Sisters making mainstream headlines

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What a strange mix of headlines we have this week, from the serious to the seriously disturbed, from people robbing women religious in real life to TV nuns smacking kids for giggles. But I’m not laughing.

From the front lines

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Texas recently spent time with Sr. Pamela Buganski as she works at the epicenter of the ongoing immigration debate in the United States.

Buganski, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame, moved to south Texas from Ohio over the summer to help search for migrants who have gone missing after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

She’s working with Eddie Canales, founder of the South Texas Human Rights Center and the Brooks County Sheriff’s department.

You can sense her frustration in this quote: “We can still be for all sorts of people not crossing the border, but can we do it in a way that’s not killing people? I tell Eddie that I believe our very presence has made people think. I can’t say we’ve seen dramatic changes, but I think our presence may . . . put more perspective in the pot that’s being stirred.”

Read more about her work here.

It’s go go go time

This recent story on the Christian news website,, put me in the holiday spirit straightaway.

The Aleteia staff offered their favorite ideas for gifts, available online, made by monks and women religious around the country. They’ll “thrill everyone on your list, from your most pious aunt to your hipster nephew searching for authenticity,” the staff promises.

Here are a couple of their ideas that caught my eye.

The Trappist sisters of Our Lady of the Mississippi in Dubuque, Iowa, make caramels, and their “Meltaways” are particularly popular (at

And the sisters at the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in San Antonio, Texas, make Nonnavita – “super natural soap” – in several scents. The Aleteia folks suggest the “Texas Prairie” soap infused with sage, lemongrass and spearmint (at

To see the entire list, click here.

Shining light into the dark

Child welfare advocate Sr. Adel Abamo is giving voice to victims of sexual abuse in the Philippines who can’t, or won’t, speak up for themselves.

A story on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines website details how Abamo is calling attention to sexual abuse that sometimes goes unreported because it involves an immediate family member.

Abamo is executive director of the Salvatorian Pastoral Care for Children project in the Philippines, managed by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior

She warned that some mothers who are unwilling to admit that their own husbands are guilty of the abuse prevent the cases from being reported to authorities. The girls end up paying the emotional price.

“The denial on the part of the mother could be very deep, forcing the daughter to choose silence and grief,” she said. “It profoundly hurts the daughter.”

Often, these young victims find refuge in the church.

“Young people sexually and physically abused choose to open up to the church first than to government authorities,” Abamo said.

The SPCC, founded in 2001, provides training to members of nine parishes on handling and investigating such cases.

She rides a what?

Something tells me that Sr. Rosanne Popp never thought that one day she would make headlines because of a motorcycle. But that day has come.

The Houston Chronicle recently profiled Popp’s work as a physician and medical director of St. Mary’s Clinic, a family medicine practice that serves the city’s uninsured residents.

And while that work is obviously worth detailing, it’s a motorcycle fundraiser that seems to have caught the Chronicle’s eye.

Every fall Popp participates in the Nun Run, a motorcycle rally to raise money for the Christus Foundation for Healthcare. This year’s 50-mile trek, from Houston to Galveston, raised $96,000, the newspaper reports.

Popp, a member of Houston's Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, co-founded the Nun Run. She doesn’t drive a motorcycle herself but always rides on the back of a two-wheeler.

But in the rest of her life? She’s definitely in the driver’s seat. Read the profile of this dedicated and very busy woman here.

Horror in Montana

Reading stories like this has convinced me that a special place in you-know-where exists for people like this.

Police in Billings, Mont., charged a local woman there for allegedly participating in a robbery during which two elderly sisters were brutally beaten, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

Bonnie Fern Archambeau, 48, told police that Christopher Pine, also charged in connection with the robbery, offered to pay her to help him break into the sisters’ residence in August 2013.

Pine allegedly beat one of the sisters with a baseball bat during the robbery. 

Archambeau told investigators she didn’t realize they had robbed women religious until she looked in one of the purses they took.

Pine has been in jail since being arrested on Aug. 16, 2013. Archambeau did not enter a plea last week on a felony charge of robbery by accountability.

Shaking. My. Head.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been watching Christmas movies on TV since the day after Halloween, thanks in part to round-the-clock showings on Hallmark’s cable channels.

Yes, I love Christmas movies that much.

So I was excited to see the promo for a new one, “Wally Lamb’s Wishin’ and Hopin’,” debuting Saturday night on Lifetime.

It’s based on the author’s best-selling novel about one particularly special Christmas for 10-year-old Felix Funicello, a fifth-grader in a 1960s Catholic school.

Starring Molly Ringwald – ooh, Molly Ringwald! – and narrated by Chevy Chase – ooh, Chevy Chase! – this movie looked like a winner at first.

Until, that is, the preview showed a quick snippet of the scene where, for apparent comic effect, a nun in full habit slaps a little schoolgirl, and the girl whacks her back.

Not funny, Lifetime. Not funny.

[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]