I Always Knew the Nuns Were Cool
March 17, 2010
I spent nine years with the nuns. Sister Mary Hugh, Sister Josephus, Sister Laurentine: very old-fashioned names, for very traditional women. But being traditional and strict and wearing an outfit that most women would consider a form of torture did not preclude being cool. I always believed the nuns knew what was really happening in the parish, while the priests mostly seemed like guys who gave you the glad hand on special occasions and couldn’t wait to get back to the rectory.
The nuns taught me a lot, and they taught by example. Sister Lee Ann (the names got hipper as the nuns got younger) was the first person who ever told me a Bible story and made it sound as if it had something at all to do with real life.
Sister Mary Carl loved music, and she celebrated it with every child she taught.
Sister Judith dyed the little patch of hair that stuck out of her wimple red; she taught me that all people could be vain, even nuns.
My nuns were the Sisters of Mercy, and they made me want to be merciful. They led lives of showing mercy. My principal, sister Mary De Secours, waived my tuition for several years because my father was disabled and we lived on his Social Security disability check. Talk about social justice; the nuns breathed social justice.
And now, today, I read that the nuns—the very cool nuns—are in favor of the health care reform bill. According to The Associated Press, nuns are defying the bishops by claiming—correctly, I might add—that the bill due to be passed this week will not subsidize abortion and will help pregnant women.
Once again, the nuns know what’s happening with the people, and the priests are in the rectory. As Anna Quindlen said,
I think I’m a liberal because I was raised a Catholic, with a sense that you had to be fair to other people and that you had to help take care of people who were less fortunate than you were, and that everyone was sort of your neighbor and you had an affirmative responsibility toward them, and I think that sense of family and community that grew out of knowing that we were all part of this together and that we were related by religion.
The nuns get it, where faith and politics are concerned. I’m proud to have known them.
Thanks to Roxanne and Mary Ann for helping make this post possible.