By Alex Fees
St. Louis (KSDK) - More than 800 Catholic nuns are gathering in St. Louis this week for an annual convention of LCWR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Many St. Louis-area volunteers with the Catholic Action Network gathered outside the Millennium Hotel downtown Tuesday to welcome the nuns.
"I'm here to support the sisters and thank them for their years and years of dedicated service," said Pat Martens Balke. "Their behind-the-scenes action is never-ending and 24-7. The sisters have not gotten recognition in our church, for all they do; for the educational networks, for the hospital networks, for the justice networks that they've supported and established. They need to know we're grateful. Nuns have touched everybody's lives, Catholic or not."
The conference comes at a time when LCWR members are deciding how to respond to Vatican demands that they yield to church leadership and come under the control of three Catholic bishops.
"I think many Catholics and ex-Catholics would agree the leadership of the Catholic Church right now is not operating from the gospel message," said Martins Balke.
Janis McGillick was among those holding signs outside the Millennium Hotel Tuesday afternoon.
"They build hospitals, they've healed, they've educated," said McGillick. "They work with the poor. We feel as though there's really no need to reprimand their work. They do social justice work every day. I think what we're saying to them is we know this is a critical moment in the life of the church. We know they are leaders and we are praying for them and thanking them."