Sisters making mainstream headlines

This article appears in the Sisters Making Mainstream Headlines feature series. View the full series.

Apparently a journalist giving up a thriving career to become a woman religious is a headline-making story. The news likes to report on itself.

Beats Barnes & Noble

The Express Tribune in Karachi, Pakistan, introduced us this week to the peaceful oasis of a bookstore run by women religious in bustling Saddar.

The store has become a place for people of all faiths to browse and chat up Sr. Daniela Baronchelli, who runs the Daughters of St. Paul Bookshop.

“Everyone is welcome here, even if they just come out of curiosity,” the 82-year-old Baronchelli told the Tribune. “It is our way of spreading tolerance and harmony.”

In a store stocked with rosaries, books, DVDs, audio tapes, documents and pictures, one item is a perennial bestseller. “The most treasured items in the store are the copies of the Holy Bible,” said Baronchelli. 

Read more about the store, how it got started 50 years ago and how it continues to thrive in an increasingly volatile part of the world here.

Group vows in Uganda

Heeding the Pope’s call to honor vocations this year, hundreds of Catholic nuns, brothers and priests from 66 orders and congregations gathered a few days ago in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to renew their vows as a group.

(Alas, we could find no selfies from the event online.)

The joyful event “was attended by scores of Christians,” reports New Vision in Uganda.

Women religious from Comboni Missionary Sisters, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, Daughters of Our Lady of Fatima and several other orders attended the Mass at Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala.

Nigerian Archbishop Augustine Kasujja delivered the homily, calling chastity “a promise to keep oneself only for Christ.”

Read more of his comments and those of Kampala archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga here.

A Bronx tale: Spies and nuns

The Daily Beast this week served up a meaty tale of intrigue and espionage involving Russian spies, pet birds and two Catholic sisters.

You read it right the first time.

The article is quite lengthy but here is the gist of the mess that began to unravel last week.

Sr. Anne Queenan and Sr. Catherine Naughton lived next door to a very nice family on Liebig Street in the Bronx, just a short distance from the official residence of the Russian mission to the United Nations.

The nuns and the family were so friendly that the sisters asked the family to keep an eye on their house when they went away to Miami for a few days.

What the women didn’t know? That the FBI had been watching their neighbors, Evgeny Buryakov, 39, his wife Marina, and their two school-age children.

When the Carmelite sisters returned from Miami last week, a Daily Beast reporter was the one who broke the news to them: Buryakov had been arrested in their absence on allegations of being a Russian spy.

One of Queenan’s first thoughts was about the children. “They’re just two innocent kids in the midst of all this,” she told the Daily Beast.

Click here to read this fascinating tale.

Still making headlines

Fans of former BBC political correspondent Martina Purdy collectively gasped last year when she announced her intentions to become a nun.

At the time she begged the public and the media to respect her privacy at such a crucial crossroads in her life. She seemed worried at the amount of undue attention she might bring to the Adoration Sisters, who describe themselves as a “contemplative community.”

Apparently, no one heard her.

The Telegraph in Belfast breathlessly wrote a report this week when Purdy made one of her first appearances in public after becoming a woman religious.

The paper even had photos of Purdy attending a special Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Ireland, with some of her fellow sisters.

A fashionable legacy

Next month crafters from around the world are heading to County Kerry, Ireland, to talk about and learn about lace-making.

And why does that get a mention in a column about women religious?

Because the Poor Clare sisters brought the art of lace-making to Kenmare, Ireland, in 1861 after famine swept through, teaching local children a skill that they could make a living from.

The beautiful lace, made with needle and thread and using a type of buttonhole stitch, quickly became a fashionable hit among royalty and commoners alike. Queen Elizabeth II is said to have received an antique bed cover of Kenmare needlepoint as a wedding gift.

Writing about the upcoming international seminar, the Independent in Dublin pointed out that the sisters could not have known that their lace would still be considered fashionable 150 years later.

[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 lisa11gutierrez@gmail.com.]