Sisters making mainstream headlines

This article appears in the Sisters Making Mainstream Headlines feature series. View the full series.
Corita Kent circa 1980 (Reproduction permission of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, corita.org)

After reading this week’s dispatches from the mainstream media, what we wouldn’t give to sit in the sunshine on a warm summer day and catch a game at Fenway Park in Boston as one lucky group of nuns did last week.

Hidden treasure

Over the next few two months the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland will introduce its visitors to the iconic pop art of the late civil rights and anti-war activist Corita Kent, also known as Sr. Mary Corita.

Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent” is billed as the first full-scale showing of more than 30 years of her work.

The teacher and former member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary became internationally known in the ‘60s and ‘70s for her anti-war and civil rights banners. She created thousands of posters, murals and serigraphs, becoming one of the most popular American graphic artists of her time.

She died in 1986, and her legacy is now preserved and promoted by the Corita Art Center in Los Angeles.

David C. Barnett at IdeaStream.org reports that one of her largest works to be displayed in Cleveland was found tucked away, like a hidden treasure, in a church archive.

The Rev. Robert Noble of the United Church of Christ told Barnett that he found a box on a high shelf during the church’s move from New York City to Cleveland in 1989.

And there it was in the box, one of Sr. Mary Corita’s peace banners created for an exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. “I knew exactly what it was as soon as I saw it,” said Noble.

The banner was big – 43 feet long and three feet tall – and the museum created a special wall to display it during the exhibit that runs through August 31.

See more of her artwork at Artsy.net.

Can’t we all just get along?

Yet again, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, theologian and a longtime professor at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, is dodging fire, this time in the form of charges from a top Vatican official that her writings and views don’t uphold Catholic doctrine.

This is a familiar spot for Sr. Johnson, who is no stranger to controversy. And as usual, she does not stand alone in the storm.

Newsday reports that fellow sisters on Long Island have rallied to publicly defend their colleague, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood

Sisters from the Brentwood order and Dominican Sisters of Amityville sponsored a screening this week of the documentary film, “Band of Sisters.” The 2012 film spotlights the story of Catholic nuns and their work for social justice post-Vatican II.

“I'm proud of who we are as women religious. I'm proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Sr. Margaret Galiardi, a member of the Amityville order who appears in the film and who coordinated the screening, told Newsday.

“We're not taking our bearings from all the politics at the Vatican.”

U.S. bishops have also had harsh words for Johnson, criticizing her 2007 book, Quest for the Living God, for what they call “misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors.”

Frederick Bauerschmidt, head of the theology department at Loyola College in Maryland, weighed in on the situation.

Sr. Elizabeth Johnson has one of the most popular articles appearing on Global Sisters Report. In two parts, "Jesus and women: You are set free" has been looked at or read more than 10,000 times. (Tom Stoelker/Fordham University)

This ongoing dispute between the Vatican, bishops and nuns, he told Newsday, “is like watching an argument between members of my family and wishing they could find some way to deal with their disagreement in a way that's not going to do any permanent damage to their relationship.”

Clean up your act, please

All they want to do is grow some veggies. But it’s not going smoothly for members of the Missionaries of Charity in Mahanoy City, Penn.

The women religious recently visited the town’s council to complain about a vacant, dilapidated property next door to their convent that is threatening to collapse onto their garden.

The Pottsville Republican newspaper reports that local resident Sylvia Burke and two members of the order took their concerns to the council this month.

“In the lot next to the convent, the sisters have a garden, but directly behind the garden is a house that is abandoned and it's falling apart,” testified Burke, who also had photos of the situation.

“Drug addicts have been hanging around. A toilet is hanging out the building. It could drop and seriously hurt someone. It's not only a danger to the sisters, but it's a great eyesore.”

Why can’t the property owner, Burke asked, “tear this house down so none of the sisters get hurt? I hope you can help. If the toilet would fall on one of the sisters, they're done.”

City officials seemed sympathetic, promising citations and possible other legal action against the property owner.

It could be worse.

Someone could have built a strip club next door.

A community mourns

Boise Weekly reported this week that the death of 82-year-old Sr. Mary Tacke in South Africa last week has family and friends in her Idaho hometown mourning.

Her body was found floating in a stream near the village of Tyara. The New York Daily News reported that armed men stole her car and kidnapped her outside of the orphanage she founded.

Police were unable to catch two suspects after a high-speed chase but did track them down and arrested them late last week.

Her brother, Mark Tacke of Cottonwood in north-central Idaho, told the New York paper that his sister loved South Africa and had spent much of her life helping orphans and remote villages and had helped children escape the country during apartheid.

“My sister loved those people,” Mark Tacke said. “She would be the first one to forgive them.”

The Carmelites have left the building

The last of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm have left St. Joseph Nursing Home in Utica, N.Y., before it is sold to new owners.

The sale of the 40-year-old nursing home to a for-profit company awaits approval by state health officials. But the sisters have already been reassigned by their order, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports.

Though the Carmelites don’t own the home, members of the order have worked there since it opened in 1971.

“(The goodbyes) were difficult, as much for them as for everyone else,” said Michael Calogero, chairman of the board of directors. “They’ve been an important piece of it.”

A day at the park

“Nuns Day” is back at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

The tradition was dropped in the 1970s but was reinstated last year by the team’s president, Larry Lucchino.

Last week, nearly 300 women religious attended a game as guests of the team, which provided tickets and lunch, reports Garry Brown for Masslive.com.

Sr. Janet Eisner, longtime president of Emmanuel College in Boston, threw a strike on the ceremonial first pitch.

Even better, Boston beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 in a game that went 10 innings.

“I don’t get to see many games in person, but I’m a diehard fan. I follow the Red Sox closely on TV,” said Sr. Mary Lyons of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield.

On the way to the park the nuns’ bus stopped at a state police barracks where two troopers insisted on escorting the bus to Fenway, Brown reported.

Said one of the women on the trip: “They must have gone to Catholic school.”

[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.]

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