The population of nuns in the United States has dwindled to less than 60,000, and just 12% of them are under the age of 60. With convents closing down, sisters are left to fend for themselves: The Catholic Church covers retirement funds for priests, “the sisters have no such safety net. When their orders run out of money, that’s it.”

“‘Why would you want to be a nun if the archdiocese is going to treat you like they do?’ Ann Frey at the Wartburg said. ‘Their whole lives they’ve been obedient and done what they were asked to do, and now nobody is helping them?’”

“Neil Burke, a 24-year-old who spends a lot of time with the sisters at the nursing home, feels the same indignation. He could be volunteering with priests, but he doesn’t like them much. ‘If they need anything, they ask and just get it,’ he said. Instead, he’s compiling an oral history of the sisters at the Wartburg that will hopefully be completed by 2016. He can list the ways women are mistreated by the church off the top of his head: ‘They can’t give homilies, celebrate mass, consecrate the host, or become priests.’”