An American Nun: We Are Standing With Laity

A discussion about life as a nun in America.

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Margaret Galiardi.
Photo:Chion Wolf
MT Winter.
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Michael Sean Winters.
Photo:Chion Wolf
An American Nun: We Are Standing With Laity
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An American Nun: We Are Standing With Laity

What follows -- if you click on the audio -- is an unusually frank conversation among two nuns and two Catholic writers about the clash of values that lies underneath the recent reprimands by the Vatican of Margaret Farley and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. But fist: a little perspective. From about 1850 onward, the story of America and the story of nuns are hard to unthread from each other. Nuns were there in the Wild West building hospitals in Gold Rush towns like Cripple Creek, Colorado and even facing down desperadoes like Billy the Kid. In the Civil War, nuns were on the battlefields tending the wounded of each side. In their early forays into this nation, nuns faced serious and scary resistance from nativists and Know-Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan. And when you look at it that way, the little run of resistance they've had lately from the Vatican doesn't seem like much. And in a way, the events of the last five or six weeks are really an extension of a 50 year conversation about the nature of religious life in America. You could boil it down to: what are nuns for? Not everybody has the same answer.

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An American Nun: A Rabbinic Perspective

Just finished listening to your wonderful show with the sisters! (I do agree with the comment by Mary Jane, by the way; the sisters could have handled the more "intellectual" questions just fine.) I was so oved by the sisters' descriptions of what women religious are about, what they do and why they do it. I am a rabbi, yet I've always been a bit obsessed with nuns. And I'm not alone among women clergy of many faiths. In the days before women were ordained - that is, when I was growing up - we were drawn to nuns and their stories: their selflessness, their passionate dedication to God and to alleviating suffering, their deep spirituality and impressive scholarship. As a girl, I used to say:"If I were Catholic, I'd love to be a nun." Ok, so maybe not all of that was completely healthy.(A shout-out to my lapsed Catholic therapist for this insight!) Selflessness isn't always so great, especially for women, and I believe God calls us to care for ourselves as well as others. Still. The nun thing. Among my women rabbi and minister and (Episcopal)priest and Muslim chaplain friends, there are many who grew up admiring nuns and who now have so much respect for today's sisters, for their work and their struggles. I realize, of course, that as a non-Catholic, I have no skin in this game. And, in general, I hate it when people outside of a particular faith critique it. But I can't help myself. I identify with these sisters and feel angry at the Vatican's treatment of them. I want them to know I am with them as they do their holy work and fight the good fight. As it says in the Hebrew Bible: May they go from strength to strength!


I just listened to your show from 6/13, and I wanted to compliment you on it. I enjoy listening to your show, but I have often felt that your weak spot is in discussing religion. Almost every guest you have is atheistic or anti-religion in some way. Even when you are trying to be open, such as when you discuss Mitt Romney's religion, you are still anti-Catholic, perhaps without meaning to be. But your show An American Nun was very well done. You were respectful of the faith, and your guests expressed themselves marvelously. I will be sharing the link with the sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart, whom I have the pleasure to work with.

Thank you for this show, and I hope to hear more shows addressing these issues.

Great program. Went so

Great program. Went so beyond the tawdry moves by Rome and went to the real church as many of us know it. And no, the hierarchy will not prevail "until the end of time". The system is dying, and something new will be born. At least that is my prayer.


Did not hear the whole show but did anyone point out that this discord changes the conversation from the sexual crimes of the priesthood and reports of corruption in Rome? Forget about criminal behavior and concentrate on those women seeking freedom of thought.
It reminds me of the politicians who don't want to discuss their close relationships w/corporations so they get everyone talking about contraception while they deny equal pay laws.
We are not that dumb.


I tuned in late to today's show and just had to sent an email. I graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1985, and Margaret Farley was one of the best teachers (in every way) I have ever had. She represents the very best of the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity and religion in general. Go Margaret!


Graduating from St Mary's Dominican H.S. in 1966, I decided not to enter the novitiate one month before my graduation. My life has taken many twists and turns since then. However, for the past 20 years or so, complete strangers have come up to me and asked me if I was a nun. Having listened to Sister's description in the earlier part of the program, I realize that is pretty much how I live my life now. I live alone, but I spend time with people who are marginalized and attend Morning Prayer every day at St Francis House in New London, CT. By the way, Sisters, we are praying for you!


I am grateful for your hosting this conversation on the CDF's
investigation of women religious in America.

I fear, however, that the form of this show is recapitulating the
"problem" the first speaker identified. Men are being called upon to
frame the issue historically, doctrinally, and intellectually, while the
women are flown in to speak from "experience" within that theoretical
framework. The show, unwittingly, seems to me to be participating in the
silencing of women religious (the very matter under investigation) by
letting two men speak before it let any women weigh in--in fact, the
first sister who spoke was only able to do so because she broke in, and
she was not introduced.

These participants are all well-versed in Catholic history and doctrine;
I just wish the show had been structured in such a way as to let the
women religious frame this discussion about them.