The Secret Life of Nuns

The writer stays with the Dominican Sisters of Houston and learns about the life they lead and the work they do:

“‘I think a lot of them want some kind of sign,’ Pat says of the choice to wear the habit. ‘They want people to know.’ She also cites ‘that romanticism,’ as in (and this almost makes me blush) ‘those old nun movies, you know, all that parading around looking the same.’ The cloister was never an attractive choice for her, as it wasn’t for Carol or most of the other Houston Dominicans. ‘Some say we can be in the world but not of the world,’ she says. ‘Well, that’s not the way Jesus worked. So we like to be a little bit more involved here—and freer.’

“The active Dominican sisters who stuck it out after Vatican II—particularly of the generation now in their seventies—were drawn deeper into the social activism the order’s women are known for. It’s something I see in action over the course of the week. I accompany Sister Ceil, the Dominicans’ ‘promoter of justice,’ to a grassroots press conference announcing an immigration rally (Ceil also represents the sisters in the fight against sex trafficking, and at death-penalty vigils at the state penitentiary in Huntsville); and I visit Sister Maureen at Angela House, the transitional center she’s set up for women just exiting prison (a former cop and counselor, Maureen also works with victims of sex abuse by clergy). I also learn about the Dominican sisters’ long history of political engagement. Back in 1987, they declared the motherhouse grounds a public sanctuary for El Salvadorian refugees, potentially risking prison themselves for harboring illegal immigrants. And over the last ten years, Dominican sisters in Colorado and Michigan have done prison time for breaking into nuclear facilities and spraying them with blood in protest.”

Author: Alex Mar
Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 5, 2013
Length: 49 minutes (12,273 words)
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