The Transfiguration & Nuns

I’ve spent much of the last month traveling around Northwestern Alaska with a co-worker who grew up Catholic. The other night, we were talking about her 1950’s Catholic school in small-town Washington. She remembers how the nuns ran the school—somber and quiet hallways, strict rules. I told her I had two nuns in my Catholic school; my 1st and 3rd grade teachers. She laughed outloud, really?!? As if a Catholic school without nuns was nearly unimaginable. The whole conversation made me remember a professor of mine who wondered if the difference between my co-worker’s Catholicism and my generation of Catholicism is the role of nuns.

I love nuns. And I love the idea of nuns. I love the role they have played in the modern history of the Church. I love the influence they had at my Benedictine college. I often wonder if I had been born in a different time and place, maybe I would have been a nun.

That same professor of mine suggested that nuns, perhaps more than anyone else, were the most poised for the changes of Vatican II. I agree. I think of Sr. Madeleva Wolff pushing for the education of nuns, how readily many nuns made the transition from habits to polyester suits, and the way so many orders restructured to be less hierarchical after Vatican II. Today, I think about the Sisters in Monroe, Michigan who decided to remodel their convent using green technology and earth-friendly supplies. And I think of the Sisters of Mercy I used to work for who decided that affordable housing was as much a health care issue as their urgent care hospitals. These women push the Church to grow in creative and innovative ways.

This week’s gospel reading is about Jesus taking Peter, James, and John out to a hill so that he could appear next to Elijah and Moses. I’m not much of a biblical interpreter; but think about this. It’s like Jesus was just bursting at the seams with who he was—look! I just can’t keep this story quiet anymore, guys. I’m the son of God!

It’s funny to me how we all burst at the seams with information sometimes. When I told my co-worker how much nuns fascinate me, she said, Are people really still becoming nuns? Of course! Last year, Time Magazine did a story on young women joining monasteries. And a friend of mine recently joined a Benedictine order in Minnesota and there is Sr. Julie with the IHMs in Michigan.If I had my druthers (and a ceaseless supply of funds!), I’d travel around interviewing young nuns—why are young women drawn to such an alternative lifestyle? What’s it like to be a young nun when most of your community members are twice your age? Young and modern nuns might be a part of Catholicism that’s bursting at the seams—a story to be told!


One Response

  1. Notice that all of the convents listed are fully-habited orders. just a thought.

    The orders that are busting at the seams are also the ones who pledge radical faithfulness to the Holy Father and Mother Church’s teachings.

    I guess you know a good tree by its fruit, huh?

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