The woman who has led the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia for the past seven years on Friday (Aug. 14) becomes president of the organization that represents Catholic sisters nationwide.
Sister Marcia Allen steps up to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious before the 800 members attending the group’s annual meeting this week in Houston.
A year ago she was selected to serve as president-elect in the three-member governing body of the LCWR. The other two members for the 2015-16 term will be Sister Sharon Holland, who is now past president, and Sister Mary Pelligrino, who is president-elect.
The structure allows the three officers to work in collaboration and consultation with each other, according to LCWR.
The organization is made up of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. It has more than 1,400 members, who represent about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the United States.
Sister Marcia, a native of Plainville, Kan., was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1959 and professed her final vows in 1963. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and French from Marymount College, Salina, and then a master’s in school administration from Kansas State University.
She was a teacher and school administrator for 18 years before being elected to congregational leadership the first time, in 1979. She served two four-year terms as vice president and another two terms as president. During the same period, she chaired the congregation’s Constitution Committee and the board of the St. Joseph Foundation. She also served a four-year term as a regional chair and member of the national board of LCWR.
She also became well known as a facilitator for congregations of women religious in the U.S. and Canada, and working with groups in the private sector in organizational planning and analysis.
After leaving her leadership position in 1995, she earned a doctorate in ministry from Indiana’s Graduate Theological Foundation.
Also in 1995, Sister Marcia joined the staff of Manna House of Prayer in Concordia. For the next 13 years, she was a retreat leader, consultant and facilitator for numerous projects and organizations, and developed leadership programs for women religious. With Sister Bette Moslander, she worked in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Brazil and India on programs that encouraged the deepening spirituality of women religious.
She was elected to a second stint as president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 2008, and at the end of that four-year term was elected to another term, which will end in 2016.
Throughout her presidency, she has continued to serve as a facilitator for other religious communities and has given presentations nationwide on the Concordia congregation’s refoundation and an alternative form of religious life that was introduced in 2006.
During her year as president-elect of LCWR, she represented that organization at a number of events. She was also part of the leadership team that worked with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain on a “joint final report” that in April ended the Vatican’s investigation of LCWR. She was one of four LCWR representatives in Rome for that announcement, after which the four women met privately with Pope Francis for abut 45 minutes.
Sister Marcia plans to continue serving as president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia while serving as president of LCWR.
The two other members of the tripartite governing structure of LCWR are Sister Sharon Holland, a member of the Sisters, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Mich., and Sister Mary Pelligrino of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa.
Sister Sharon is a canon lawyer who served at the Vatican from 1988 to 2009, first as a professor and canon law consultant in the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and then as the head of the office for ordinary governance with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life. She returned to Monroe in 2009 and serves as a canonical consultant.
Sister Mary is the congregational moderator of the four-member leadership team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa.