This is a serious matter for all parties involved. We ask our readers to pray for the Archbishop as he genuinely seeks to care for these men and women who sought to give themselves fully to the Lord and His Church in lives of prayer and sacrifice. We ask you to also pray for all former members trying to sort this entire experience out; that they would have the grace to trust the Lord as he works through His Church.
OMAHA, NE (Catholic Online) - We have closely followed the suppression of the community called "The Intercessors of the Lamb" by Archbishop George Lucas of the Archdiocese of Omaha. There has been a large response from our readership to this coverage. Many have raised concerns regarding the well being of the members. The Archdiocese has set up a place on their web site for updates.
The most recent update included this paragraph for those who wish to assist the former members who are being provided pastoral care and assistance by the Archdiocese. "Those who wish to support approximately fifty of the former members who are now being cared for by the Archdiocese of Omaha can send donations for this specific purpose to: Intercessor Relief, c/o Archdiocese of Omaha, 100 N. 62nd St., Omaha, NE 68132. Checks should be made payable to the "Archdiocese of Omaha" with a notation made in the memo field for "Intercessor Relief."
A recent article in the Omaha World Herald entitled "Former hermits put faith in future", written by Christopher Burbach, contained an interview with three former members conducted at the St. Benedict Retreat center where 48 former members are staying. The three former members are Linda Marie Neuhoff, Fr. Mark Nolte and Lynne Keating.
Burbach wrote: "Three former members of the Intercessors of the Lamb said Monday that it was like a death when their group was shut down and their religious vows voided - but that they are relieved to be away from the group's Omaha campus. There have been a lot of tears," said the Rev. Mark Nolte, a Roman Catholic priest who belonged to the organization. "But at the same time, we know there's a bright future for us, and we're thankful to the archbishop for supporting us and being willing to walk with us." Nolte, Linda Marie Neuhoff and Lynne Keating are among 48 members of the Intercessors whom the Archdiocese of Omaha is putting up at a Catholic retreat and conference center outside Schuyler." The entire article is well worth reading and can be found here.
Archbishop George Lucas issued a formal statement on Friday October 15, 2010 which is found on the Archdiocesan website:
"For grave reasons, I suppressed the Hermit Association of the Intercessors of the Lamb. The reasons for this suppression are noted in a separate news release, principally, the refusal of the lay civil board of the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., a Nebraska corporation, to acknowledge my authority in making much-needed reforms in the community. The way of life of some fifty vowed members was in peril due to actions of a handful of civil directors. The vows of the former members have ceased (c. 1194), and they are to set aside the habit and refrain from using the titles "Mother," "Brother," or "Sister." They are no longer considered to be in consecrated life or assimilated to it in the Church. I am providing for the care of the former members in the short-term, and remain committed to helping them in any way I can in the future.
"From this point forward, The Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., is in no way associated with the Catholic Church. As Archbishop of Omaha, and in view of my authority to govern and guard the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church (c. 835 §1), I hereby decree that no liturgical or sacramental celebrations are to occur on any property owned by the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., within the Archdiocese of Omaha.
"Priests, deacons, and lay ministers are to observe this prescription. The chapel formerly known as the Our Lady of Light Chapel on the Bellwether campus in Omaha is no longer a Catholic chapel. Catholic faithful worldwide should be aware that any alms given to the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., are not being given to a Catholic organization. Those who previously had scheduled retreats or other Catholic ministry opportunities there should look elsewhere.
"Those who consider themselves "companions" or "associates" of the Intercessors, some of whom have even taken vows, are hereby informed that such vows were never canonically recognized in the Church. Even if such vows were binding in conscience, they too cease in view of the suppression of the Hermit Association of the Intercessors of the Lamb and c. 1194. Of course, Catholic faithful are always welcome, in virtue of their baptism, to associate together and to pray. I would encourage those companions and associates to continue to pray for the former vowed members of the Intercessor community, for the Church, and for the needs of the world."
This is a serious matter for all parties involved. We ask our readers to pray for the Archbishop as he genuinely seeks to care for these men and women who sought to give themselves fully to the Lord and His Church in lives of prayer and sacrifice. We ask you to also pray for all former members trying to sort this entire experience out; that they would have the grace to trust the Lord as he works through His Church. Former member Lynne Keating told the Omaha World Herald, "God bless the archbishop. It was a courageous thing for him to do.. Everyone here (at the retreat center) is living out the full reason we became an Intercessor, to lay down our lives for the church. Our vocations were our lives," she said. "We were willing to let everything go so that this truth could be protected within the Catholic Church. As painful as it was, we were happy to do it." It is this kind of sincere submission to the Church which is the hallmark of true holiness.
The three members said the situation deteriorated in the community following the Bishops review and request that the founder, Nadine Brown, step aside from leadership. Apparently two factions developed. Linda Marie Neuhoff said "(O)n the morning of Sunday, Oct. 3 - two days after Brown's resignation was announced - people close to her began taking steps signaling that they would not comply with the archbishop, the three former Intercessors said. A board member and a man she identified as her lawyer walked into a house the Intercessors owned on a neighboring street and announced that they were there for the association's assets"
The article continues, "She said they took computers and files with financial and personal records from the house. Then people began carrying boxes out of the main house on the Intercessors campus, including in the middle of the night. That was confusing and frightening, the three said. The three called police and archdiocesan officials. They were told that the civil corporation had the legal right to move its property. The corporation changed the locks on the Intercessors' homes and asked for their car keys, Nolte said. It was becoming obvious, he said, that the faction close to Brown would not budge. He said the situation became more tense in the two weeks that followed, culminating with Friday's suppression and the archbishop's offer of sanctuary at the retreat.
"We were all very happy to get on that bus," Nolte said. "This was not done with any malice or evil intent toward Mother Nadine. It was necessary for us to disassociate ourselves from her because of her lack of obedience to the church."
We will be closely following this unfolding story.
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