On April 18, Church Militant published the testimony of a former member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (Instituto del Verbo Encarnado, IVE), revealing what she endured as a member of the order in her late teens. Her claims were brought to the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. last year, and she personally met with a sister (not a member of IVE) who works in the chancery under then-Cdl. Donald Wuerl. She submitted a signed, 90-page testimony of her experiences and was told by the chancery official they would investigate her claims. In spite of multiple emails and several months passing, the investigation seems to have yielded no results.
Church Militant contacted St. Kateri Convent in Maryland to give members a chance to respond to the former sister's claims, but received no response.
Church Militant previously reported on the controversial founder of the IVE, Fr. Miguel Buela, and his relationship to homosexual predator Theodore McCarrick.
Because of the large response to her testimony, the former sister is writing a follow-up letter, with an invitation for other former and current members to contact her.
By a former IVE sister
Soon after my article was posted last month I read every comment that people wrote. I read the comments that were livid. I read the ones that tried to make it seem as if I had somehow lost my senses, and the comments from ones who believed me (thank you!). But I also read the ones that moved me: other women I don't know who share my experience with Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará (SSVM)/IVE. Their details match mine, which shows me that my experience wasn't a singular one, but rather a systematic way of life for this order. You see happiness and smiles as they stand before you, but let me tell you — once that convent door swings shut, it's a whole different world behind those walls.
To the man who has two daughters in the order and insists I am lying, your daughters may not have any idea what's happening within their very convent. The order plays favorites — constantly. If you are hearing from your daughters and permitted to see them frequently, then that tells me that your daughters are some of the favorites. Dare to look at the other sisters who are alone and ask questions like the following:
Here's the key you may not understand: The sister you ask won't tell you. Her eyes may grow wide as she takes a step back in fear, but she'll remain quiet. She'll put on a forced smile that has been taught to her. Why, do you ask? Because the superiors have abused the vow of obedience on her, even down to the novices.
She's been told that if she breaks the "vow" that she'll go to Hell. "Be obedient even unto death" will go through her mind. The postulants haven't noticed it yet; it's like a frog being slowly boiled alive. They are forbidden to speak ill of the order. They know if they do they might not be fed that night, or the superior may permanently cut her off from her family and she'll be made to scrub the floor on her knees as the sisters eat dinner above her (I've been there.).
She'll remember the threat, and she won't trust you because she's been fed lies; she's been told she has no place in the world, only the convent, and even then she is on the low rung. She's been forced to believe that she is weak. No matter if you are the pope and tell her she is released from her vows, she will not answer because she's scared and, yes, brainwashed. (To the man who asked if brainwashing is "still a thing in the 21st century," let me tell you that it is.)
Look at the beginning of their constitutions, where it says "if we ever become corrupt, let the order be blasted from the earth." And know that the superiors joke about how taking in a large group of vocations each year is "similar to fishing: You just throw some back." All they do is throw girls into veils and count the numbers; they never speak of the ones who leave, why or how short postulancy is. In some cases postulancy lasts mere days, which, if I am not mistaken, violates canon law.
I will not apologize for speaking truth. I am tired of wondering if certain bishops will be transparent and actually have the nerve to do something. I believe in the Catholic Church. I firmly believe that it is filled with beauty and truth. We are the only faith that has the Eucharist, and I refuse to leave. But I do ask that someone, anyone stop trying to hide your brother or sister and instead speak on behalf of your sheep. Man up. Be the shepherds we need you to be. You wear a ring signifying your fidelity to the people, so act accordingly, as Christ loved the Church. And for the love of God and all that is holy, investigate this order.
I don't have the answers. What I do know is that I cannot shake the stories of the people who share my experience. I barely scratched the surface of my own experience. So this is what I propose now, eight years out of the convent: Any person, ex-sister or seminarian, even family member, please send me your story. I would like to compile our testimonies and send them to someone. Perhaps in Rome — or find an authentic bishop who sacrificially loves his sheep before himself.
This is not revenge. It's being honest and trying to protect other people. This is a religious order dripping with corruption, all behind lovely habits and smiles. If you feel so inclined to share your experience, kindly email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. (If my old superiors are reading this, I forgive you. But I'm not going to remain silent anymore.)