Three Nuns, Three Different Ways of Serving

The lovely and tireless Sr. Mary Catharine of The Dominican Nuns of Summit sent this my way, and I knew I had to share it with you, particularly in light of all the “nun news” and the sometimes caustic remarks people can make about sisters whose communities are not habited. No one appreciates a good old habit better than I, but I know too many good, faithful sisters in streetclothes to get all uppity about it.

I can’t embed the video that accompanies this article from the Statesman, but you will love it, both for the richness of the voice of the nun-chantress and for the charm and joy of the Carmelite nun featured, Sister Mary Theodore Therese, who is lit from within and looks nowhere near her reported age. As today is an important day for the Carmelites, I am doubly pleased to link you to it.

You’ll like the piece itself, too, which examines the lives of the cloistered Carmelites — one of whom found her way to the monastery after a stint in the military and two tours in Iraq — and two sisters with active apostolates:

A cloistered nun. A hospital president. An advocate for low-income communities. These contrasting roles describe the lives of three nuns with Austin connections.

The first, Sister Mary Theodore Therese, decided to become a nun while living in Austin; the other two, Sister Teresa George and Sister Ane Monica Nguyen, currently work here. Though the external lives of these sisters are distinct, their inner lives are all distinctly human and squash stereotypes.

At first glance, Sister Mary Theodore Therese is ageless. Small, wire-framed glasses sit on her nose. Her smooth face is cut in half by fierce cheekbones. Only the cropped gray curls that peek out from under her black habit hint at her 60 years. Sister Mary Theodore Therese came to her faith early, seeing flashes at age 7 of God calling during a service by evangelist Billy Graham. Throughout her life, following that faith remained her only constant during her frequent changes in cities and careers. By 54, a pattern of “faith, action, faith, action,” brought her to the Our Lady of Grace Carmelite Monastery in Christoval, where she immediately inquired about their cemetery plot, knowing that “this was the place I was going to spend the rest of my life.”
Sister Teresa George, chief operating officer of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and a Daughter of Charity, describes herself as a “hot-blooded Lebanese extrovert” with a temperament like that of a matchstick: quick and flaring. She also curses frequently, “which is inconsistent with my values,” she says in her office. “I try. But that’s my human-ness. I can’t stop.”
Before she joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Ane Monica Nguyen broke hearts in Vietnam. It was 1975, in Saigon, under communist rule. Gossip blazed like the summer heat: Marry a member of the Communist Party or join the army war front. “Several of my mom’s friends have children who want to marry me. And we talk but I say, ‘Sorry, this is not my calling,’ ” Nguyen says, her English still heavily accented with her native Vietnamese. Thirty-seven years later, she has no regrets.

“I don’t feel called to be with one person. I would be bored.” At 56, Nguyen lives in a house with five other sisters. She says, “I don’t have time for loneliness.”

This is a really well-done piece, although I wonder about that third paragraph; it seems like it was inserted by an editor who might not have have as full an understanding of the writer of the piece, Reshma Kirpalani, but wanted the controversy between the Vatican and the LCWR mentioned sooner, rather than later. Read it. I promise it will give your day a boost!

Speaking of Sister Mary Catharine, OP,
the Summit Dominicans made this really wonderful vocational video a few years ago. It’s just come to my attention. I’ve teased her that since they have so many young sisters either in first vows or very nearly, she should make a new one, soon:

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About Elizabeth Scalia