cheerful on the outside. Eventually I could put up the act no longer. As everyone who lived with me in the Avondale Community during the summer of 2011 knows, I stopped eating and going to meals, cried daily, could not smile. Thankfully, through graces of bravery and fortitude, I asked to leave only months before my final vows were scheduled and after years as a superior, encouraging other young girls into the fold I so desperately needed to walk away from.

Since then, I have peacefully transitioned back to being myself, in this beautiful world. I have held various jobs, made friends, and most importantly, found things I love to do in life. I had kept in decent touch with various SSVM/ & IVE friends over the years and yet the urge to write the following letter continued to speak to me. So I wrote it and sent it to all the superiors I knew (including General, Vicar, Provincial and formators) as well as to as many sisters who I knew and could contact. I also sent it to a small handful of IVE who I also knew personally. 

Since sending in October, I have not received a single response from any of the higher superiors or priests, nor from the vast majority of sisters in general. Now, remember that I lived, worked, played and prayed with all of these religious for almost 8 years. I was beloved and respected within the Institute. And yet, having written a sincere, grounded, poignant letter about my concerns from outside the Institute, I was met with absolute silence by most. About 6 or 7 responded, the majority of those warmly and graciously receiving my concerns.  Two local superiors (and former friends, sadly) responded harshly, defending their way of life.

With the recent post on the blog about the diminishing number of priests and parishes, among other recent IVE news, I feel it’s time to just post my letter here as well. It’s out in the open anyway, as I have sent it to many friends and family, so they are informed about my experiences. So here it is, in it’s entirety. My intention is to shed light into the darkness, but with a sincere and understanding heart, having been very much on the other side for many years. I am happy to dialogue about this with any concerned person, friend, family member or current member of the Institute. 


Dearest Sisters, October 12, 2015

I hope this letter finds each of you well, healthy and happy in your mission, wherever you are. Please know that I have sent this to you personally, as you are someone with whom I shared my almost 8 years of religious life and thus you are very important to me.

First and foremost, I wish to make clear that I am grateful for my time in religious life and would not change my decision to enter for anything. I grew in many wonderful ways during my time in the convent and formed many amazing relationships during my years there. To this day, I know that certain habits of humility, community living, organization, and openness to new cultures stem from my time in the Religious Family. Not to mention some amazing trips to Argentina, the Grand Canyon and fun summers in upstate NY and NH. Lastly, a special piece of my heart will forever live in the streets of East Harlem. The barrio beats with a beautiful, raw intensity and that place & those people held me as I grew, suffered, loved and lost during my last four intense years. For all of these pieces of my story & person, I am grateful to our Religious Family. 

Secondly, I want to reassure you that I write this from a full, bright, happy life I now lead as a lay woman. I have a wonderfully full and creative life at home, a balanced blend of social life, solitude, hobbies and fulfilling work. Sending this letter is two-fold for me: to voice my thoughts to you, an obligation I feel towards those I consider my ‘religious family,’ and secondly, to simply get this off my chest and share the thoughts that have been on my conscience for so long.

I write because not all of my 8 years was lovely, good and beautiful. Many customs and decisions during my religious life were, I believe, misguided, harmful and unhealthy. This is not any one person’s fault and I am not here to blame any superior, council or person. On the contrary, having been a superior myself for 4 years and vocation director for 2, I know very well that we all (superiors and sisters) were simply doing what we were taught and believed to be good and in line with what God wanted. The problem is that even sometimes the most well-intended choices and practices can be harmful to a human person. It is for this reason that I write. And, just to clarify, this letter is truly a last resort of sorts. Over my years home, I have spoken face to face with superiors, one or two concerns at a time, in a familial way, but I don’t feel that those talks were effective and I did not feel much engagement from the side of the Institute. So, I write this now, with all my concerns explained briefly, because this is how my discernment has led me.

Having the clarity of hindsight, I have come to realize that the Institute as a whole perpetuates various practices (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) that are either unhealthy or untrue. These practices have affected me in many negative ways, from which I have needed time, space and support to heal from over the years. This is noteworthy considering that I came from (and returned to) a very loving supportive family system, had a healthy self-esteem, stable mind and heart  - and even I was broken and taken advantage of inside the system of the Religious Family. Many who enter are not as fortunate as I am, when it comes to family, support and healthy identity (having been vocations directress – heard many a girl’s personal story - and having lived with plenty of fellow religious, I can say this with confidence.) This is why I am concerned to the point of needing to write this. I believe that the lifestyle the Institute carries on, while some of it is truly good and of service to humanity, includes some majorly harmful and manipulative ways of thinking and behaving, which may have negative consequences on its members. 

The intention of this letter is to concisely point those out, simply out of concern for you all who are still inside. I do not intend to persuade anyone to leave religious life, but simply to be aware of these things & their consequences, to use your heart and mind to be aware of your lifestyle. Honestly, to give you permission to use your mind and heart as God intended, in union with Him, to discern your life. I write to speak my truth to you all because it has continually been on my heart to do so and to not follow through would feel as some sort of betrayal of Inspiration. It is an urging that has not left me and that is based in genuine concern for each of you, as fellow human persons and specifically as my brothers and sisters in religious life, which as we all know, is a unique bond. It is not an urge to “tell my story,” but rather to share my concern, from my personal experience of being in the Institute. I write also for superiors, who have the power to shift things towards a healthier way of life for all. I hope you take to heart some of these concerns, knowing me to be a grounded person, that this letter only comes from a place of love and honesty, with the hope of goodness and greater truth to be found. I was hurt and broken by many things in religious life; or rather, I allowed myself to be, believing this was the path to holiness, to God’s will for my life. However, I ended up miserable, broken, burnt out and sad. These are things that concern me:  

→Free Time/True Rest – Looking back, I find the schedule of the convent to be unhealthy and over burdened, not allowing for sufficient rest and recovery from such a demanding lifestyle and not taking into account the various ways different personality types prefer to rest and recover. “Free time” never felt truly free because I always had something to catch up on – liturgy, catechism, cooking, etc. “Days off” were really only a few hours on Sunday afternoon or two Mondays a month in Apostolic life, neither of which justly balance the hectic and stressful weekly schedule. As religious, we worked, studied, prayed and played hard, not to mention we are merely human beings – so we deserve plenty, sufficient time to rest and recover from the demanding lifestyle, and in the ways we prefer. Looking back, I wish we had more time to sleep or sleep in (without feeling guilty or selfish,) a better balanced schedule of responsibilities, so we were not so overburdened with work-stuff that we had to complete things in the “free time,” real days off when we could freely do whatever we enjoyed. That leads into the next topic. 

→What Do You Love to Do?  - Upon returning to the world and actually having free time, I realized that I had no idea what I enjoyed doing with my newly found free time. After 8 years of intensely scheduled life, having been too tired to foster anything extra-curricular during “days off,” I came home at age 30, without any idea as to what I enjoyed in life. I only knew liturgy, CCD, to-do-lists, meetings and emails. I find this concerning that after 8 years in the Institute, a grown woman does not know what she enjoys in life, has not had time or energy to foster things that delight her. I was all too thrilled to experiment with painting, dancing, pilates, reading (non-saint books!) among other things, all of which expanded my soul, delighted me and helped me feel relaxed and refreshed to begin a new work week. This only happened because I finally had sufficient time, not only to sleep and rest my body, but even more time that was truly free and unhurried, so I could enjoy new things. I believe having plentiful time to foster hobbies is will produce happier, more well-rounded, healthy religious, ready to take on the next week refreshed!

→The Paradox of a Name – Being the Institute of the Incarnate Word, I find it ironic that we do such a poor job at taking care of our very own Incarnation, namely our own bodies, which are just as magnificent and worthy of care and honor as every other human who we serve and tend to. We honor Jesus, who upon taking Flesh, touched our humanity with divinity, and we teach that we are wonderfully made in great, complex detail and yet it seems that in the Institute we are continually formed to ignore our own bodies, to chastise them, to work them without heeding their requests for rest or nutrition and generally not to think much on them at all. Is not the human person, body and soul, the very Temple of the Holy Spirit? Why, as ssvm, are we not given the space to listen to our bodies, to connect with them, so as to care for the vessel God has given us in a more complete way, so that in turn, we can serve others better? Why is it so taboo to connect with our own Incarnation in a balanced way?

→Vocation – Long story short, I understood the teachings of the Institute to be that if I was called & entered, then clearly God desired me to take Final Vows and stay for life. This understanding of vocation however is simply not true and an honest study of Church teaching can show that time in formation (for men or women) is clearly for continued discernment as to whether religious life is your path or not. The Institute does not present formation years this way and I came to believe that I was intended by God to be a sister forever and this thought eventually made me very miserable & sad. However, I hung on by a thread for a few difficult years only because I desperately believed this understanding of vocation and did not want to betray God by leaving. Only in a moment of light and grace was I able to shred through all the muck and listen to the voice of God in my own heart that said, “I am your good Father and only want your true happiness. I would never want you to be in a life in which you were continually miserable, sad and not yourself.” From that moment on, I have listened to Him in my heart, followed His peace and have felt free. 

→Leaving the Convent – As mentioned before, years in formation are for continued discernment and so if someone chooses to leave the convent, that is a perfectly fine and good decision and should be treated as such by the community. Guys leave seminaries and girls leave convents all year long, everywhere! It’s admirable and good to leave if you know it’s not right for you. During my years inside, it always felt as if there was secrecy, scandal and stigma attached to girls who left. No one would ask or tell, they would suddenly just not be at the table, and we would very rarely see or hear from them again. Due to so much exaggerated pressure and expectation put on vocation, perseverance, Final Vows and Ordination, there is shame attached to leaving, as if you failed in fidelity to God and your calling. This is simply not true and I think the Institute does a disservice to its members when they stress vocation and perseverance so much, because most likely, the majority of those who enter are not intended by God to stay, yet they do because of false teachings and a stigma attached to leaving. At least this is how I felt for many years and the atmosphere I recall surrounding those who left. While I would not change my time in the convent, at the same time, leaving religious life was the single best decision of my life thus far and I have not been happier or freer since. 

→Girls Who’ve Left – This is mainly for Superiors, but is relevant to anyone discerning leaving religious life. Upon leaving the convent and re-entering the world, a girl rarely has the contact info of other former ssvm girls, nor is she provided with it. Upon leaving, we rarely remember last names of girls we lived with, don’t know how to navigate social media and therefore have no way of getting in touch with other people who have gone through religious life as we have.  Thankfully, I had friends already who had left and their companionship has been invaluable to me. It is crucial to have the support of fellow former ssvm when you leave. It perplexes me as to why the superiors do not reach out to some of us who have left in recent years, who have transitioned smoothly and still remain in touch, attempting to build a little support bridge between inside and outside the convent. A girl who leaves needs lay women friends, and who better than those who have gone before her on the journey back into the world? Both in Argentina and here, there are private Facebook groups started by us, just for girls who have left ssvm as a way to connect. It is a need, it is healthy and it is helpful. Why aren’t the superiors of the Institute fostering this when a girl leaves? Why not take advantage of myself and others who have openly offered our companionship to girls who are leaving? Let’s build this bridge, instead of letting the pieces lay there stagnant. We have the materials; we just need to connect them all! ☺ Why not?

→“Generosity” – I believe the concept of generosity is overused in the convent and falsely understood. The idea of generosity is perpetuated as a way of selflessly serving God at all moments, in all ways, interior and exterior. This buzzword is wielded when encouraging discerners to respond to their vocation, urging members to offer for jobs or tasks, praising members for sacrifices like getting up early, missing siesta, using free time to do something for the community, etc. I recall the dogma of generosity being so imbedded in my mind that at one point I decided to just offer for everything, so that I was never saying no to something God asked of me, or feeling guilty for being selfish. While there is obvious goodness in this virtue, there also needs to be a balance, just like in everything. God does not want me to offer for everything to the point of exhaustion, headaches, lack of sleep, irritation. This goes along with the idea of taking care of our Incarnation. If we are honestly tired and our body is asking for a rest, then we should not offer to drive sister to the doctor’s during siesta. Furthermore, not offering for things because we are listening to our bodies in an honest, balanced way should not be looked upon as ‘lacking in generosity.’ I feel the concept of generosity is used in the Institute in an unfair and unbalanced manner, to the point of obsession. It is authentically generous to take care of yourself & to create healthy boundaries, so that you can more happily and efficiently serve others and God. 

→The Priests - I must preface this section by saying that I have a deep gratitude for a handful of IVE priests who guided me during my years in the convent. I know that their intentions were and are good, that at heart they are good men, seeking to love God & others. This chapter is not directed at any priest in particular, but speaks of a larger issue.

The Institute places an exaggerated degree of attention on the priesthood, to the point that the sisters are formed to basically do whatever Father wants, however and whenever he wants it, subtly learning to not have a voice before him and to defer always to him. This sounds exaggerated, but we all know it’s not. The tricky part is that this learned, submissive behavior of the sisters is hidden behind their culture that reveres the priesthood, upholding everything they do as if they were Jesus Christ Himself. So serving Father becomes equivalent to serving Jesus. In return for everything the priests ‘heroically’ do for us (sacraments, spiritual direction, classes, etc) we owe them our attentive service in gratitude. However, this service ends up looking and feeling like simply being a servant of the priests, catering to all their personal and apostolic needs. Even as a superior, I still felt this way most of the time. Quick examples would be: driving the priests, cleaning their chapels, cooking for them. The ssvm quite literally are (in addition to their other duties) the chaufers, cleaning ladies and cooks for the priests. I do not believe this is what women religious are called to do. Quite frankly, I don’t think this type of relationship is good for either side. I saw that the skills, intelligence and ideas of the sisters are often ignored in preference for “whatever Father wants.” When I returned home and began working in a parish, it took me a long time to find my voice and feel comfortable speaking with Father as a fellow peer and adult. 

I also have issue with the exaggerated way the relationships between the men and women religious are monitored, especially during formation. It feels scandalous for a seminarian and a sister to speak or interact with each other. It is so exaggerated that I believe it has the opposite effect, putting more attention on the chastity issue than if the relations were allowed to be natural.

→Young Superiors – Maybe by now this issue has been addressed or is slowing trending out, but I still believe it necessary to say a word on placing young women (in age and religious life) as superiors. For the record also, the answer “we are a young Institute” holds no water anymore, after now being in existence for 30+ years. So, I have two main concerns in this area:

Firstly – that putting a young woman in such a consuming role can hinder in many ways her human development. I was made superior straight from the Juniorate, at age 26, which is actually older than some others who I remember suffered the same fate. My main concern with appointing young women superiors is that, due to the increased responsibilities, stress and time constraints placed on them in their new role, they result in having zero time to develop their human person, their passions, their identity outside of “Madre.” A regular sister’s life is super packed and busy with very little free time as we know, and a superior’s life is twice times that, so a girl at age 26 has no life or time to herself, no room to in a sense “grow up,” outside of transforming herself into a “Madre,” assuming all responsibilities cheerfully. When I was first asked to be superior, I recall simply feeling that I was “sacrificing” or “dying to self” and that is what God wanted. However, I came home at age 30 and had no idea who I was, what I liked or thought, outside of my persona as ‘Mother Lumen.’ I graduated 6th in my high school class, with a 3.8 summa cum laude from college and passed years full of various sports and recreational activities before the convent and yet, at age 30, felt like I had no idea who I was outside of a habit and veil. My role as superior was so work-driven, that 4 crucial years of young-adulthood passed without me growing into my adult self, knowing myself and learning to trust myself. I find this to be sad. Since the convent, I have had the time of my life getting to know myself and enjoying the freedom of creating my own life. It simply concerns me how this custom can hinder one’s self-development.                                                               
Second – I feel the Institute chooses superiors who, like myself, have a personality that is responsible, cheerful and feels uncomfortable rocking the boat. They are the type to believe everything, behave obediently and cheerfully and feel safest keeping everyone in line, in a kind manner. This practice seems to serve to keep the Institute going as is, without stopping to question things that might seriously need questioning! Conversely, sisters who are a bit more outspoken & independent are often ostracized and never given much in the way of responsibility, a fact worth noting. I can name a dozen or more superiors during my time that had personalities similar to my own and were also very young. It feels good at first to be a part of such a wonderful group, but looking back, it seems that we were chosen because we just keep steering the boat straight ahead, with a smile as if everything going on inside is perfectly fine and acceptable. We even believe it is!

→Health: I believe in the Institute, we do not get enough sleep. Seeing as though the daily, regular life of a member is jam packed and stressful, sufficient sleep is a must for the body and brain to recover and rejuvenate. Skipping siesta, staying up late and getting up ‘heroically’ early are terrible, especially within the context of an already stressful life and also if sustained long term. All of this can lead to adrenal fatigue, which means that your body, having remained in a state of high stress without relief, will eventually break down, feeling constantly exhausted, getting sick, not being able to sleep or function well, etc. 

Secondly, we are human and have an emotional life that needs care and attention. The Institute fails miserably at allowing its members to attune to and process their emotions regularly and in an acceptable way. Some go to therapy, but only those with dramatic life histories. As anyone can research, when emotions are ignored, avoided or when one feels ashamed at their own feelings, this all has health consequences. If you wonder why certain priests or sisters are always sick, have so many allergies, cannot recover from a cold, always get migraines, have stomach problems, it most definitely could be due to the suppressing or ignoring of emotions, coupled with the Institute’s general sense of ridicule around showing emotion. Everyone deserves space to process their hearts and to know it’s healthy to do so, outside of spiritual or superior direction, which is often the default. There is fostered a general sense of mistrust of self and emotions in deference to superiors and SD’s, which is concerning. It was a new and rebellious moment for me when I listened to my heart and followed God’s voice there, to leave religious life. I hadn’t done that in ages because of religious life and yet it was one of the best, freest choices of my life. This topic (emotional life and health in general) leaves a lot to be discussed, but in the effort to keep this letter succinct, I will leave it at that.

Perhaps by now, some of these concerns have already been addressed, in which case, great. However, if not, I allow my words to be whatever they are meant to be, now that they are out of my heart and mind, and in your hands.