A nun who helped plan the controversial Call to Action conference of the U.S. Catholic bishops last year in Detroit gave credit to sisters for pioneering the church's social services, and suggested they should now lead the way to develop social justice.

Speaking to some 500 nun-delegates participating in the National Assembly of Women Religious (NAWR) convention, Sister Margaret McCafferty, PBVM, said that "whether or not we move into the '80s with a Catholic community fully aware of its responsibility, fully committed to justice, depends heavily on us who gathered here."

She told members of the grassroots nuns' organization that it was the sisters who made the most significant contribution to the Detroit social justice conference by pushing and prodding their local bishops into sending delegates to the "Liberty and Justice for All" program.

Sister McCafferty, current director of the Catholic Committee for Urban Ministry and a former program coordinator for the Bishops' Bicentennial committee, said the Detroit conference was "a brief moment in the life of the church," but it did accomplish some things.

First, she said, "it surfaced an agenda of issues that we know Catholics care about, ranging from family life to disarmament . . . Second, a Call to Action gave us some practice in a new way of being a church, a way Christians of the New Testament times might have been more familiar with than we are."

Detroit also taught that "the problems of poverty, aging, economic exploitation, sexaul minorities, and war and peace are no longer abstract distant issues but human problems, measured in years of suffering and subject to solution through human effort," she said.

She said the church is confronted with making "successful Catholics into caring Catholics willing to challenge a system that has been good to them but that grinds both life and hope out of others."

In their resolutions, the NAWR delegates objected to a new draft of Catholic canon laws for religious because "grassroots American sisters" had not been involved in developing the document. They supported the Sisters of the Previous Blood in their suit against Bristol-Myers, Inc., that claimed misrepresentation in Third World sales practices relative to baby formulas.

The NAWR delegates also agreed that the organization would not hold anu of its meetings or conferences in states that have not ratified the ERA, and they called for an "immediate moratorium" on the building of nuclear generators and export of nuclear technology until problems of negative health effects and disposal of waste materials are solved.

NAWR also supported Sister Elizabeth Candon, who heads the social services agency of the state of Vermont, in her efforts "to assure economic justice for the poor women of her state." Sister Candon has been embroiled in a dispute withher bishop over the state's abortion policies for poor women.