The first black U.S. sisters ensured that future generations would know what it meant to be authentically black and Catholic.The 400 black women religious in the United States today can be found in both the historically black congregations and in the predominantly white congregations from which they were previously banned. However, they make up less than 1 percent of the nation's vowed women religious, which perhaps explains, in part, why people are often surprised to learn they exist.
Patriarchal norms and culture in the Indian church and society shackle women religious, one sister said. "I was not ordained like my brother because I happened to be born as a girl. Is my consecration as a religious less valuable?"
Maryknoll Sr. Joanna Chan's renowned work in the theater began with writing plays for youth at New York's Transfiguration Church. "But theater is not only about the writing. Mounting a production involves bringing very diverse types of art and artists together. I have stayed in the profession for a number of reasons, and one of them is that idea of working together."
It's been nearly 30 years since Sr. Thea Bowman famously declared to a gathering of the U.S. Catholic bishops that her "black self," with all the black songs, dances and traditions she'd imbibed while growing up in Canton, Mississippi, was a gift to the church. In this two-part series, Global Sisters Report is looking at the way black spirituality has shaped religious life for black women, starting with a background on its history.
Visual essay - In the Volta Region of Ghana in west Africa, the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church Congregation run a health care facility, the Mater Ecclesiae Clinic, and the Mater Ecclesiae School for young students in the area. Their convents include facilities for baking bread, meat pies and Communion wafers — which are distributed for Masses all over the country.
"Through the internet, movies and television, they see a very different reality, an image of Europe that is not real. They see that women have more freedom in Europe, and nobody believes there is also a lot of poverty."
"There are only a few of us who are in this wonderful, privileged position of being able to say, 'OK, we are looking at this as historians. We are also looking at this as insiders.' How do I tell the story of religious life as one who has lived it?"
Because of her work trying to counteract the fact that formation programs usually focus on poverty and obedience and have little education on sexuality for the vow of celibate chastity, Sr. Marie-Paul Ross of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was called "the nun from Canada who is speaking clearly and openly about sexuality" — and was called to Rome.
Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble keeps a small ceramic skull on her desk and tweets the thoughts it inspires daily. Despite the morbid connotations, most of Noble's tweets about death aren't really about death at all.
Notes from the Field - I joined Dominican Volunteers USA not because it was a Catholic volunteer program, but because I identified with their mission and admired the great work they did. When my service year started and I came out to New York, the sisters I met here were of similar minds to the people I knew at the Dominican University Ministry Center, in that they were just as progressive about the issues I cared about and were open to learning.
GSR Today - The Burlingame Sisters of Mercy have a long history of openness to people seeking refuge in the United States. In 2018, they are hosting gatherings, prayer services and actions as part of a Year of Solidarity and Outreach to connect with and support people who are victims of hate and discrimination.
In a Haitian neighborhood of subsistence-farm families where people struggle to put food on the table each day, Lekòl Jezi-Mari, a primary school under the care of a Religious of Jesus and Mary, educates 576 students — some of them the first in their families to graduate from sixth grade.
Bowling with Nuns was one of many events around the country marking the fifth annual National Catholic Sisters Week, which ran from March 8 to 14. The week's purpose is to honor women religious, bring awareness of sisters in the United States to laypeople, and perhaps draw young women to join missions.
Trivia night with sisters attracts young people for social time, raising money for aging religious fund
National Catholic Sisters Week - The "Are you Smarter than the Sisters?" trivia night held in Arlington, Virginia, was part of an effort to reach out to more young Catholics while also promoting awareness of Support Our Aging Religious. More than 100 people came to the fundraiser.
Despite sisters' efforts, social acceptance of sex tourism on Kenya's coast means victims are unlikely to seek help. Sex work, including for children, is seen as an acceptable means of earning a living in coastal Kenya. What is seen as a quick way out of poverty makes it hard for women and men religious to rescue young girls from sexual exploitation.
Sr. Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and a longtime advocate for immigrants and refugees, will receive the University of Notre Dame's 2018 Laetare Medal at the school's graduation ceremony May 20.
A religious sister who is the longtime chaplain of the Loyola University Chicago men's basketball team credited the pregame prayer and the players' solid teamwork for the Ramblers' thrilling, last-second 64-62 win over the University of Miami in the NCAA Tournament on March 15.
When Sr. Anne McCrohan said goodbye to her parents and most of her 10 siblings at a train station in County Kerry, she thought it was forever. At age 18, McCrohan had agreed to go to America to teach parochial school students.
When Katie Spanuello Rahman recalls the campus of her alma mater St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, she paints an idyllic picture.
"It was like living in a fairy-tale setting, with a marble staircase to ascend to my room" in Le Fer Residence Hall, said the 1993 alumna. "I always took great pride in the castlelike buildings and the surrounding natural beauty of the trees and the religious shrines on campus."