Monday, March 16, 2009

Sisters of a Certain Age

These days the only place I see nuns in habits is on EWTN.  And, except for a couple that used to have classrooms at Holy Cross School, EWTN the only place I ever hear of nuns actually teaching school.

Peony Moss of Pansy and Peony - The Two Sleepy Mommies has noticed the same thing ...

Much talk in the Catholic blogosphere about the announcement of an apostolic visitation to religious communities, and of one snippy Sister's response. For some crazy reason, I can't help thinking that Sister Snippy's community hasn't welcomed any novices in a while.

Then there are all the other stories about Sisters of a Certain Age who abandoned their habits and their community life. Some of them left teaching or nursing behind; they felt called to Be Prophetic, which meant talking about how Prophetic they were, and maybe beating on railroad tracks with ball-peen hammers. Others might have stayed and are now school principals or hospital administrators, but their sisters are either also in administration or are retired. None of their sisters are still in the classroom or at the bedside. Some of these Sisters of a Certain Age have been reflecting on how Their Mission is Complete or Our Order is Moving Into a New Phase, which to the cynical might sound like happy-talk for We Have Had No Vocations Since The Ford Administration and We Need To Sell Our Land to Pay For Our Retirement.

Yet, strangely, there are still sick people that need nursing care, and children that need schoolteachers. There are still poor people. And, for whatever reason, the orders of Sisters that used to serve them have withered away.

Read the rest here.

13 comments:

CPT Tom said...

The sad fact is that these habit-less Sisters don't even seem like they're very happy. They usually are bad tempered or they just are not that good at the job they sold their charism for. The

Now, having had the opportunity to recently actually meet Sisters in habit (Sisters of Life in NY Archdiocese and the Benedictines of the Abby of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT) I can say there is a stark contrast. Light seems to radiate around them, the gloom parts and when you talk to them they seem sure and quite happy where they are. They know what they are doing is God's work. They smile quite a bit too. It is such a contrast to the sisters I see here in DOR.

Mike said...

CPT Tom,

I haven't yet had the blessing of meeting any of the sisters you describe, but I am certainly impressed by some of their stories.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are one example. From a recent article in The Catholic Moment:

"The community, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is only 11 years old. It started as an offshoot of a large convent, with four nuns, but it has grown to 85 sisters. Their average age is only 28, more than 40 years younger than the average age of all women religious in the United States."

Also, the order is in the process of building a motherhouse large enough for 100 sisters in just that one location.

That can only be the Holy Spirit speaking.

LarryD said...

Mike - I'm familiar with that order here in Michigan (I blogged about them last year here) - and they are teaching in the Spiritus Sanctus Academy schools that are out here. I believe they are expanding in Phoenix as well.

Dr. K said...
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Mike said...

Larry,

They were simply the first such order to come to mind, I suppose because their mother superior is a frequent guest on various EWTN programs, such as Life on the Rock.

CPT Tom said...

Dr K.

Haven't met her, but we had a Sister Joan down here in Corning who always seemed to have a scowl, especially if you expressed any orthodox tendencies.

Mike,
The sad fact is before I came here to DOR 4 years ago, most of the Sisters I met were habited, the ones who weren't clearly were in the minority. I am not used to whole orders being out of habit, and so much a source of heterodoxy that the sisters here in DOR seem to be. If I am wrong, PLEASE correct me, because I have had to go to confession more than once after my encounters with them.

Any of the sisters I've met from the newer orders like the Sisters of Life (started in the early nineties by Cardinal O'Connor) seem to be in such a different place than these grim sisters.

Mike said...

CPT Tom,

When I was a kid growing up in the Rochester area of DOR (1950s thru mid-1960s) the largest orders were the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of St. Joseph. There was also a smattering of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and, of course, the Sisters of Charity were running St. Mary's Hospital.

Those first three orders were all involved in teaching school and I cannot remember a single case where one of those nuns was anything but a teacher or maybe a school principal. And, while a few of them were occasionally grumpy, I never had a single doubt as to their collective orthodoxy. They all taught - and lived - the authentic Catholic faith.

I went on my 30 year hiatus from the Church in the mid-1960s and all that fell apart in my absence.

I've occasionally ran across references to books that supposedly explain and analyze their decline but I've just never had the interest to get one and read it. I know there were massive defections starting soon after Vatican II, but what actually triggered them and what left our current collection heterodox quasi-religious in place - and in charge of their orders - is a mystery to me.

Dr. K said...
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CPT Tom said...

Oh. I remember her from my daughter's confirmation. She's most unpleasant, sort of an aura of angst and greyness. Certainly not some one who radiates the light of faith or joy in it.

These women are all so sad. Burned out ashes that wither everything they touch.

Mike,
Not sure what happened in DOR...but the most famous Collapse of an order is what happened in the 60s - 70s to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The IHM were some of the best school teachers nationally and were very well educated to boot. Someone got it in their head to have "lay change agents" (Psychologists) such as Dr William Coulson to encounter group therapy techniques to get the nuns ready for the renewal. The sisters overtime collapsed as a orthodox teaching organization.

This is covered in the book "Sisters in Crisis." This book covers the collapse of woman religious in general.

Btw, A chapter house of IHM in Wichita Ks (hey, isn't that the diocese that Catholic Education is free?) survived and are still a teaching order. They apparently separated from the IHM order early in the 70s. They seem to be doing just fine. see them here:
http://www.sistersihmofwichita.org

Mike said...

CPT Tom,

The Diocese of Wichita has 39 Catholic elementary and high schools serving some 11,000 students and, yes, all Catholic students attend for free.

If I counted right, the Wichita IHM's are now teaching in 6 of those schools. They look to be a growing order, as they added their 5th school about 11 years ago and the 6th just 4 years back.

Isn't it amazing what orthodoxy can do?

CPT Tom said...

Agreed. It's also amazing what unfettered heterodoxy can do. The DOR would not would be in the shape it is in with out the damage that the habitless sisters and their fellow travelers have caused.

Mike said...

Amen, brother. Amen.

Dr. K said...
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