Oh sure, the mainstream media covered the obvious stories of 2014 concerning women religious – the Nuns on the Bus tour, the Vatican’s report on the apostolic visitation, that reality TV show called “The Sisterhood.”
But those aren’t the stories that will stay with me as we turn the corner to 2015. Here are 10 women, or groups of women, who inspire New Year’s resolutions for all of us.
The ingenious women religious who borrowed the international spotlight of one of the year’s biggest sporting events – the World Cup in Brazil – to alert the world to the scourge of human trafficking: The sisters and an army of volunteers hit the ground, handing out leaflets at airports and tourist areas around the country encouraging soccer fans to report suspected child prostitution or enslavement.
Resolution: Speak up!
Sr. Madonna Buder, also known as the “Iron Nun” of Spokane, Wash.: The 84-year-old Buder was inducted into the USA Triathalon Hall of Fame in June. She’s completed more than 340 triathalons, 45 of them grueling Ironman races.
Resolution: Get off the couch.
The women of the Discalced Carmelite order who came together via the Internet to sing a beautiful song celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, the order’s founder: One hundred sisters scattered across the globe in 23 countries, some in cloistered communities, participated in the virtual performance. The official video has been watched more than 235,000 times on YouTube since August.
Resolution: Raise the roof – singing is prayer.
Sr. Cristina Scuccia who won the Italian version of “The Voice” by singing popular songs like Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”: Yes, the story of the 25-year-old singing nun was overplayed. But I give her credit on two fronts – one, for having the audacity to hand a copy of her first CD to the Pope when she met him last month; and two, for her real “calling.” She renewed her vows with the Congregation of Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart in July and will make her perpetual vows in 2018.
Resolution: Stay true to yourself.
Sr. Teresa Forcades, a medical doctor with a master’s degree from Harvard University: Forcades is busy campaigning for the Spanish government to leave the eurozone, nationalize all banks and grant Catalonia, her home region, its independence. NPR has dubbed her Spain’s most famous living nun.
Resolution: Get involved. Be an activist.
Sr. Lisa Maurer, the first woman to serve on the football coaching staff of The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. – and possibly the only coaching nun in the world of college football: Says the team’s head coach Kurt Ramler, “She is a wonderful coach who makes all of us better. She just happens to be a member of the order.”
Resolution: Get off the couch. (Sorry, but some of us need to resolve that again and again and again . . .)
Sr. Gilberte Bussière, a 74-year-old member of the Congregation de Notre-Dame based in Montreal, Canada, who was kidnapped in Cameroon in April by suspected Boko Haram gunmen and later safely released: She had worked in Cameroon since 1979, devoted to improving the quality of education there, especially for girls. Colleagues describe her as a courageous woman of faith.
Resolution: Be not afraid.
Sr. Cosma Graf, who celebrated her 100th birthday after working 81 years in South Africa by meeting an elephant for the first time: I saw the photos and the look of rapture on her face as she came face-to-face with an elephant named Lola was priceless.
Resolution: Take joy in the little things.
Also: Shake “hands” with an elephant.
Sr. Doris, “Europe’s last beer-making nun”: The Franciscan sister has been making beer for more than 40 years at Mallersdorf, a 12th-century abbey in the Bavarian highlands. “Beer brewing is women’s work,” she told CNN
Resolution: Do what you love and love what you do.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo in suburban Chicago who have been fighting all year with the strip club that opened next door: “This goes against our whole fiber, our well-being,” said Sr. Maria Noemia Silva. “We've been here more than 70 years. We're fighting for a safe, healthy environment here. And for the club to close.” The sisters filed a lawsuit; the case is still pending.
Resolution: Never back down from a worthwhile fight.
[Lisa Gutierrez is a reporter in Kansas City, Mo., who scans the non-NCR news every week for interesting pieces about sisters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]