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I open “Rolling Stone” magazine, and there she is. Someone I know. She’s no rock star, though she and her comrades have been treated as such in some locales — though in others, they’ve faced anger and hatred. She’s a Sister of Providence, a Catholic nun. She is among a group of nuns who are traveling the country to protest the Republican budget proposal put forth by Paul Ryan. They are the so-called “Nuns on the Bus.” They say Ryan’s budget would hurt low-income families while coddling the wealthy. It is both unjust and in opposition to the Christian ideals of equality, compassion and love. They are right. They are also righteous, in the very best sense.

I’ve been saying for a while that the Catholic Church needs to focus on issues of social justice, rather than sticking its righteous-in-the-wrong-way nose into issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights. The powers-that-be would not agree with me. These are the same powers-that-be that have been wagging their fingers at nuns like the ones on the bus for not toeing the line, for not being quiet, obedient little ladies and letting the menfolk decide what’s important. They’ve been called radical feminists, which is apparently an insult these days. I guess I never got the memo that explains why being a strong woman is such a bad thing. My mother claims I’ve been a feminist from birth. I never saw any reason not to be. Neither have these women, it seems.

I stand with the Sisters. This statement is more than a political catchphrase, more than a motto on a button or bumper sticker. I mean it. This past weekend, I became a Providence Associate, a layperson who has chosen to further the charism and mission of the Sisters of Providence. Call us the civilian auxiliary, if you wish. (My husband does.) I am not on the front lines, but I support those who are. I do my bit, with my blog and my radio show. I cheer them on. I align and ally myself with them. Because what they believe is what I believe.

Change is coming. I know it; I believe it. It is my most fervent hope. It is what keeps me part of a Church I sometimes find myself in dissent with. So “Rolling Stone” or no “Rolling Stone,” press or no press, I have made my choice. I stand with the Sisters. How about you?

After reading about SueBe’s latest endeavor, I was emboldened to talk about my own. Not that I’m ashamed of it. I’m thrilled, actually. I’ve been accepted into the Providence Associate program with the Sisters of Providence. With vocations at an unsettling low, the Sisters have instituted a program whereby ordinary folk like me engage in intense study and contemplation in order to become associates of the order. This means that one day, if my studies go well, I will be a part of spreading the mission and charism of the S.P.s.

I can’t wait to begin the journey; my companion in this endeavor will be my dear friend and mentor Sr. Rosemary Nudd, English professor extraordinaire from my college days. She will guide me along the way, provoking me to get and give the most that I can.

So why am I not shouting my news from the rooftops? To certain people, I am. My mother, for instance, understands my calling and shares my joy. Others don’t quite get it. “Will you have to wear the costume?” one well-meaning friend asked. (Just for the record, the Sisters of Providence haven’t worn a “costume” in many, many years. They dress just like you and me.) “Does this mean you’re leaving your husband?” someone else inquired. No, it doesn’t. I won’t take vows. I won’t be obligated financially to the order. I’ve simply expressed my desire to have an ongoing, formal relationship with them, to help them with their work in the world.

Unfortunately, what nuns are and what they do is still largely misunderstood in this world, so of course, my calling is something of a mystery to some. But it is my calling, after all. No one has to understand it but me. And I couldn’t be happier.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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