In a compelling address delivered in the summer of 2009 to the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), Carmelite sister Constance FitzGerald explored the concepts of prophecy and hope. Speaking extensively about the deconstruction and purification of memory, she noted that this “dark passage does have an arrival point: prophecy.” She explained, “Obsession with the past gives way to a new undefinable sense of relatedness or intimacy, an experience of ultimate assurance, and this conversion releases creativity and most importantly freedom for the limitless possibilities of God, for hope. This freedom, this posture of hope, is really prophecy, for it enables a person to reveal the vision of a different kind of future than the one we want to construct from our limited capacities. Such a person becomes a prophet when she shows the way; when she is willing to stand on the horizon so that all can see this future, God’s future.”

This issue of Occasional Papers attempts to explore some of the challenges and questions religious life leaders face as they explore what it means to search for the limitless possibilities of God and courageously believe in a different future. Experienced leaders share what they have learned about living with profound hope in uncertain times. In addition, four younger women religious write with great candor about their convictions and questions regarding religious life as it moves into an unknown future.

Readers are invited to discover what these writings open up within themselves as they too reflect on the call to live with hope in these challenging and somewhat dark times. They may also wish to reflect on Constance FitzGerald’s closing remarks to the theologians at the CTSA convention and apply them to the call to religious today: “... you are being challenged to be contemplative theologians willing to be stretched beyond yourselves toward a new epiphany of the Holy, incomprehensible Mystery. Be prophets of hope!”


  • Finding and Naming the Light
    Pat McDermott, RSM explores what the Epiphany story has to say to religious life leaders who journey toward light in the midst of darkness
  • The Cost of Fidelity
    In an interview, theologian M. Shawn Copeland speaks of the costs of staying faithful to the Gospel in these tumultuous times
  • Glimmers of Light
    LCWR members Pamela Smith, SSCM; Toby Lardie, HM, Yvette Bellerose, SSA, Judy Cannon, RSM; Maureen Foltz, CCV; and Imelda Gonzalez, CDP reflect on where they find light in the darkness of these times
  • Voices of Hope
    Rachel Terry, IHM; Julie Viera, IHM; Katherine Feely, SND; and Sarah Kohles, OSF share their experiences as young women choosing religious life today and what sustains their commitment and dreams
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