Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Andrea's Story

I didn’t WANT to be a nun.  I was raised Catholic. I read stories of the saints. I believed in God. I prayed. But I didn’t go looking for any sort of religious lifestyle. They came looking for me. Consecrated women, with fake happy smiles, began by encouraging me to go to youth group (and encouraging my mother to send us). While there, we were told we were called to “incorporate” into ECYD. I remember when my younger sister refused (always the rebel  :P ), they told her God spoke to them and told them she had to incorporate into ECYD. They were mad when she outright told them to leave her alone. This should have been my first clue. Other friends later were told the same thing. God told them… but didn’t send a message along to the girls themselves? But I didn’t need convincing. Why would I? It was a way of joining with other girls, being part of something. Looking back, I realize it was just the first step in indoctrination.
When I went to the summer program, I was hesitant. But the consecrated women promised fun and laughter and swimming. It was supposed to be a summer camp. No one told me I might stay. They especially never mentioned that I would be manipulated into staying.
I wasn’t there long before I knew I was staying. Conversations revolved around Christ’s calling. How could you say no? Vocation story upon vocation story told of girls as young as 12 and 13 fighting for their vocation, no matter the cost, personal, familial, or otherwise. Leave your father and mother and follow me. How could I be selfish and not give myself to him? And besides, look how HAPPY the PCs are. Look at them, not discussing anything other than their joy, their triumphs. No one dared say “run for your life”.
Other ex-PCs have done a fine job illustrating the mental and physical anguish. Some might say it’s typical teenage pain but I only stayed the one year, grade 9, before my parents refused to let me return. The typical teenage pain I experienced in 10th -12th grades (fighting with friends, highschool heartbreak, deaths of friends and peers) , although plenty traumatic in certain situations, is nothing like this.
I was a shell of myself when I returned home. Having spent an entire year crying every single day, being berated for my emotions, being told to be an example for others and not let them know my pain, being so far removed from my family (being out of country meant missing the thanksgiving visit, and the possible one visit a month for those that lived close)- it nearly broke me. Luckily, my family held me up. Luckily, I’d lost only one year, not 4, not some undetermined amount of time I most definitely would have spent consecrated had my family not intervened (and yes, I HAD decided I was called to be consecrated, at the very mature age of 14).
So parents, do not suggest this “program” for your children. And if they tell you it’s God’s will, if they beg and plead and tell you “Please Mom, this is my vocation. I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to follow it again. It’s your vocation to let me”, be the parent. Realize you have a teenager who is good and loving and wants to love God, but it’s your duty to protect her. She needs you now more than ever.
14 is not old enough.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sheila's Story

To read Sheila's story, clink on this link, then read from the bottom of the page to the top.

Sarita's Thoughts

The schedule was remarkably structured and left very little downtime. We have 5 and 10 minute free times sprinkled throughout the day, but it mostly just gave us enough time to get from one activity to another. As part of our Human Formation, we were also supposed to have a Free Time Program where we designated which free time we would clean our lockers, ask for permissions, try to write a letter home, etc. Literally every second of our day was accounted for, from 6:00 am when we woke up till lights out at 9:30. I had a great deal of difficultly fitting myself into such a rigorous and demanding schedule because it left no time to think, relax or even unwind.
Since the reform within RC has begun, it has been noted that the consecrated were attempting to live a fully apostolic and fully contemplative lifestyle. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day to fulfill all of the prayer commitments, run an apostolate and have time for free time. During my 3 year stay in RI, we cycled through various different prayer books that were supposedly approved for the PC’s (at one point we were using the consecrated’s prayer books). I never saw a handbook or written set of rules that laid out the many norms that governed our day. I don’t believe the PC was ever an apostolate that was well thought through, we lived our lives as mini-consecrated because no one had ever had the time to actually define what was appropriate for high school girls. However I was 14 years old, I never took promises of poverty, chastity, obedience and charity and I certainly did not possess the maturity to discern this decision. I was presented with a lifestyle (that was already very harmful to adult women) and informed that it was God’s Will that I follow these rules.
Will of God
One of the most damaging aspects of the PC was the manipulation of conscience and God’s Will. Everything was considered God’s Will: the norms, the schedule, your director, and your spiritual director. If you were told to do anything you were expected to obey instantly with a spirit of supernatural obedience and without questioning. Anytime we were late (even if it was minutes) we were considered outside of the schedule and therefore not living God’s Will for us. I was told by one Spiritual Director that disobeying the norms was a mortal sin and that I needed to confess my infractions in confession (that Legionary must have been bored to death listening to our confessions). When we found ourselves outside “the Will of God” (e.g. the schedule and norms) we were expected to “depend” to our formator and ask for a penance. A penance could be anything from a visit to the chapel to all free times in absolute silence. Absolute silence was kept in the dorms and from the period of time after night prayers till after mass the next morning. It could not be broken, and if you absolutely needed to ask a question, you wrote it down on a piece of paper. Once I asked for a penance because I was having trouble keeping silence in the hallways (never mind the fact that I was a talkative 14 year old girl) and I was told to be in absolute silence for all my free times all day. I’m sure my schoolmates were really confused when I insisted on writing everything down for a whole day.
Because my spiritual directors and formators represented the absolute will of God for me, I obeyed everything they told me without question. If they told me I was proud, I felt I must have been riddled with hubris; if I was late to activities, I must have been lazy and needed to put my desires aside in order to live the Will of God for me more fully; if I was spending too much time with a particular girl, that must be stopped because it was against universal charity. God had put the consecrated in my life to guide me and I never questioned this principle. We were encouraged to be 100% open with our spiritual directors and to “depend” about every thought and struggle we encountered. I have since discovered that our spiritual directions were never confidential and were discussed among our formators and used to decide how to manipulate us.
Openness was a key concept for a PC, if you were not open with your directors; you were not being open with God. In the name of complete openness, we were given the “option” of letting our spriritual directors read all of our incoming and outgoing mail. In 10th grade I struggled with the concept of being unable to communicate with family and friends without every word being read by someone else. I spoke of sending letters without letting my spiritual director read them, but it was “highly discouraged”. In a burst of creativity I wrote my little sisters several letters in pig latin because I knew my Spanish speaking spiritual director wouldn’t understand it (plus my sisters would get a kick out it). I’ve also discovered that my mail wasn’t always forwarded to me if it was deemed harmful to my spiritual progress. My childhood friend wrote me many times about friends at home and the trouble they were getting into, however I only received one letter from her during my entire time at the PC.
The primary goal of the Precandidacy was to encourage girls to become consecrated. Within a few weeks in the school I noticed that certain girls were targeted, they were the “leader girls” being groomed for higher positions. They had better houseworks, more personal attention, were team leaders, went as leaders for retreats, assigned to sit a specific tables, etc. Every single facet of our lives was designed to manipulate us into perfect little “Women of the Kingdom” .
My personality type appreciates rules; I’ve always feel that rules are put in place for a logical reason and therefore they should be followed. So when I was presented with a huge laundry list of norms and rules that dictated my every single action, I was swamped. It was physically impossible to be on time to every single distribution of the schedule, to keep perfect silence, to remember to always be focused during meditation, to have my clothes perfectly ironed, etc. I internalized every single criticism, rule and norm and within a month of becoming a PC, I found myself becoming depressed and I withdrew into myself.
Perfect” Charity
Another key concept that was practiced was “universal charity”. In theory, it sounded like an excellent idea, everyone would be friends with everyone and there would be no risk of cliques or exclusion. In practice, universal charity meant that no one was allowed to form deep or meaningful friendships with each other. If it was noted that we spent more time with a certain girl, we would be pulled aside and told to spend time with the other girls in the name of universal charity. We were told to be “discrete” and never discuss health concerns, our struggles, or anything negative that would bring down the spirit of the Precandidacy. Our conversations were pretty much limited to “oh this is wonderful; I’m so happy here; aren’t you excited for the outing on Saturday; isn’t Nuestro Padre (Father Maciel) such a saint?” All of our negative thoughts or concerns were to be directed to our spiritual directors or director.
I remember being given many penances for starting to form “particular friendships” with certain girls and I was told that I had a velcro heart that attached to everything in sight. It was my job to cut off all of these attachments and trust only in Christ and my formators. As a result, we were deeply isolated from each other and lived lonely lives surrounded by others. If I saw a companion crying or struggling with an issue I was expected to walk by discretely (perhaps say a prayer for her) and tell my director that “so and so seemed to be having a problem with X”. I deeply regret never reaching out to my companions in true charity instead of the false “universal charity” that I was told to practice. Speaking with my school mates now, we both have to ask “wait, we were friends, right? I always felt like you were a particular friend, but I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t ask.”
The practice of charity also extended to the institution itself. We were told to never criticize either the Movement or our directors and if we had an issue with something we were to take it our spiritual director or proper formator. When I left the Precandidacy, this aspect of charity remained ingrained within me and I refused to look up Regain or any other news source about RC because it was “uncharitable” and contrary to the spirit of the Movement. When I finally began to tentatively voice my opinions about RC, I felt that I was committing some sort of sin: “speak no evil of Regnum Christi” was a principle that I had a very hard time shaking off.
The Cult of Maciel
In hindsight, the level of adoration that was directed towards Fr. Maciel was disturbing. I fell for the “he’s a living saint, we should emulate his every action” party line whole heartedly. His image was all over the school, he was quoted in homilies, talks, and casual conversations. We had prayer cards with his face on them and his quotes plastered on the back and we memorized his poems (the plagiarized El Salterio de mis días) and letters. His letters were read aloud in spiritual reading and during dinner and lunch. When we did our weekly Encounters with Christ (similar to a bible study) we would offer “cases” that were relevant to the bible verse were studying and 9 times out of 10 these cases were about “Nuestro Padre” (Spanish for Our Father) and looking back they were outlandish and definitely untrue. “I know a case about Nuestro Padre when he had a stomach operation. When a LC brother came in, Nuestro Padre sat up because he wanted to give that brother a good example of a Legionary. This is an example of how we should always be good and faithful cofounders and sacrifice our comfort to give good examples to others regardless how much pain we are in.”
Over the years I saw Maciel at many different RC functions. Every time he arrived, he was always surrounded by his “inner circle” LC’s and arrived in a luxury car (and once in a helicopter). When I was in 9th grade we were told that “Nuetro Padre” was coming to visit us and we were beyond ourselves with excitement. In my journal I wrote, “Today, we had to prepare the house just in case Nuestro Padre comes. We don’t know when or where Christ comes. Um… I mean Nuestro Padre.” It never occurred to me that I had just casually mixed up God with a man or that this was an attitude that was cause for concern.
There were very limited contact with our parents and family members while I was a PC. I don’t remember the exact time frame, but we were expected to call our families during a scheduled time for around 30 minutes. Many times I would skip my calling time because I would be too busy with other scheduled activities. We spent very little vacation time with our families: 2 weeks in the summer, 4 days after Christmas and the possibility of 3 days at Thanksgiving. There was a story told that it was a PC who had requested this limited time because spending too much time at home was a danger to her vocation. We were expected to fulfill all of our prayer commitments, wear the long skirts, avoid improper situations (aka boys) and many other norms. We were told that we weren’t supposed to go to movie theatres, amusement parks, etc because it was a public spectacle. If our parents insisted that we attend one of the “public spectacles” we could go, but we were to avoid it if at all possible.
One of the cardinal (unspoken) rules was “speak no evil of RC” and this carried over fully into our relationships with our parents. Even though I struggled with life at the PC from the very beginning, I never told my family. I didn’t want to reflect badly on the Movement and I believed my struggles were my own problems that I needed to address. Parents were very much kept out of the loop, my parents never knew about my dramatic weight loss in 11th grade nor the extent of my “rebellion” and failing grades in 10th grade. When I went home to visit I spoke only good things about the PC, how much I was learning, how much I loved Christ, and how being a PC was such a wonderful vocation. I don’t blame my parents for sending me to the PC, I asked to go and I never confided in them about the true state of my soul. From the outside, the Precandidacy looks like a wonderful place, and if I were in my parents place with the same amount of information, I wouldn’t hesitate to send my daughter to such a “wonderful school”.
During my stay in the PC we were given many formation courses on the methodology of the movement. In fact we were steeped in every aspect of RC in hopes of transforming each of us into the “integral woman of the kingdom”. We had dialogues (meetings) with our formators regarding our spiritual, apostolic, human and intellectual formation. Within each area we were expected to have programs that were neatly outlined that had a goal and means for us to help transform us into happy little drones in Maciel’s army.
Within Apostolic formation we were taught the steps of recruitment, the various tactics used to recruit the leaders and how important it was to spread the kingdom of God to every corner of the earth. It was never said outright, but there was an implied attitude that RC was the absolute best way to be Catholic and therefore everyone should be RC. Parish life and every other movement was only second best therefore it was our responsibility to educate everyone about the wonder that was RC. Recently I started to go through all the papers that I had saved during my time as a PC, I found charts where I listed my siblings and friends and which steps of recruitment I thought they were in as well as my ultimate goals (long term cultivation for the Precandidacy, recruit them for the summer program, etc.) I had listed concrete steps such as make phone calls and letters in order to move them along the prescribed steps. I had ceased to view my friends and family as people that I loved and cared about instead they were means to an end, a way for me to further the Kingdom of God in a methodical and planned manner.
As a whole, the Precandidacy employed a very manipulative and damaging system that failed to take into account the inherent value of each human person. I understand that RC is attempting to reform and I hope with all my heart that each person will find a healthy holy life within the Catholic Church, no matter the route. I’m speaking out in order to find closure and to move past the chapter in my life. In many ways writing these pages have been extremely cathartic and healing. I hope that by writing down both my testimony and thoughts I will be able to finally close the RC chapter of my life and move forward without a hint of guilt.

Sarita's Story

I’ve been trying to write down my testimony about my time at the Precandidacy for over a month. Each time that I’ve tried to write down my thoughts, I’ve gotten overwhelmed with the amount of complexity and emotion that I feel regarding those years (in fact this is my fourth attempt to write a coherent account of those 3 years of my life). The PC was a very complex and confusing time in my life and I have a very difficult time explaining it to people because there were so many levels of dysfunction that just sharing anecdotes could never fully explain the toxic environment we lived in. Up until the creation of this blog, I had thought that I was alone in my negative experience of the PC. For years I have kept silent about the psychologically damaging system that I lived with during the most formative years of my life simply because I thought I was the “defective cog” in a perfect system. There were so many rules and norms that dictated our everyday lives and it’s impossible to fully explain the atmosphere it created. If I was to write about every single damaging or strange rule we followed I would be writing a book not a blog entry.
One point that I want to make absolutely clear is that I do not blame Regnum Christi and the Precandidacy for every single hurt or mistake in my life. While the methodology of the Precandidacy damaged my sense of self and gave me an inaccurate picture of God, I am responsible for my actions. Everyone who entered the Precandidacy came with their own baggage, family backgrounds and weaknesses. Certain personalities reacted differently with the system of Regnum Christi and while one girl may not felt that she suffered apparent damage, other girls have suffered intense psychological and psychosomatic results. I believe that even those who had a relatively good experience within the PC may bear hidden wounds because the problems of the PC were systemic; it took a beautiful thing (generosity with God) and used it to mold us into robotic “Women of the Kingdom”
One of the fundamental problems with the PC was the fact that it took very wonderful virtues and principles of the Catholic Church and twisted them in order to manipulate us. Because of His infinite love, God does have a plan for each individual human being. But the concept of God’s Will was transformed into a label that was slapped on every single aspect of our lives and used to ensure our obedient compliance to the schedule, the directors, the norms, etc. However I do no blame any of my formators or the consecrated at all. They were especially integrated within the Regnum Christi mission and I know all of the things they told me were not meant to harm me; they were also following a set of rules. Some of our formators were as young as 21 or 22, they were barely adults themselves and had absolutely no training or experience in the formation of teenage girls.
Not every aspect of the Precandidacy was harmful or damaging. I am extremely thankful to have received an excellent education from several amazing teachers. There was also an incredible amount of international exposure and I was given opportunities to travel to places I would have otherwise never seen. During my time in the Precandidacy I was able to go to Rome, New York City, Boston, Providence and expand my cultural knowledge. But without a doubt the biggest benefit of the Precandidacy was the utterly amazing women that I had the opportunity to meet. I believe that Regnum Christi’s sole redeeming feature is the many holy, sincere and enthusiastic members that simply trying to live their lives according to God’s Plan. I have many fond memories of the times I did spend living with these absolutely amazing girls. But the fact that the institution wasn’t thoroughly evil only confuses the issue. If Regnum Christi appeared to be an evil institution with only evil fruits, people would reject it outright. But a glass of water that is only 75% poisoned is still poisonous, even though there were a few positive aspects of the Precandidacy, this did not outweigh the psychologically damaging ones.
Before I entered the PC in 1998, I was a chatty, outgoing and cheerful 14 year old girl. But within a month of starting school I started to talk about being sad and I walked next to walls with my arms folded, I rarely made eye contact and buried myself in books. I was very sincere in my attempts to be a faithful PC but I was constantly getting bogged down in all of the details and began developing a very scrupulous conscience.
Once I started 10th grade something switched in my mentality, I knew that I was utterly miserable and I wanted to go home. As I began to talk to my Spiritual Director about the possibility of returning home and how unhappy I was, I was constantly asked “are you being generous? Isn’t God asking you to be a PC? Wouldn’t it be so selfish of you to go home when you’ve been called to live this vocation?” Of course when I was faced with this thought, I felt obliged to stay. If God had called me out of thousands of girls to be a Precandidate, it would be so selfish of me to leave just because I was unhappy. I felt that by leaving not only would I be letting my formators down, I would be spitting in the face of God.
I begged my spiritual director to send me home, but she insisted that I had free will and I needed to make the choice. However, I felt the only option I had was to remain at the PC because going home meant betraying God. So I stayed. I began to “act out” in order to force my formators to send me home. I skipped classes and sports, I hid from the consecrated and read my books during meditations and study periods. Even though I knew that skipping all of these activities on the schedule was a sin and I was disobeying God’s Will for me, I was hoping that I would cause enough trouble that the consecrated would give up and send me home. If I was sent home, I wouldn’t be responsible for “abandoning my vocation” and I could finally go home with a clear conscience. But I was so convinced that my formators were the Will of God for me that I would constantly “depend” to them about every single thought I had (including where I would hide, so I constantly had to find new and creative places to hide). Once in a fit of conscience I apologized to my director for all of my infidelity and she suggested that I publicly apologize to the whole school for giving them such a bad example of a Precandidate. Thankfully I didn’t take her suggestion and opted to write individual memos to several PC’s.
After a whole year of misery and being repeatedly told that the Precandidacy was the will of God for me, I was abruptly informed that I was “poisoning the spirit of the Precandidacy” and putting several other girl’s vocations in danger. My formator implied that just because I had a conversation with a certain girl that she had started to skip sports too. I was horrified. I made the decision to leave even if I was abandoning my vocation because I was hurting my friends. I was told that I was such a danger that I should leave before final exams. When a PC leaves, we were not allowed to tell our friends about or decision or say goodbye to them. We typically packed our things and left after Mass. Once I returned home, I was seized with regret and immediately began begging to return to the Precandidacy. At the time my dad was running a Regnum Christi Retreat Center which allowed me to throw myself into apostolate as soon as I returned home. I was given work as a team leader for the girls club and I began work on a new apostolate that focused on chastity. I was very eager to help with anything that involved RC and I immediately focused all of my energies on helping the team of consecrated and coworkers that were stationed there. I gave talks, wrote schedules, balanced checking accounts, wrote financial reports and set up the filing and administration system for the new apostolate. During this time I was still petitioning the territorial direction for permission to return to the PC. All of my enthusiastic work for the RC section must have been noticed and I was given permission to return to the PC even though I was suffering health complications. It was almost unheard of for a PC to return to the school after leaving, in most cases once you left that was it. But thanks to my dedication, I must have been seen as an asset to the Movement.
I returned to the PC in the second half of 11th grade. I was ecstatic to be back in my beloved Precandidacy and I threw myself wholeheartedly into the schedule, school work and openness with my directors. Thanks to my health problems and the stressful lifestyle, I began to rapidly lose weight. My parents were never informed that I had lost over 20 lbs. in five months and that my skin had begun to take on a gray and unhealthy tone. I was told to eat a plate of candy at evening snack every night in order to help put some weight back on. I remember going to evening snack every evening and gulping down candy in silence wondering if they really thought a plate of jelly beans and chocolate was going to fix things. I was told at the end of 11th grade that I didn’t have a vocation and that I should go home. A big part of me was really relieved, I had given God the first chance, and I was finally in the clear.
When I returned home, my parents were shocked. I had lost well over 20 lbs and my face had a gaunt and drawn look to it. I was almost immediately hospitalized under the suspicion of an eating disorder, I tried to explain to them that I didn’t have a problem with body image, I simply wasn’t hungry. After changing my medication and my lifestyle I slowly began to return to a healthy weight. I expressed a desire to be a coworker once I finished high school and I spoke with my 3gf Spiritual Director about the possibility.
Every time I asked my spiritual director about the coworker program, I received a very evasive answer: “well we have to wait and ask the directors”. Slowly the deadline for the program passed and I still hadn’t received an answer, it was suggested that I should go see a counselor. Given my history with the Precandidacy and my difficulties adjusting to “normal life”, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I was diagnosed with depression with clusters of social anxiety and symptoms of OCD. I firmly believe that many of these mental health problems are a direct result of my time in the PC and the very psychologically oppressive system that I lived with.
When it became apparent that I would not be allowed to enter the coworker program, my depression became all-consuming and I turned my anger on God. After years of being told that the Precandidacy and the consecrated life were the highest vocation anyone could aspire to, I felt that I was inadequate in the eyes of God. If I wasn’t good enough to be a PC or even a coworker, how could I be worthy of God’s love? I had screwed up, big time.
When the PC discussion board opened, I realized I had blocked out 75% of my memories associated with the PC, so I’ve been tearing through my journals, memos, practical exams and assorted paraphernalia (yes, I’ve been toting around an enormous amount of PC stuff for almost 10 years) in order to figure out exactly what happened to me during this period of time. What I discovered was both sad and revealing. I found a journal entry that summed up my post-PC thoughts perfectly “Why do you hate me God? You don’t want me as a precandidate, a consecrated or even as a coworker. Why do you keep rejecting me? Do you love me? Why don’t you just kill me off and then you won’t have to keep toying with my life. I hate myself. Do you hear me? I HATE ME!!” The amount of self-loathing and despair was astounding. The system of RC was so preoccupied with fixing all of our little imperfections so that when I felt that I couldn’t measure up to the standard of RC perfection, I gave up.
I was unable to differentiate between Regnum Christi and God, in my mind they were one in the same. Frankly, I was suicidal. I was unable to relax among my peers and I turned to alcohol and drugs to take the edge off of my social anxiety and depression. I was also highly unprepared to deal with both relationships and attention from the opposite sex. Sex ed was almost nonexistent at the PC and was not geared towards those who would not be pursuing a vocation as a consecrated woman. The Catholic Church has such a beautiful view towards the vocation of women and sex and to not educate hundreds of young women about these truths was a grave disservice. I made every single stupid choice with the full knowledge that it was extraordinarily harmful to me and I felt that I deserved every single minute of misery. While I was a PC there were many whispered conversations (spoken under the guise of charity of course) that “so and so had left the PC and now she desperately needed our prayers because she was partying, pregnant, etc.” Faced with the rejection of RC and God and buried under a mountain of guilt, I had turned into “that ex-pc” and I felt more lost and alone than ever.
Despite my outright defiance and anger towards God, He never deserted me. While I never made an overt attempt on my life, I was living an incredibly risky lifestyle and a very large part of me hoped that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. If couldn’t be worthy of God, I couldn’t be worthy of happiness much less life. At the age of 19 I found myself pregnant with my oldest daughter. While I was exceptionally shocked and frightened about the turn my life had taken, I was profoundly grateful. Through the haze of my overwhelming depression I recognized that God was giving me a second chance at life by giving me this huge responsibility for a new life. I named my daughter Eliana which means God has answered my prayer. I knew that my daughter was the answer to the prayer I didn’t even know I was praying.
My journey has been incredible and no one can ever accuse me of living me a boring life. I am sharing these details of my life in the hopes that what I experienced can help others who may find themselves in a similar situation. I also firmly believe that the system that was put in place by Maciel is deeply flawed and psychologically damaging. As a direct result of my time in the Precandidacy I lost my faith for over 8 years and I only recently began to live my life as a practicing Catholic. I’ve suffered from strange nightmares about being trapped at the PC where I’ve been handed schedules, pushed into Spiritual Direction, being told to smile and cover up my sadness, etc. It is my hope that our stories will be heard by those who are recovering from their time in RC and those who are attempting to reform it with the guidance of the Vatican.
While it may be argued that my experience is dated because I left the school in 2001, I believe the dangers of the Precandidacy are far more than just “the schedule was too strict” or “we spent too much time in silence.” The schedule, silence, and strict dress codes were merely symptoms of a very damaging systemic problem. The very foundation of RC is based on deceit and manipulation by a very evil man, those who have lived through “Maciel’s Reign” will have a very difficult time rooting out these very hidden yet flawed thinking patterns. It has come to the attention of the former Precandidates that RC is still actively recruiting to the Precandidacy. Not only does this seem to be a sign that the culture of Maciel and his doctrine of recruitment is alive and flourishing, but it is grossly unfair to the prospective Precandidates. From what I understand the consecrated have made many changes to the PC program, they have more free time, they interact with the outside world a bit more, and they have “formation dialogue” instead of spiritual direction, etc. I’ve spoken with one of the consecrated who is still involved with the PC program and she seemed very saddened about the negative effects that I suffered. However neither RC nor the Precandidacy has publicly acknowledged the very damaging effects that hundreds of girls have suffered. The Vatican has urged the Legion and Regnum Christi to throw off the mantle of secrecy and lies that they have been practicing for so many years and to adapt an attitude of transparency. In order to heal from the past, the Precandidacy needs to recognize their flaws and attempt to make amends for them.
Continuing to recruit minors is irresponsible until Regnum Christi has completed their process of reform. If a house is suffering from crumbling foundations, doesn’t it make sense to repair and rebuild the foundation before inviting new members to live in that house? It is my sincere hope that many people will hear the voices of the former Precandidates and that Regnum Christi will take the appropriate action for the sakes of the current and prospective Precandidates.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tricia's Story

At 15 years of age, after attending many summer pre-candidacy programs, I
officially became a pre-candidate. I was eager to begin my formation as a young woman
whose sole purpose was to try to grow in grace and sanctity. With the eagerness of
youth, I threw myself into the program, divulging my thoughts and actions without
question in spiritual direction. And so began my discovery of Godʼs Will.
I was told to distance myself from those around me and to be detached from all worldly
things. If I felt the least attachment to clothes or the way I looked, I was told that I was
full of vanity which needed to be eradicated. If I questioned why we did certain activities
or even why they occurred at the time they did, I was told that was my deep-seated
pride which needed uprooting. The continual need to find fault with each and every
action and report my failings not only to my confessor but often to my spiritual director
and sometimes even peers created a deep sense of insecurity and self loathing.
The Regnum Christi Movement implemented several activities to find and express oneʼs
faults to the point of creating a scrupulous conscience. More importantly, the danger
that persists is that you begin to have a disgust for yourself. Especially for a child, this
can become the way that they see themselves their whole life. Combined with no
emotional connection to family or friends, and a life controlled by a strict schedule, many
turn to other ways of control such as bulemia/annorexia of which I began a battle during
that year. Never did we dwell on the idea that we should love and respect ourselves
because we are made in His image or that God loved us completely including our faults.
Instead we were asked to rid ourselves of our faults in order to be loved by Him.
! A vital flaw within Regnum Christi is the separation from the family. As parents,
we are entrusted with our children and they are placed under our authority and care. It
is very hard to find a parent who does not intrinsically love their child and want only
good for their child. The Movement sought to disrupt and usurp the natural parent child
relationship replacing it instead with a distrust between the child and his/her parent. For
me, throughout my childhood, I saw my parents sacrificing everything for my well-being.
Before they made decisions for me, I knew that they prayed and discerned Godʼs will for
me. As my parents, they were given the authority and grace by God to discern what was
best for me because they loved me. My parents could tell that something was not right
when I told them that I was certain that I was going to give my life to Christ as a
Consecrated. This would be the same concern any parent would have if your 15 year
old told you they were going to be married in a year. My parents told me that I needed to
come home for my last year of highschool before making that step. I wasnʼt sure what to
think, but it became very clear in spiritual direction. This was the moment when the
warning bells went off in my head. I was told that my parents did not know what Godʼs
will for me was. That they were trying to take me away from my vocation; that I should
resist their decisions. Iʼll never forget the clarity of my thoughts when this was
suggested. I knew I was my parentʼs daughter and under their authority. More
importantly I knew they loved me no matter how full of faults I was. They wanted what
was best for me and that was really Godʼs will. This was the first time I had resisted
anything in spiritual direction. Maybe it was because it was no longer me that was the
“problem” but my parents. It was easier to stick up for others than oneself.
The Regnum Christi movement is dangerous because they demand that you subject
yourself to the “will of God” as proposed by an inexperienced spiritual director who
cannot themselves offer more than the mind games they have been indoctrinated with.
This brings me to what I find to be a fundamentally divisive view within the Movement:
The idea that Godʼs will is not what makes you happy, but the ultimate sacrifice that you
have to do please Him. This idea rejects the fundamental Truth that God is Love. It
perpetuates the notion that we are bound by rules simply to avoid punishment and
misery. Godʼs will is not a path we are forced to follow, but a path that he presents to us
so that we can CHOOSE to follow to find the Truth and peace and ultimately happiness.
Yes, there are sacrifices, or crosses, that will happen along those paths, but God is
there to provide the grace to grow and be sanctified in them. The subtle distinction that
was never mentioned in Regnum Christi is that our vocation is not supposed to be a
cross. Choosing to be married or becoming a priest, nun or consecrated in itself should
be joyful and without the fear of being punished by Him if we turned away from it. I used
to think that being a consecrated or a nun would be the ultimate sacrifice, the hardest
thing in life. Therefore, because it was hardest and thus would be a cross, I needed to
sacrifice myself for Godʼs will. We are not meant to choose a life that will make us
miserable like virgins preparing to be sacrificed to a pagan god. God gives us a vocation
in which we can find happiness. It took years for me to finally realize that Godʼs will is
not to make you miserable. His will for us is a path to bring us closer to Him so we can
discover how much He loves us.
Finally, I have not been as affected by Regnum Christi as some others, but I have seen
first hand many who have suffered greatly. For this reason, I am writing this letter. I think
it is important to voice my story to make clear how the loss of faith and despair is a
direct result of the scandal of Fr. Maciel and other priests within the Movement and the
measures used to attain and grow the “kingdom” on earth. Regnum Christi deceptively
attaches itself to the church. Many people have pointed to “all the good fruit that has
come from the Movement.” That is not the way to look at it. Christ never said “ Just pick
out the bad fruit and look at the good fruit thatʼs left then youʼll know itʼs from Me.” No, if
He is truly present in an order, there can be only good fruit. I firmly believe that the good
that came out of our situations was Godʼs grace working and answering the prayers of
those young girls and boys, men and women, crying to out to Him to show us His will.
God can bring such good out of such evil. People can be deceitful, but God never can.
Strangely enough the greatest gift that I received from this environment of deception
was trust. I learned to trust in the only thing that does not change, God Himself. Over
the years, while I struggled to build up my confidence and regain a sense of self worth, I
could throw myself completely in the arms of Christ knowing that He would heal my
insecurities. He guided me through life to a point where I am happily married and a
mother. Finding Godʼs will in my life has brought its many struggles and will continue to
bring many more, but it is my ultimate joy in life as it is the path towards Him.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We have put two new pages on the blog - they're linked at the top.  One is a glossary of terms, which we will continue to update in response to your comments of confusion.  RC has it's own language.  The other page is an account of our ongoing effort to prevent the consecrated of Immaculate Conception Academy from recruiting young girls to the Precandidacy through Facebook.  Click over and check them out - both are worth your time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

If you'd like to do something to prevent Regnum Christi from marketing the Precandidacy to children, visit their Facebook page, Immaculate Conception Academy, and leave a comment with your thoughts about the school.  They're deleting any comments that don't construe ICA through the magically rosy prism of Regnum Christi, but why not keep them busy for a while, wearing out their backspace buttons?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

M's Story

This letter was given to Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi in Mexico City in February of 2010 during the visitation of the Legion. Bishop Watty also listened very patiently to my story and in a private aside, told me how sorry he was for what I went through. For personal reasons, I am withholding my name from this document as I do not want my life to be linked to Regnum Christi on the internet anymore, but I can be reached by means of this blog and will happily confirm my identity and the details contained within. I am so grateful to the other precandidates and consecrated who have shared their stories as it has filled me with great peace to know that after all these years we are finally supporting each other and able to say what we really think. I am sad when I think that we suffered so much in silence, isolated from each other by the rules regarding silence and not having friendships.
February, 2010

Your Excellency:
I have been pondering this letter for about a week since I knew I would have the opportunity to present this letter to you, and my mind began to fill with ideas and emotions. I have written so many stories about the pain and suffering Regnum Christi left in my life, an anguish so severe that I tried to take my own life. I’m sure you don’t have time to read the screenplay that I created to express in story form what I went through as a member of the Third Degree of Regnum Christi. Or the 150 pages I wrote about my “vocation story” while I was recovering from my overdose. Or the numerous short stories and articles that I composed in moments of therapeutic renewal. Long before I was convinced by the consecrated women that being consecrated was the only true vocation to happiness, I knew that my vocation in life was to be a writer. So let me poetically give you the numbers that may be the most effective way of expressing the depth of the loss and utter devastation that was my life as a consecrated member.
0 – the number of members of my family still in the Movement
0 – the number of consecrated who called me and wrote me to see how I was doing once I got home from Mexico. That is also the number of events they invited me to. I tried to start a Regnum Christi group at my college so they would include me, but after crying at one retreat, I never came back. My former directress, Pilar, did all that she could to help me, but I was bound by my Promises of Charity not to speak badly of my spiritual guide, even though I was being psychologically destroyed
0 – my clinical depression before consecration in Regnum Christi. During my second year, we were given MMPIs (the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) and made to draw psychoanalytic images. Not surprisingly, I drew a weeping willow tree, a classic symbol of depression, and my MMPI scores were higher than I ever saw when working in a clinical practice
0 – the amount of writing opportunities I was given as a consecrated
0 – the number of times I was able to come home while I was a consecrated member until I left
1 – the number of times I read the Statutes even though my then spiritual guide told me it was not necessary, that the ones about finances were not important to know. I also read the complete Manual of Principles and Norms and the lesser known Manual de Urbanidad which talked about how to walk, how to dress, how to hold one’s spoon, etc. We were told that all of those documents represented God’s will for us and were approved by the Church
2 – the years I spent in the Precandidacy when my Dad let me go after 2 years as I was so crazed by my supposed vocation and all the brainwashing I received about true happiness only being with “God’s Will” and their promises about their happiness that I broke a window
2 – the number of people I was allowed to say goodbye to when I left consecrated life. They were from another section and so they didn’t know I was leaving for good and I couldn’t tell them for “charity.” I just said, “goodbye” when they dropped me off at the airport. My directresses did not say goodbye or hug me either. One supervised my packing and never said anything like a goodbye or “I will miss you.” Another saw me in the chapel before I went to the airport and did not say a word.
2 – the number of my sisters’ weddings that I had to miss even though my family offered to pay for my trip as I was not allowed to attend as a consecrated member. One sister still does not forgive for not having asked for “special permission” to go. I was so faithful to the norms that I would not ask to be considered different from other members.
2 – the number of people I told about how suicidal I was as a consecrated: my spiritual guide and my Mom. My spiritual guide continued to emotionally abuse me by constantly picking on every weakness I had. My Mom told me that I probably had an illness called depression and it could be treated with medication and therapy. My spiritual guide was very angry and since my Mom knew I was unwell, they told me they had to send me home. In retrospect, that person was probably trying to follow the rules of the Movement, but they were harmful to me and left deep wounds on my psyche for many years that followed.
2 – the amount of people in my family who no longer consider themselves Catholic as a result of seeing horrible hypocrisy in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Yes, I am one of them.
2 – the number of years it took for the Movement to send me my transcripts from my years of formation so that I could graduate from college after leaving. I had to threaten to sue them before they would tell me where I could get my transcripts, and they tried to charge me exorbitant sums for what most schools consider a free service
3 – the number of children in my family that they managed to convince they had a vocation to the Movement or the Legion
3 – the Third Degree of Regnum Christi. We were told that we were like St. Claire to St. Francis, the modern “nuns” to the Legion. Please pay attention to these women who have always gone ignored and will continue to be ignored unless you hear their stories. Many of them are good women who have been brainwashed and used to become recruiting and fundraising machines
3 – the amount of vocations the Church lost from my family due to bad experiences with Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ
4 – years. how long I spent as a Precandidate and consecrated member
4 – the Private Promises that we made on August 22, 2000 in the presence of Fr. Anthony Bannon, L.C., which we also signed a form for
4 – 4.0 out of 4.0. my Master’s level GPA
5 - the steps of recruitment. I still remember them after 8 years. Friendship, Interest, Trust, Commitment, Surrender. Regnum Christi uses “redes” or nets to recruit people. They hide under other names and earn people’s friendship. Then, one piqued their interest in the Movement. Eventually, after one won their trust, one had to gain their surrender to “God’s will for them” which surely was Regnum Christi, because, as they explained, Regnum Christi was so wonderful. I spent many years in the Movement before I learned these steps as a consecrated. It was then that I realized I had been deceived and this was something totally different than what I had signed up for. I gradually realized I was being pressured to do 2 things – recruit and fundraise – and I had never wanted to do that with my life
5 – minutes. the average amount of free time we had in between each activity so that we were unable to have time to think or for self-reflection
5 – the years for which I endured traumatic flashbacks in which things that I had dissociated came back to me suddenly in a terrifying way
6 – the number of girls in my Precandidacy class who got consecrated. I think one might still be consecrated, but I am not sure. The rest are all out. One girl in our class was anorexic and the rest of the girls began to eat as little as possible. When she was in the hospital, I overhead the directress of the school telling the priest not to give her Communion unless she ate
7 – the age at which I remember the Movement first in my life
7 – the number of days I spent under medications after my overdose while the doctors saved my life. My life was saved because as I was about to die from internal bleeding, I received a picture in my head that I could not die because there existed the possibility that I could have a family and a happy life as a writer. Because of that possibility, I was taken to the hospital
8 – the number of years I have spent in psychotherapy recovering from the Movement, beginning at 3 times a week and gradually going down to once a week when I could hold off my depression that long
9- the age at which they began to recruit me. Please note that I was not at an age in which children have yet developed complex reasoning
9 –the number of years my brother lasted in the Legion
10 – the number of pounds I lost when I got the rotavirus after telling my spiritual guide that I didn’t understand how the Movement would fulfill its mission if all we did was work in schools and she told me that I was talking like an enemy of the Movement. My directress ordered me to gain back the weight over the next months but I was so depressed I was barely able to chew food
11 – the number of books of Green Volumes or Cartas de Nuestro Padre we had to meditate on during Evening Prayer
12- the age at which I felt called to the Precandidacy, or boarding school for girls discerning consecrated life
12- the number of spiritual guides I had throughout my time in the Movement. Often, it was pure torture because they were chosen for me, and only Maricarmen Perochena really liked me as a person. My spiritual guide during my second year of consecrated life emotionally abused me because of my “pride” until I became suicidal
13- the age at which my Dad allowed my brother to enter the Apostolic School after long disagreeing with Fr. Bannon, the then Territorial Director of the US, and the head of the Apostolic School about how boys were separated from their families as being non-Catholic in spirit
14- my older brother’s age when upon the story of another then-Apostolic they witnessed a Legionary at the bed of a third Apostolic at night
15 – the number of ReGAIN members, more or less, who comforted me and guided me when I was the Movement’s garbage and had no one to give me insight into my situation. I was given the equivalent of free therapy, many great friends, and healing
16 – my younger sister’s age when she spent a semester at the Precandidacy in Rhode Island
17 – my age when I made a spiritual consecrated approved by my spiritual guide in the chapel in Rhode Island
20 – the amount of visits I made to the Blessed Sacrament every day for which I was constantly sent back to clean my room and make my bed better because you can’t have both
24- my age when I accepted that I had been badly treated by the Movement and left to die of depression by them. I decided not to die, but to live and to find a new meaning in my life even though I could not imagine anything outside of consecrated life
26 – July 26, 2002, the day I flew home from Monterrey, Mexico so suicidal I could no longer think clearly, but so integrated into what being consecrated meant that I could not help myself from recruiting members on the airplane
28 – the number of days a year I was allowed to spend at home as a Precandidate. My Dad was especially upset that we were never allowed to come home until the day after Christmas
30 – the number of students that were in the 6th grade class I gave Spiritual Direction to in Monterrey as we started to recruit them to consecrated life. I feel guilty as I remember their names and their faces and afraid of what the Movement might have done to them in their futures
40 – the number of times I estimate that I wrote to Maciel in Rome over the years. I’m sure it was more, and I actually got some 4 or 5 letters back from somebody praising my fidelity. I often wonder what kind brother wrote that to me and what inspired him to feel pity for me
150 – the number of Aspirin I took on Sept. 11, 2003 when I could no longer bear the thought that happiness could never be mine as I was not good enough to be consecrated
500 – the cost of the airline flight home when I was suicidal which the consecrated ordered my parents to pay for. They gave me $50 to take in case I needed to buy food and instructed me to return the rest of the money and the suitcase upon my arrival to my home. They also looked over my clothes and books and told me what I could take home. I was advised to leave as many clothes as possible so other consecrated could use them and only allowed to bring back my personal journals and letters from Maciel. When I got back home, I had a mostly empty suitcase and no clothes to wear at home since I had last been living at home at age 15, and not a cent to my name. All of my savings had been spent as a teenager going to conventions and retreats.
2,000 – the amount of money I was expected to obtain as a consecrated to fund the mandatory trip to Rome in 2001
2,921 – the number of days in 8 years. how many nightmares I estimate that I have had since leaving consecrated life as symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder. I have one that I remember about once a week, so it would be safe to say that I have one every night during the other dreams that I don’t remember.
8,000 – probably a low guess for what my parents paid for my overdose hospital bills. I don’t know how much it costs to save someone’s life, but considering half of my blood was replaced, I guess a lot.
10,000 – a very low estimate as to the amount of money my parents gave to the Legion of Christ. If you count $5,000 a year for each one of us children, as what the Legion requested for school years and later as full-time members, it would probably be at least $60,000 USD. How much of that money was spent to fund Maciel’s sexual escapades or will be given to his sons? Did any of that money go to pay for our formation?
17,280 – an estimate of how much I personally have paid into 8 years of therapy plus gasoline and parking, plus all that my parents have put in. I would guess it surpassed $40,000. Try going to school full-time, working full-time while depressed, and paying living expenses, school, and therapy while it is a struggle every day just to figure out if you want to be alive. The consecrated told me I would not regret giving Christ the first chance, and he turned out to be a nice person, but I most definitely regret giving Regnum Christi the first chance in my life
? – the number of papers I signed when I left promising not to reveal secrets about the Movement and not to speak badly of it. At least, I think that was what it said but I was so suicidal I mostly just signed as I was incapable of understanding the forms
Thousands – the number of girls still involved with Regnum Christi and the Third Degree who are being used, brainwashed and manipulated into thinking their lifestyle is the only true way to happiness, that Marcial Maciel was a living saint who brought God’s message to them, and that Regnum Christi is the only true path to holiness for them. I hold constant sadness in my heart for these women and I can only hope that the Church may free them from this terrible situation.
Dear Bishop, I came out of Regnum Christi suicidal, depressed with dissociation and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am not alone. Many young girls have been tossed out of consecrated life like garbage, just as I was, and left without guidance, support, or any sort of help in creating a new life. I do not believe that I was called by God to that life. I believe that I was brainwashed from the age of nine, and that when they got what they wanted out of me, I was thrown to the curb. Please believe that this cannot be a work of God, and it is only from my own experience of the loving hand of God in my life that I still believe in him. However, I cannot ever return to a Church that knew about the horrors within the Movement and chose to ignore it for more than fifty years, long before I ever would have joined, and could have prevented me from ever suffering what I did. I cannot return to a Church where the Pope praised the Movement and Marcial Maciel so many times in public, which was crucial to my entering and believing in it, when the evidence about the group was so craftily being hidden. It is too late to win me back to the Church, but if you act quickly and deftly, you may still be able to save the faith of others.
Respectfully Yours,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Former Cosecrated

I would like to share one thing with all the former precandidates, if you are trying to figure out why you were treated the way you were, I suggest you give up and remember the following - your formators had NO TRAINING WHATSOEVER on how to help you be a better person, how to respect your human rights, how to develop your personal talents or help you discern a vocation. The only training they were given was how to get you to comply with the ideals and discipline and how to make you feel God's calling. We acted as if we were equipped for the task set out for us, and interpreted attitudes, family background, any silly thing into a psychological diagnosis, then used that to determine if you had a vocation or not. Those of you who were told you didn’t have a vocation probably did not feel the mold of the perfect 3gf or you weren't easy to brainwash - you thought for yourselves and were not "docile." If any of you had an obvious best friend, we got really scared and concluded you did not have a call. If you had a “particular friendship,” you would be asked to leave, or we would be overly strict with you so you would decide to leave on your own. We all definitely thought we were doing God's will. Sometimes something we said to a PC came directly from a vicedirector or director who asked us to mention it to a certain PC, sometimes we didn´t even know why, but we trusted. So, if you feel confused because you don't understand why someone treated you a certain way well, this might be 80 or 90% of your answer. No one saw you as an END, only as a MEANS to benefit the Movement and enlarge the numbers for the consecrated life. I know, things are changing, there are more humane rules, etc etc bla bla bla... I am talking about how it was THEN, before 2009 (maybe 2010). Formation for formators was offered after they had the job, not before, they were not tested to ensure they could carry out the task. The lack of training, the youth and inexperience of the consecrated who were charged with forming you, and the excessive power we were given, magnified our flaws and defects and you were the fallout. Just remember, there isn't, nor was there anything wrong with you girls, and don't worry if you can't solve the whole puzzle.
We had very clear guidelines on our role and on how to lead you, but authority was given too much power and too little responsibility. Everyone was taught to treat those in authority like little gods and never to question them, correct them or doubt them. That was unbalanced and made our defects, flaws, mistakes and egotism influence our actions and attitudes. No one consciously thought she was damaging the PCs, but I bet many of us did question if those means were right. Some of us even made suggestions of changes, but not even the director herself was listened to.
Every week we sent reports on human and practical matters about the PCs under our care to the vice-director. Every two months, we all put together a report the director sent to the territorial director, informing on each point of the yearly work program for the Precandidacy. And attached "particular cases" of PCs either because of their leadership as future formators or because they were trouble, or their family was trouble, or because we had questions.
Once upon a time, a territorial director came to visit. The topic of one of the meetings was that we realized we had divided PCs in 3 groups (accidentally): "future formators" (leaders, good recruiters or very obedient PC's who influenced others), trouble/issue/always sick/reluctant PCs and THE NORMALS!!! hahahahaha We realized we were not dedicating time or attention to the normals because we had our hands full with all the goals they gave us to form the FF and trying to make peace with the trouble PCs. So we had all these resolutions to attend to the "normals". Believe it or not, if you were on the "normals" list, you are probably not hurting much now, did not feel pressure to leave or stay, we did not worry if you never went for dependence and we did not inform much about you.
One thing I still can't understand is that there was never any sex ed! Perhaps this is why so many have had difficulties with sentimental relationships, emotions, dating and even husbands. Maybe you got that education later on - lucky you! Some left their home at 14 or 15 and went back at 18 or in their 20s. During that time many of your friends had their hearts broken, got sharper at dating, lost naivity and had helpful experiences regarding sexuality (some not helpful at all hahaha). And then the ex-pc arrives home and the whole guy thing gets complicated, she does not know how to handle it. I find the lack of sex ed at the PC and even 3gf life to also be one of the "damaging" aspects, even if we didn't clearly notice it. Some 3gf suggested to higher superiors to include some books on sex education during formation years. The answer was no, it was "imprudent" because, what if they got aroused while reading that information? (yep, my jaw dropped too when I heard the answer).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Frances's Story

Thank you to one and all who have shared your stories so far. I don't know many of you at all, and others I lived with for three years and still barely know--but I am truly grateful for this group bringing us closer together. Funny we've discovered more about each other over the internet in a month than years of living together.

I was at the PC for 3 years, I left after my junior year. I went to the PC as an escape from my home--my family had just moved, I didn't have friends, and I was depressed. My options were homeschool or PC, so I got the hell out of Dodge.

It's been absolutely amazing and eye-opening to me to think back to the insane life that was the PC. Yet, there we were, tucked back in there, us Russian Princesses and Nuns of Naragganset, better than our peers because we had chosen to give our lives to God. Those other mere mortals were living flamboyant and sinfully pleasurable lives; because wasn't life all about sacrifice and self-denial?

For a group that preached "universal Christian charity" it's amazing to think how much we judged any and all who weren't doing exactly as we were. "Oh, she must not be generous with God, she is going HOME". "Oh did you hear? So and so had fun/danced/got pregnant/etc etc." Seriously?! Who were we to judge or say what God's will was for someone else? We were better somehow for giving our lives to God, others who were called to vocations such as marriage were lesser beings, not capable of the love and devotion we chosen souls were capable of. The hubris of those thoughts disgusts me even as I write it.

That feeling of superiority was only escalated in those horrific team balances. I honestly can't for the life of me think of what could possibly have been said between us docile and charitable PCs, but I'm going to bet that absolutely everything that was said was petty and overly scrupulous. For what? To ruin the shred of self-worth we may have felt that week?

Everything was so calculated so as to look perfect, yet hearing the common themes of depression, eating disorders, and low self esteem rampant at the PC, that very façade takes on an eerily sinister note. I'm sure the majority of our parents thought they were doing us a favor sending us to such a "prestigious institution", yet what message were they getting? Clearly not an accurate one. The silence amongst ourselves only masked the truth, a show of happiness cleverly hidden under strict norms.

How is it that 80 girls could live so close together, do absolutely everything together for years, and yet know so little about each other? I think we were only allowed to speak a total of about 30 minutes a day, maybe less. The rest of the time we walked about like drones, taking in what we were told we could take in, nothing more, nothing less.

The very essence of what it means to be a human, to have the freedom to choose was taken away and put inside the tightest of boxes: the schedule. Every minute of every day was planned out, to the point that if you got constipated, good luck. Your free time didn't allow enough time to remedy that problem.

I remember one year after final exams, going outside and yelling FREEEEDOOMMMM (braveheart style) with a couple other PC's. We earned a intolerably long lecture about the inappropriateness of such behavior. We were teenagers, for Christ's sake.

Any type of creativity or originality was stifled under the pretext of "God's will", an all encompassing mandate I have come to loathe. A God who is a God of love would not want so many of us to be in constant physical and mental pain. I remember going to the doctor at one point, because I couldn't run on account of intense back pain. He told me he'd never seen a back so bad, especially on someone so young. "Why?" I asked. "Stress", he replied.

No kidding. The weight of constantly trying to achieve an unattainable level of perfection taxed our bodies to the max. I distinctly remember telling Heidi I was going to leave after the school year ended, and walking out of her office and down the long hallway. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I had no idea until that moment that something internal could be felt so dramatically, so distinctly.

It took a long time for me to realize after leaving the PC that it is perfectly ok, dare I say normal, to sit back and relax. I don't think there was ever time to unwind in our schedule. Instead we were frantically going from one thing to another, spinning the hamster wheel faster and faster not even realizing we were going nowhere.

I absolutely shudder when I think of the life I led in high school. I've blocked much of it out. All I wanted was a "normal" high school life, with crushes and dances and extracurriculars and freedom. I know I've rambled on, but there are a few things I'd like to make clear. One, I'm so grateful to know each one of you, as well or as little as I do. We went through a type of hell together, and lived to tell the tale. Thank you for your friendship and support. And two, freedom has become my life mantra. I'm a firm believer in doing what you want in life, and being HAPPY. Life is too short to live otherwise. I wish you all happiness in your lives.

I had a nightmare the other night that I was back at the PC, and was being shuttled from activity and prayer then more prayer and activity. Then I stopped. And said no, I won't do it. And just left. It felt almost as freeing as the day I actually did.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thoughts on Spiritual Direction

When I was there, in 2009, we had been told that the directors would no longer give spiritual direction. I didn't find out until later (not from the LC communique) that part of the indication, in keeping with canon law, was that we were to have freedom in choosing our own spiritual guides and that they didn't have to be from the Movement. When I was there, the spiritual guides were still assigned, and were from the same team of directors, even though your SD wouldn't be your personal director. Also we were to continue going to "formation dialogue" with the director, and there seemed to be no difference whatsoever between spiritual direction and formation dialogue. We were still clearly told in directives, etc. to tell the director everything in complete openness, and that spiritual guidance was just there from the Church as "additional support." We were also told in directives that there was no change in spirit, and that in practice what we had been doing with the director as SD was correct - we had just been using the wrong terminology and were to begin calling it formation dialogue. From my current understanding, that wasn't exactly what the Holy See meant when it sent the indication to change that practice... So I'm not sure that I would agree that it was "well implemented." In the Church, there is a clear distinction between the role of the director, in terms of obedience, and the role of the spiritual guide, and that hadn't been drawn in the Movement yet, and the role of personal freedom in choosing your spiritual guide had not been implemented, or communicated. It is possible that it has been changed further since the delegate took office, because I know one of his points of focus was the matter of conscience, part of which directly related to the SD/confession issues. 
*Spiritual direction has been reformed again in the last year, but many of us feel it is too little, too late.

Harriet's Thoughts

Thinking of the reunion and going back to see friends brings up something that has always really upset me about my high school experience. The idea/reality that we couldn't have "particular" friends. Don't get me wrong, I loved and liked everyone there... but in the real world people do have best/close friends. I believe I really craved a good close friend in high school. I can't count the number of times I got pulled into an office to be told not to hang out so much with one person or another. Those brief moments of escape...jumping on the back of moving vans with J and A, chatting during housework in the lab with C... those moments where I felt I could be a friend were moments I sought out and looked forward to. I guess not having a close friend just enforced the feeling of being alone which many other people have also described. Still a bit bitter about it when I look back at life there, but I also know a lot of the people I met are true friends even if we never really got to know each other or share our souls.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Elle's Story

Let me start by saying that my personality is one that internalizes everything and when I THINK of the memories from ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) I immediately recall all the emotions I was feeling at the time. Negative experiences tend to be more dominant, yet I would describe my 3 years at Immaculate Conception Academy as Heaven and Hell - there was nothing in between, I alternated between incredibly happy and incredibly miserable.
First I would like to say that I loved the exposure to an international setting. Formation-wise I learned a lot about character and human values. I think my ability to see the good in everyone I meet stems from the knowledge I have of personalities and living in close quarters with different types of people and cultures. 
Second, as we would all agree, the education, or at least the teachers themselves, were phenomenal! In my opinion, I think our teachers were an example of a different femininity: intellectual, free, strong personalities, wives and mothers and strong Christians. Quite healthy to be around!
Third, my biggest challenge in coping with RC/LC was that my gut was right all along and I allowed myself to be duped. I never liked Fr Maciel, never understood his letters, why he was glorified, why we meditated on his heart and mind, but regardless of my misgivings, I hopped on that bandwagon. I questioned norms and practices but I believed when I was told it was God’s Will. Which now takes me to my major beef and this is where personality comes into play. How dare anyone take underage, impressionable girls out of house and home and impose ARBITRARY, thoughtless practices and tell them it is God’s Will? Mixing eternal salvation and dish washing? I truly felt that God’s love for me and my self worth were in exact congruency with the responsibilities I had been given. Clearly, not the right environment for anyone that tends toward scrupulousness. I never acted out, I rarely disobeyed, my motivation was completely on guilt. If Christ died on the cross for me, shouldn’t I suffer as well?
Here is a little more detail of my story…I was a Precandidate from 2000-2003, As a spiritually sensitive individual, I ate up everything that was told to me, every standard, every norm etc. I “drank the kool-aid” so to speak or rather chugged it. From the young age of 15, I was always told that I would be a great member to the third degree (consecrated) and I was made class leader, team leader, sent on retreats etc. I'm sure the responsibility was given to me because it was easy to see I was putty. I would do whatever was asked of me, and if I couldn't do it, I felt like a failure and internalized everything. My senior year after a class trip to Mexico, I realized that I needed to make my own decisions and I would not get consecrated because it was someone else's wish for me. In Spiritual Guidance I said, "I think God wants me to go home." I was told to not make a decision so soon, continue to pray etc. I was so SOO nervous about this because I thought that if I went home without "approval" that it was disobedience, I would be damned to hell, turn away from my vocation, Rich Young Man, all that jazz. Another important thing to note was that my body could not function on its own, I was seeing a GI specialist to figure out why I had such violent heartburn, after the endoscopy I was diagnosed with GERDS and I was given the best medication available, and the doctor said most of his patients feel 90% better in three weeks. I was following every recommendation on the pamphlet, I was sleeping on bricks in the sense that my bed was elevated to a 30 degree angle, I ate snacks during the day and not meals to help with my digestion, I eliminated coffee, gum, ham and chocolate (yes chocolate!?!?!?!?). Meanwhile back to PC life, more Spiritual Guidance, more prayer, more me worrying about my life and God's plan and entertaining the possibility that maybe misery is what God wants for me. Days before graduation, I finally got the OK I was looking for in Spiritual Guidance, sorta..."If you think God wants you to go home I cannot stop you, but I see nothing impeding you from the consecrated life...and if you go home and realize it is not for you, you can come back to the candidacy" If I could hit the rewind button 3 times in my life, I would use it then and have so many colorful things to say. "You see nothing impeding me? How about that fact that I can't eat a meal without stomach bile being launched into my throat? How about I cry every time I'm corrected because I feel like a disappointment to God? Maybe the idea that I have no self esteem would be an impediment? Later I told one of the other consecrated of my plans and she was joyful and hugged me.  It was such a relief - I felt more comfortable with my decision and less like I had turned my back on God. Side note, this same woman would always be there to give me the boost that I needed. One time she very descriptively had me picture my worries and one by one knock them down with my bazooka or something very Rambo-esque. It was so refreshing to be around her humor and to know that she understood that I DID try hard.  What I needed was help to be an 18 year old girl, to step outside the introspection and to laugh at myself versus encouraging me to nitpick at my every behavior.
Finally going home, I thought was going to be an “apostle” and evangelize people, while working to afford college and try to live with my parents and family again. A topic for another day, but let’s just say I again felt like a failure and in some ways lived up to this expectation.  In my parents’ eyes I left at 15 and came how 3 years later still 15. We weren’t a good combination. By the way stomach ailments were gone within 2 weeks, and the doctor said it was "lifestyle" induced. I felt very lost not being able to see God’s plan for me in black and white, literally in black and white…at ICA our schedule for the day was printed and posted and we were told it was God’s will. I didn’t know how to deal with boys, dating, coworkers, college, drinking, drugs, or conflicts with friends. What was I good at? What were my strengths? (Don’t worry I had my weaknesses down, I could recite them in LITANY format) How do I balance a checkbook? How do I know what I am doing is right if I am not asking permission? Friends that understood my situation lived 3,000 miles away and the phone calls helped me get through. I was proud of myself for trying to make it on my own, to rid myself of the structure and rigidity of the Precandidacy but the emotional and spiritual marks still existed (exist?) below the surface.
Everyone knows that high school is the coming of age era filled with the joys and anguish of self discovery. The path of our past is made of stones that cannot be moved or altered (although by God I wish Doc Brown and his flux capacitor would take me back) all we control are the present and future and there with limitations. I could have been pregnant at 16, done drugs in high school, run away from home etc but I don’t know that. Instead I went to a small, all girls high school that I can’t describe to anyone unless they went there and I can’t think about without strong waves of mixed emotions. Many changes have been made to accommodate a healthy growing atmosphere for young girls but I don’t trust a well once poisoned. My way to self-actualization has been to leave aside the scruples, the ideologies and the religious agenda. I have been too disillusioned by Catholic leaders, leaders in Regnum Christi, friends and family members to give a sh*t anymore. Like all humanity, I believe that my purpose is to love and be loved…and I will have to do that in my way and in my time. I have to believe that God knows his sheep, that he knows me and wants the best for me even if isn’t very “close” to Him presently. I won’t be guilted into His arms.
Thank you to all that have taken the time to read my thoughts that I have never vocalized or said outside of a small circle. Maybe in some way it has helped you to identify in your life journey, I wish you the best and safe travels!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

M's Story

Before I joined the Precandidacy, I was a typical teenage girl beginning to get into a lot of trouble. By the end of my freshman year at the local Catholic high school, my life was wrought with constant lying to my parents, belligerence, sneaking out at night, boy stuff, you name it. I found myself at a summer camp after my freshman year, meeting Consecrated women and Precandidates for the first time in my life. I was adamant that I would not enjoy myself, but was won over by everyone’s joy, the atmosphere of charity, and I was lured into believing that the Precandidacy was the best school option for me. Two weeks later I was in the car with my parents driving to Rhode Island.
The struggle started almost immediately. The night I made the decision that it was God’s Will for me to stay in Rhode Island for school, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. It was the hardest decision I had ever made in my life, to leave my family, my friends, my life as I knew it, and adopt an entirely different lifestyle in the name of God’s Will. After the summer program, I spent three days at home to pack up, and drove back to Rhode Island for good.
The guilt was almost immediate, and what a heavy load to carry as a 15 year old. I was feeling guilty for the struggle, guilty that I didn’t entirely want to be there, guilty that I missed my family and friends and life as I knew it. I felt guilty for breaking rules like absolute silence in the halls, listening to my walkman at my closet, having my guy friends write to me under girl names. But I needed these outlets, little acts of rebellion, for my own sanity, because the rules were choking me. God’s Will in my life suddenly went extreme, and I didn’t feel like I could live up to it perfectly.
There are many wonderful memories of my more-than-three years as a Precandidate. These memories consist of the friendships with wonderful girls, outings that gave us a taste of freedom, pranks and silliness that kept our spirits alive; finding a personal relationship with Christ, who I knew loved me, Eucharistic Hours, beautiful singing in the chapel, and more. But there was an underlying darkness that enveloped my heart all through these years, and it choked me a little more tightly the closer and closer I got to the “big decision,” whether I would get consecrated or not. I felt alone, lonely, confused, weighed down by harsh restrictions, like a foreigner in my own body and my own soul. I was thrust from the carefree life of a teenager (one that I thoroughly took advantage of) to a life of interior distress that would tear apart even the most mentally tough adult.
I shared none of this struggle with my parents. I put on a brave face for the weekly 30 minute conversation and shared with them joys only. I lied to them and told them that I was great. I was worried about their response: I knew that it was hard enough for them to be so far away from me, but to know that I was struggling would have worried them greatly.
I remember many a night lying in bed telling myself that if I died, it wouldn’t matter. I would rather it that way. Some nights I begged Him to take me. Looking back at those nights of despair, I am horrified to think that the weight of my life, put on me by the harsh lifestyle of the Precandidacy, caused me to sink so low.
I was kept from my closest girlfriends (we were not allowed “particular friendships”) and this resulted in immense loneliness. Only years later have we all realized that we were strangers to each other, due to the deeply-entrenched secrecy that was part of the Legion’s and Regnum Christi’s culture. We were not allowed to tell each other of our doubts, sufferings, physical and spiritual and emotional wellbeing. We were to share nothing except with our spiritual directors, who had ultimate control over our wellbeing, much to our detriment.
I was unsure of my vocation, and was scared that I was being called to the consecrated life because the thought of it turned my stomach, to be so utterly controlled for the rest of my life. But I was also scared that I wasn’t being called to the consecrated life, because I had been told for so long that it was the happiest of vocations, it was the vocation for the elite souls, that the chosen ones whom God really loved were the ones called to be consecrated. So, if I was called to the mere vocation of marriage, did that mean that He really didn’t care much for me? That I was a mere cast-off and not of much importance?
My senior year I had to take a psychological analysis for entry into the Candidacy. My spiritual director (who also happened to be my superior) told me that the results showed that I was so proud, I could rival Satan, and that I would never get over my pride. I was absolutely crushed. I believed, starting at that moment and for years to come, that I was probably a case of predestination: into damnation. I carried this burden with me for years. It haunted me and, years later, was the subject of my spiritual guidance for years with a dear and holy Capuchin priest who helped me get past all the spiritual and psychological trauma left from my PC years.
The summer Candidacy program was not long enough for my searching soul, so I lived with the consecrated women for three months, from September to November, to continue my discernment. I lived their life and shared every aspect of it (which was just like living like a PC!). I was going to get consecrated on the feast of Christ the King. I called my parents to ask their permission, since I was still only 17 years old. My father told me to give him two weeks. During those two weeks, he visited the adoration chapel every day to discern my life for me. After the two weeks he called and told me that I should take a step back for a year so that I could have more objectivity in my decision. I was overjoyed with his decision, wise and holy man! I went to tell my Director/Spiritual Director, whose response was: “Well, do you have to listen to your father?” I was appalled! This moment really opened my eyes that there was something amiss in the way I was being treated. It sounded so familiar, to the story that was often told to us PCs by consecrated members, of the “brave and holy” consecrated woman who snuck out of her parents house to get consecrated, and had still not reconciled with them, but who knew she was living God’s Will within Regnum Christi. I knew that God’s Will would not work against my father’s discernment, especially since I was bound to my parent’s decision for me at age 17! At that point, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I packed up and left.
These are just small moments I’ve shared about my experience as a PC and Candidate. There are so many aspects of that life that culminated in a harsh, hostile, and damaging environment for most of us who experienced it. My parents trusted Regnum Christi to take care of their young daughter, to keep her safe during her formative years as a teenager. Unfortunately, for many, the psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage wrought from years as a PC has caused more damage than the “world” ever could have. I pray for healing and peace for us all.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sarah's Story

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences because they have really helped me to have the courage to speak up about my own experiences. I can’t express how wonderful it has been to finally confront the fact that the PC wasn’t really the heaven on earth I had thought it to be.

I graduated after being at the PC for four years. Then I was consecrated and lasted a grand total of 8 months in Mexico. When I look back on those years I have to say I lived in constant FEAR… In fear of making a mistake, in fear of getting in trouble and in fear of being disfavored in God’s eyes because I didn’t do his will. I thought that if I messed up or showed any rebellion that I would be considered unfit for the lifestyle and sent home… then I would be a failure in the movement’s eyes. Because of this fear I forced myself to put up with everything and never questioned authority but instead bottled up all my thoughts and feelings inside. To make matters even worse I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my spiritual director and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t connect with her AT ALL!! This consecrated was my spiritual director for three whole years…9th to 11th grade even though I told her on at least three occasions that I just couldn’t open up with her and wanted a different SD. I even told the director and was told it was God’s will that I open up to this consecrated and that if I pushed myself I would grow from this experience. I just remember making things up in spiritual guidance and feeling sooo sick before every SD. Every time there would be a mass SD change I would run to my chapel box thinking that maybe this was the day..but it never was…that is until my senior year. I remember escaping at times to the stairs leading from the science room/gym to the dorms and just breaking down in tears because I wanted so badly to talk to someone I could trust and be heard by someone. I tried confiding in other PCs but I was always reprimanded for going against “universal charity” and having special friendships. The minute they saw me becoming close to someone I got switched to another team, another housework, another table, etc.  It was definitely a very lonely experience. I still struggle getting close to people and it takes me awhile to feel that I can trust a person when I share my thoughts and feelings.

Lastly, I would just like to share a little bit about….Senior year.  I was also one of the “prune juice drinkers” AND on the special diets menu because of all the stomach problems I was having due to stress. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining other girls being in the library at 2:00am reading a book because they couldn’t fall asleep due to so much anxiety. For God’s sake we were barely 18 years old and were under sooo much pressure to make major life decisions!!!! I wanted so badly to do God’s will and was so afraid that if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t ever be happy again. My formators told me I had the qualities and there weren’t any “signs” saying it wasn’t for me….. so I got consecrated. Damn I wish I would have had the courage to say “no this is not for me.” It was only after crying myself to sleep for 8 whole months in Mexico that I was able to realize that, NO God doesn’t want me to be this unhappy and that he will love me even if I’m not consecrated. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of peace, joy, and freedom I felt when I realized this. That life was not meant for me and I know I’m a better person for making that decision…really the first decision I made for myself in the whole 5 years leading up that moment.