They've been accused by their own church of losing focus of its values. This week, the conflict between the Vatican and the organization that oversees the majority of American nuns is expected to take center stage at their national conference.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain has been chosen to oversee the mandated changes, but some local Catholics believe it’s not the nuns who need to change.
At St. Joseph Parish in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, church members have started showing their support for the nuns.
Rev. John Whitney designated a spot inside the church where people could express their feelings.
“I put an icon and some candles and invited people to bring some remembrances,” he said.
It didn’t take long before the table was covered with cards and photos.
Some ladies in the church put their feelings into action by starting a group called “Standing with the Sisters."
“It felt like a sledgehammer coming down,” Gretchen Gundrum explained. “Very disturbing the way it was done, how it was done what they're being accused of,” she said.
Church members are hoping to send a message to church leadership
“This issue goes beyond the sisters, it affects all of us in terms of our vision of the church,” she said. “What kind of a church do we want to have?”
This week the nuns will gather at their national conference in St. Louis to contemplate the next step.
“They’re not looking for a confrontation they’re looking for a way in which they can be true to their call and continue to serve the church,” Rev. Whitney explained.
Whitney says the Vatican wants to see the group reformed over the next 5 years.
“I pray for them, because I pray for our church I'm not sure where it's going to go,” he says.
Father Whitney says emotions are raw for some church members still upset about the sex abuse scandal. “A lot of people feel like why are we cracking down on the sisters when we haven't suitably dealt with this issue?”
He's hopeful Seattle's archbishop will be a voice of moderation and bring everyone together but he admits this issue has challenged his flock.
“They've always been there for the least of these and a lot of people think; if these people aren't the holiest of what we have who are?”
“Standing with the Sisters” is organizing a flower march in support of the nuns. It will start at 12:30 pm on Sunday, August 12 at the Louisa Boren Lookout in Seattle.