The Association of Contemplative Sisters is a network of three hundred women whose purpose is to foster, nourish and support the contemplative journey of its members. Past President Ginny Manss explained, “Its primary purpose has been to be an association. Its business is isness. One of its original goals, the one that has endured through the years, is to nourish the contemplative dimension of women (primarily) and men.
The ACS was organized in 1969, at that time drawing members from at least thirty-five different Catholic orders of contemplative religious women. In 1986 laywomen were accepted into full membership. Today ACS is comprised of sisters in monastic and other religious communities, married and widowed women, single laywomen, consecrated virgins, hermits and women in lay contemplative communities.
There is a spiritual range and diversity among the members of ACS. Some are newly acquainted with the contemplative dimension of life and are seeking ever-greater depth and understanding. Other members have spent the major portion of their lives on the contemplative path and, subsequently, are enriching others through their own example and through their writings and teaching. The variety of ministries among the members is as numerous as the members themselves.
All are united in one unique way. Each one seems to place above all a priority to live out with all of the depth of one’s being a full response to one’s contemplative call, a willingness to see and respond to life with “different eyes.” This focus, however it may be expressed or manifested outwardly in members’ lives, creates a tangible example and support for new members.
ACS has always expressed openness to other religions and welcomes the sound and proven riches of other contemplative traditions. It is open to exposure and depth from our own varied Western contemplative traditions and techniques of prayer but also those from the East as well. “ACS is distinctive,” former president Ginny Manss reflects, “in that it has a foot in the lay world as well as the monastic world. It is a reality where those two worlds can come together and be as one.”
The Association is divided into four geographic regions across the United States and Canada, and further subdivided into local clusters. There is a national ACS newsletter published quarterly as well as quarterly regional newsletters. In addition there are regional telephone chains to keep members informed of current news and information.