AVE MARIA — A group dedicated to calling women to religious service has been ordered off the Ave Maria University campus after one nun in the group was accused of “immoral conduct.”
The superior sister in the Spanish religious group Home of the Mother was recalled to Spain in March, according to the university, after she was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student. According to an initial story on community news website AveHerald.com, Sister Maria Elena was accused of having a sexual relationship with the student.
University President Nicholas Healy would not confirm that detail, but said the university is simply referring to it as “immoral conduct between the religious sister and a female student.”
The unidentified student was not a minor at that time, Healy said, and she is still enrolled at the university.
Sister Maria Elena was, prior to her removal, a teacher at Donahue Academy, the primary school in the town of Ave Maria.
The purpose of the religious group, also known by the Spanish name Hogar de la Madre, was to help women at the university determine their religious calling. Since August 2004, the small group of nuns headed up the religious discernment center for female Ave Maria students interested in the religious life.
The Home of the Mother group has been on the AMU campus since the 2004-2005 academic year – the school’s second year in Florida. Its nuns, familiar for their all-white habits, have been running the university’s Women’s Discernment program, which helps young women determine if they have a calling to the religious life.
Two Home of the Mother priests, Fr. Colum Power and Fr. Henry Kowalyck, have also resided on campus, celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, organizing retreats and providing spiritual direction.
The Home of the Mother is a Vatican-sanctioned “Public International Association of the Faithful” but is not an approved religious order like the Franciscans or the Dominicans. It was formed in the early 1980s in Spain and its website says there are more than 100 sisters currently in 10 countries around the world.
The group has drawn both strong supporters and detractors in their time at Ave Maria, with some people admiring them for their evangelical fervor and others denouncing them as controlling and cult-like.
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