Sister Andree Fries stood at the blackboard and taught
seventh-graders in the 1960s. This fall her "classroom" includes
the White House, the United Nations and, yes, even the Vatican.
She's talking about combating racism, preserving the earth and
granting rights to women and children.
Policy makers aren't a captive audience like school kids, but
they listen to her because the Chesterfield nun has the mandate of
88,000 Roman Catholic American nuns. She is the new president of
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Three weeks ago, Fries, 53, became what might be called
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 965 superiors general of
communities, who, in turn, each lead scores of mothers superior.
Following them in the ranks are women university presidents,
teachers, hospital administrators, nurses, doctors, lawyers, social
workers, parish administrators and scores of untitled American
Mother Teresas serving the poor. The group shares leadership
experiences and new ideas, and it uses the might of its numbers to
press for social justice.
"This is the equivalent job for sisters that Archbishop (John
L.) May had for diocesan priests when he was head of the Bishops
Conference," Fries said in an interview this week in the family
room of her two-story Chesterfield convent.
Fries is in her second term as superior general of the Sisters
of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Mo., the third-largest
group among the 3,400 Catholic religious women in the area. She
will continue to live in Chesterfield while running the national
conference but will be plugged into the organization's Silver
Spring, Md., headquarters through her computer service and fax
"I'm a real techie," she said. When she communicates on the
Information Superhighway, she's Andree.
By E-mail she is pushing for the United States to ratify the
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks education,
health care and nutrition for children.
"I don't understand why the U.S. is such a laggard on this
issue," she said. The U.S. stands with Saudi Arabia, Singapore and
many countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Twenty-four
more countries must ratify to pass the measure.
Women religious at the national meeting in Chicago last month
told Fries to find out why. Backed by nine staff members at the
conference's Silver Spring headquarters, she will push Congress and
the White House to act. …