Barbara Inspires “Evolutionary Nuns”

By Byron Belitsos

Barbara Marx Hubbard’s prophetic relationship with the risen Christ has always been central to her role as an author and leading evolutionary thinker. Barbara often shares how her “birth epiphany” experience in 1966 arose as she sought “a story for our time” that affirms the biblical narrative of Jesus’s birth. Following on her recent work with Unity Church as reported recently in the Catalyst, Barbara’s lifelong teaching about Christ incarnating in us and in all creation through the evolutionary process was shared with another significant faith community. The occasion was her keynote presentations last week to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), representing 57,000 Sisters in the United States and beyond. We are proud to report that her catalyzing role for the women was front and center in the news coverage of the LCWR Assembly provided by both the New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter.

The NYT story depicted the nuns as standing at a historic crossroads because of the LCWR’s recent confrontation with the Vatican. More than 900 nuns were gathered in St. Louis, the Times reported, “for a four-day meeting to decide how to respond to a biting Vatican assessment that cast them as disobedient dissenters and ordered three American bishops to overhaul the nuns’ organization.” Then the Times stated:

The nuns’ meeting . . . exemplified the melding of traditional Catholicism and modern innovations that has so perturbed the Vatican. They sat in silence for a long stretch, sang songs about truth and mystery accompanied by a guitar and a choir, and heard a keynote address by a futurist who was escorted to the podium by seven liturgical dancers waving diaphanous scarves of pink and tangerine.“Crisis precedes transformation,” the futurist, Barbara Marx Hubbard, told the nuns.“You are the best seedbed that I know for evolving the church and the world in the 21st century. Now, that may be a surprise to the world. But, you see, new things always happen from unexpected places.”

The nuns reportedly gave a standing ovation to Barbara, who the Times then called “a beatific presence with a mantle of white hair who quoted Jesus, Buckminster Fuller, the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the current pope, Benedict XVI . . . [and who] is now acclaimed by luminaries like Deepak Chopra for helping to lead what she calls the ‘conscious evolution’ movement.”

According to the text of her speech, Barbara told the Sisters, “I see you as the ones who have the greatest capacity for facilitating what is emergent as evolutionary leaders. You are the pioneers and prophets of the future whose flame of expectancy is sparking the passion and hope needed in a world looking for fire.”

Barbara described the apparently harsh decree from the Vatican as “a grace,” whose effect is like an invitation that the Sisters to become more of who they are and rise even further to be leaders who are evolving the Church and the world toward wholeness. She called the Sisters—who built the infrastructure of the Church, including its schools, hospitals, and social services—to continue to serve the unmet needs in our world, even while speaking truth to power in the government and the church.

Barbara was most clear about what the Sisters have to share regarding their model of synergistic, self governance, shared leadership, and cooperative decision-making. Barbara invited the Sisters to open up “hubs of cocreativity” on this basis with people from every walk of life who are yearning for new social models and hungering for an experience of generative community.

Throughout the week’s many conversations, shared prayer, song and reflection, Barbara was inspired by the Sister’s sense of inclusion, collective wisdom, love, and  “contemplative conscious evolution.” As she told the Catalyst, “I felt as though I had come home to my evolutionary sisterhood.”