Sisters making mainstream headlines

Italy’s news-making singing nun, Sr. Cristina Scuccia, went to Tokyo this week to promote her new album. While there she took questions from fans on a variety of topics, including one person’s bad habit of snacking on chips before bed. I kid you not. Read on.

Don’t call it retirement

This week in The Boston Globe, columnist Thomas Farragher wrote a farewell to Sr. Margaret Leonard, a woman religious who has been working on behalf of the city’s poor for decades. Leonard, 78, plans to retire later this year.

Farragher wrote fondly of Leonard, a Little Sister of Assumption, describing her 30 years of work with Project Hope, a nonprofit, multi-service agency, and the years that came before in a lifetime of serving the poor.

“She is a constant reminder of what it really means to be a Christian,’’ her longtime friend Marie St. Fleur told Farragher.

“When life turns you upside down, she’s the calm voice who lets you know it’s going to be OK.’’

My favorite part of Farragher’s story was this:

If you’re thinking pious, gray-haired, rosary-bead-fingering, and severe, think again. When her car was once stolen, she tracked down the thieves, who ran away. She cooks a mean baked stuffed shrimp and enjoys a glass of wine. When the needs of Boston’s homeless population became so great, she and the other sisters decided to simply give the Victorian convent to them, converting it to the shelter.

The next time a rectory in these parts opens its doors to the homeless and then surrenders the whole place to them, please call me. I’ll spring for the smelling salts.

Read the whole story here.

Controversy in Buffalo

The “firing” of a popular sister who coaches high school basketball in Buffalo turned into a full-blown controversy last week.

WGRZ in Buffalo reported that Sr. Maria Pares’ dismissal raised a lot of eyebrows. Her winning coaching career spans many decades.

Pares is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame, the Sacred Heart Academy Sports Hall of Fame, the Town of Amherst Sports Hall of Fame, and the Canisius College Sports Hall of Fame.

Sources close to Pares told the TV station that she was blind-sided when her coaching contract with Sacred Heart Academy was not renewed. School officials called the issue a personnel matter and offered no details.

WGRZ described the 74-year-old nun, a cancer survivor, as being “feisty and aggressive and sometimes polarizing, but respected.”

“You do not treat an icon like that, and as far as I'm concerned this is going to come back to haunt Sacred Heart," said local high school sports guru Dick Gallagher.

"I don't know the whole story,” he continued, “and there's always a story behind the story, but to me it's not the way for someone that has given as much as she's given to the sport, to the game, to the kids to the school, to be treated in this way."

A sweet, sweet story

Last week The Daily Item newspaper in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, spent time with Sr. Martina at Holy Family Convent in Danville as she prepared for the order’s upcoming Lenten bake sales.

She is 89 and has been baking at least four hours a day, making dozens of coffee cakes and pies. She learned to bake after entering the New Jersey-based order 70 years ago.

Pies? Those are her specialty, said colleague Sr. Mary Dorothy. “I don’t know where she gets her energy,” she said of the elder nun.

Sugar, perhaps?

Pieces of Ursuline history

The contents of the former Ursuline convent in Alton, Illinois, were auctioned off this week, belongings that ranged from furniture and paintings to statues and crucifixes, according to The Telegraph.

A couple of the more interesting items up for sale: a xylophone and a popcorn machine on wheels.

The last of the sisters left the convent in October, Susan Whelan, director of communications and development for Ursuline Sisters’ Central Province in St. Louis, told the newspaper.

Thirteen of the 35 sisters, most in their 80s and 90s, were relocated to other facilities in Alton. The others moved to retirement and health care centers in New Orleans and Eureka, Missouri, according to Whelan.

Now that the contents of convent and chapel have been liquidated, the order plans to sell the 27-acre wooded property the buildings sit on.

They love her in Japan

Italy’s singing nun, 26-year-old Sr. Cristina Scuccia, is touring the world to promote her new album. This week she was in Tokyo. reports that Scuccia was a hit with fans there, singing, posing for lots of photos and even offering advice to audience members during a “mini confessional” session.

She hit the ground running, greeting the audience in Japanese.

Her appearance was live-streamed on YouTube. Here’s a sampling of the questions that fans asked her during the “confessional” session.

What should I do when I’m feeling depressed or frustrated?

Scuccia: “When I’m feeling down, I know that my whole body is down. I’m looking down, I feel bad inside, so what I try to do is look forward instead. I recommend looking up, keep walking forward, and trying to change your perspective a bit.”

I have a 20-year-old son obsessed with anime and not interested in girls. I’m worry I won’t have any grandchildren. What can I do to get him interested in women?”

Scuccia: “There’s no need to worry. He’s only 20, so he still has plenty of time. I think that love is something that can come even if you’re not out actively looking for it.”

“No matter what I do, I can’t stop eating chips before I go to bed. What should I do?”

Scuccia: “Maybe you should try eating something less oily than chips, like vegetables perhaps. If you eat oily things before bed then you probably won’t sleep well, and since I don’t think you want that, focus on being healthy instead. If you really want to eat those chips, then maybe enjoy them during lunch instead.”

[Lisa Gutierrez is a reporter in the Kansas City area who scans the non-NCR news every week for interesting pieces about sisters. She can be reached at]