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2009 Conclave of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
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2009 Conclave of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

by James Whitely - SGN Contributing Writer

'Oz was the best night I've ever spent at The Cuff,' said Sister Dawnna Creation of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Abbey of St. Joan.

Much more than a party, Oz was a culmination. It was the official closing celebration for the 2009 International Conclave, an annual gathering of Sisters from the U.S. as well as around the world.

The Abbey of St. Joan hosted the Conclave, which took place July 14-19 in Seattle. The local Sisters put huge efforts into putting the Conclave together and getting all their Sisters here. The 2009 International Conclave was three years in the making; in the end, all parties involved agreed it was a complete success.

Sisters came from far and wide - there were representatives from 10 different orders. According to The Abbey of St. Joan officials, there were 80 sisters in Seattle over the course of the week, including one sister from Munich and two from Les Soeurs de la Perp├ętuelle Indulgence, Couvent de Paris, the Paris chapter.

The Conclave kicked off with a "Beach Blanket Baptism" at Madison Beach. Nearly 35 fully professed and novice Sisters were baptized. The baptism was as a voluntary chance of "cleansing for the Sisters" and served to honor a tradition of the Abbey of St. Joan. Thirteen years ago, on July 14 (Bastille Day), the five initial members of the Abbey of St. Joan went to Madison Beach to be cleansed. The date is also where the name of Seattle's abbey derives from, to honor St. Joan of Arc.

After the baptism, the Sisters then gathered for workshops over the course of the week. One of the more unique workshops was "Sister Spirituality," a personal favorite of Sister Right Sarong, visiting from Nashville. The intention was to get sisters that were grounded in some sort of spiritual belief - be it Wicca, earth energy, or sexual energy - to discuss and enlighten each other.

A number of workshops focused around fundraising, applying for 501(c)(3) status, and outreach programs. The workshops, which ran like seminars, were aimed at mutually benefiting the local Sisters and the visiting Sisters, as well as demonstrating how the Abbey of St. Joan operates. It's important to note that although the Sisters are an international organization, each order operates independently and has their own way of doing things.

On July 17, the Sisters hosted Wicked Lashes at R Place, a combination of the nightclub's drag queens and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence cabaret.

"It shows how much we have built a bridge of trust to the community," said Seattle Sister Cynna Mankind.

It was a stunning display that was intended just as much for the visiting Sisters as it was for the community that our abbey clearly loves. Mother Innocenta from Paris, Sister Right Sarong from Nashville, Sister Shirley B Medicated from Tampa, Florida, and Guard Moe Cock from Los Angeles all told me how excited they were at the party and how much they'd enjoyed the Conclave.

Mother Innocenta, who's been with the Sisters for 11 years, was acclaimed the Mother of the Couvent de Paris by her fellow Sisters. The order works largely around the LGBT nightlife scene in Paris. Mother Innocenta said she had a lot to take back with her from the Wicked Lashes party.

"Seattle is a city in which people are welcoming you. I feel very, very happy tonight," Mother Innocenta told SGN.

Sister Dawnna Creation, a local sister for 10 years, echoed Mother Innocenta, saying, "Sisters in Paris have something different to take home."

Wicked Lashes was an unbelievable party put on by an unbelievable group of beautiful people. Sister Faye Laetio's cover of "Flower" was particularly stellar.

But the July 18 Oz party was even bigger.

Guest DJ Chi Chi LaRue donated her time and celebrity for the dance party, which began around 10 p.m. and lasting far beyond last call. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Abbey of St. Joan started off the night right with a grants giveaway of $16,000.

"It's exciting to give the community their money back, it warms my heart," said Sister Cynna Mankind, with her hand on her heart.

Three people were granted sainthood at Oz. Chi Chi, local drag star Aleksa Manila, and the SGN Editor George Bakan were sainted. It is a wonderful honor for those who serve the LGBT community in their own capacity. Among those sainted in the past are Harvey Milk and Harry Hay, co-founder of the Mattachine Society.

"Saintings are always public rituals," said Sister Dawnna Creation.

Those sainted are typically asked to perform three miracles: create fire, walk on water, and be in two places at once. It's certainly a sight to see, so don't miss the next one.

All in all, the Conclave was a huge success. Sister Dawnna said it was a fantastic Conclave, and that everything went according to plans or better.

"It's a pleasure to expose other Sisters to the way we operate in Seattle," said Sister Cynna Mankind. "Plus, they're just beautiful."

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