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.

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3 Responses to “I Always Knew the Nuns Were Cool”


  1. […] 18, 2010 · Leave a Comment This, from Sis. Susan (another Sis. Susan, not me, I promise), at My Political […]

  2. Bob Smith Says:

    What a nice recollection of childhood while I applaud the nuns and their faith I also would ask you to look at people like me who were brought up to believe that to do good for others was part of life and didn’t need religion, my mother never taught us religious ideology only life’s ideology.
    My father was killed in the war but she had no animosity towards the German people.
    I fought a war in the Far East but through her never hated the people I fought.
    You know we all need to get along and enjoy life, me for the time I am here you for eternity.
    Bob

    • sgaissert Says:

      Bob,
      Thank you for the very important and intelligent comment. Actually, I am not a practicing Catholic. After a childhood spent in Catholic school and church, I went on in life to learn what you know: that religion is not essential to doing good. I always had problems with the ideology growing up, and letting it go brought me great clarity. Ironically, my admiration for the nuns was one of the few positive things I took away with me from my religious childhood. All my best wishes to you.
      Susan


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