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!

UPDATE:
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
  • Andy

    Thank you for sharing – it reminds of the nuns I worked with at a college where I taught. All of them seemed at peace with the world as they worked to serve not only the church, but all of her people. I especially related to Sister George, the VPAA was a nun with a temper that was belied by her both her stature (4’8″) and her charming smile, but like Sister Nguyen worked with students where they were. I remember one specific incident when a student, one of my advisees, could not enter the college because of financial issues. She called me to her office and “asked” me to get off my ass and help the student with her problem, I told her that I had gone to Financial Aid with the student and got nowhere in a big hurry. She looked at me with the same gentle smile, said ‘ll call them. She did and three or four minutes latter she was off the phone and calling on a donor to find money for this student. She had little concern for herself, but much concern for student who wanted to attend, but who had no money. This article reminded me a simpler time in my teaching career, again thank you.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    “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.”

    LOL, I can relate to that. I have a hot blooded, Italian temperment. I’m not sure I try as hard as the good Sister though. Definitely an enjoyable piece.

  • Victor

    What can “I” say after reading and listening to all of this?

    If “The Bible is right and we really are a factor of Adam and Eve then we must learn to trust god and we need to give our whole being to “IT” by spiritually jumping off a cliff while continually praying that God (Good Old Dad) will bless our godly heart cells with wings of love and help U>S (usual sinners) keep each “ONE” of our godly spiritual, reality human cells in honest check through the power of good prayers cause we’re all connected in someway as HIS Children as we’re not truly beast are we NOW?

    I hear ya Anchoress! Victor! Take a deep breath NOW! :)

    Peace

  • dancingcrane

    Leave it to someone in Austin to equate the egotists of the LCWR with these beautiful women.

  • Ellen

    Sorry. I have a temper too, but I don’t swear. I just don’t. It’s rude, crude and not necessary.

  • Bertha

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the comment about not being “uppity” about religious sisters who are not habited. One of my favorite aunts was a habit-optional Dominican (God rest her soul) and she often fulfilled her vows in simple street clothes. Her dedication and love of the Church was not in any way diminished sans habit. I do not have a strong opinion for or against the habit, but I am saddened by the attitude from some Catholics that “real sisters” are always habited.

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    I’ve always loved this piece by Sister Mary Catharine, though, on the meaning of her habit: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Daily-Gift-and-Reminder-Habit-of-Witness