Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Cohering as a Community Where All Have a Voice

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Cohering as a Community Where All Have a Voice

Article excerpt

By the summer of 1969, four years after the council ended, I was on my way to my first teaching assignment. Despite the new self-understanding, even in 1969 my colleagues and I had no idea of the opportunities and possibilities--as nuns--the post-conciliar world might offer.

Prior to the council, further study outside the field of education was a rarity and travel was unlikely. Now there was greater freedom to read, talk and openly conjecture, but while the old order was going, it had not gone completely.

I learned that when I wanted to visit the mother of one of my 46 Bronx first-graders. She had given birth the previous day. Visions of nuns in "Going My Way," "The Bells of St. Mary's" and "The Nun's Story" danced in my head. Real life does not always imitate cinematic art. Reality struck when I explained to the superior I was going to the hospital, and why. It seemed like such a normal thing to do. My superior said: "We don't usually do that." I did not know what she meant but it was clear that she was perturbed. In an attempt to be humorous, I responded: "What, have babies?" As you might imagine, that did not go well for me. Two different worldviews, two views of religious life in collision--I was startled. I did visit the mother.

As the years went on, I came to a better understanding of that encounter with the superior. Readers of a certain age will recall Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens' book, The Nun in the World. As a result of the council, female religious were offered a very different experience--though I continued to teach in elementary school, I was encouraged to pursue a master's degree in religious studies part time at Manhattan College. I completed that degree in four years while my older colleagues in the congregation were still getting their first degrees in education. They attended classes only on Saturdays, so as not to interfere with their teaching. …

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