Kad su žene postale časne sestre da bi se dobro obrazovale

Kad su žene postale časne sestre da bi se dobro obrazovale


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Tokom srednjeg vijeka bilo je teško postići odgovarajuće obrazovanje za muškarce, a posebno za žene. Ako su žene htjele steći visoko obrazovanje, morale su posegnuti za višim zvanjem - i pridružiti se samostanu.

Do pada Rimskog carstva u 5. stoljeću, borbene vještine i vojno umijeće zamijenili su obrazovanje kao kritičnije. Dok su društvene i zakonodavne norme tokom srednjeg vijeka bile snažno ukorijenjene u rimsko i germansko porijeklo, obrazovna ustanova je jedno vrijeme bila napuštena. Međutim, kako je Crkva počela dobivati ​​na snazi, ispunila je prazninu razvijanjem obrazovnog sistema u vjerske svrhe.

Ubrzo su manastiri i samostani postali središta za učenje, a uglavnom su privilegirani - mladići iz plemstva i više srednje klase - mogli dobiti temeljno obrazovanje. U to vrijeme obrazovanje žena nije bilo prioritet, jer se vjerovalo da su žene intelektualno inferiorne.

Od bogatih žena se tokom srednjeg vijeka tražilo da budu pismene, ali njihovo učenje je imalo za cilj samo pripremiti ih da postanu ugledne supruge i majke. S druge strane, više učenje za časne sestre bilo je potaknuto jer su od njih morali razumjeti biblijska učenja. Stoga nije bila slučajnost što su mnoge od najranijih intelektualki bile časne sestre.

Neke samostanske ponude uključivale su čitanje i pisanje na latinskom, aritmetiku, gramatiku, muziku, moral, retoriku, geometriju i astronomiju, prema članku Shirley Kersey iz 1980. u (Vol. 58, No. 4). Predenje, tkanje i vez također su bili veliki dio obrazovanja i rada časnih sestara, piše Kersey, posebno među časnim sestrama koje su potjecale iz imućnih porodica. Od časnih sestara koje su došle iz slabijeg imovinskog stanja očekivalo se da će u svom vjerskom životu raditi napornije poslove.

Monahinje koje su se obavezale na najveću stipendiju tretirane su kao jednake muškarcima svog društvenog ranga. Poštovani kao poglavice opatije, imali su veću moć od svojih savremenica.

Sestra Juliana Morell: Prva žena koja je stekla fakultetsku diplomu

Među prvim naučnicama monahinja bila je Juliana Morell, španska dominikanska časna sestra iz 17. stoljeća za koju se vjeruje da je prva žena u zapadnom svijetu koja je stekla fakultetsku diplomu. Rođena 16. februara 1594. u Barceloni, Morell je bila mlado čudo, a njen ugledni otac bankar ohrabrio ju je da stekne najviše obrazovanje, prema članku S. Griswolda iz 1941. Hispanjolci pregled (Tom 9, br. 1).

Nekoliko godina nakon što je Morelova majka umrla, njen otac je sa tada sedmogodišnjom kćerkom pobjegao u francuski Lyon kako bi izbjegao optužbe za ubistvo. Tamo je Morell nastavila svoje obrazovanje, učeći različite discipline: latinski, grčki, hebrejski, matematiku, retoriku, kao i pravo i muziku.

Kad je imala 12 godina, Morell je javno branila svoje teze o logici i moralu. Nastavila je obogaćivati ​​svoje obrazovanje studiranjem građanskog prava, fizike i kanona, a ubrzo potom u Avinjonu odbranila je svoju pravnu tezu pred uglednim gostima papstva.

Iako se ne zna koje je tijelo Morell -u dodelilo diplomu, doktorirala je 1608. godine u dobi od 14 godina. U jesen te godine, Morell je ušla u dominikanski samostan u Avignonu, a tri godine kasnije položila je posljednje zavjete u ljeto iz 1610., konačno se popevši u čin priorice.

Tokom 30-godišnjeg mandata kao časna sestra, Morell je objavila mnoga djela, uključujući: prijevod djela Friora Vincenta Ferrera sa latinskog na francuski Duhovni život (1617), priručnik pod naslovom "Duhovne vježbe za vječnost i mala pripremna vježba za sveto zanimanje" (1637), povijesni tekst o njenom samostanu u San Práxedes Avignonu, kao i poeziju na latinskom i francuskom jeziku. Morell je umro 26. juna 1653.


Zovem Sr Silvanu na fiksni i ona se izvinjava što nema signal mobilnog - bila je u podrumu. Ne hodajući klauzurom u tišini, već vodi hostel i pomaže studentima s kojima radi. Veći dio našeg razgovora provedemo pričajući o školi (išao sam na jednu koju vodi Društvo Presvetog Srca) i ljudima koje poznajemo prije nego što shvatim da gubim dragocjeno vrijeme za intervjue, iako me ona ljubazno uvjerava da sam jednostavno osjećao nervoznog gosta ugodno prije nego što mi je ispričala svoj život prije nego što se pridružila Društvu.

“Ja sam katolik u kolijevci. Išao sam u samostansku srednju školu gdje su neki od nas koketirali sa pojmovima samostanskog života, velovima i vjerskim imenima. Ali do sredine svojih dvadesetih godina bila sam nezavisna, politički aktivna, profesionalna mlada žena. Radio sam za NALGO (koji je kasnije postao Unison), imao sam svoj stan, dečka, karijeru, društveni život. Čak sam čitao Guardian svaki dan! Pa ipak, duboko u sebi, počeo sam osjećati nemir jer sam tragao za Bogom. Došla sam upoznati i upoznati Društvo Presvetog Srca kada sam otkrila da je jedna od naših članica sindikata sestra. To je bilo daleke 1993. godine i još sam ovdje! ”

Upravnica hostela za postdiplomce u Oxfordu, Sr Silvana objašnjava kako priroda njenog posla znači da nema dva ista dana.

„Moja vrata su većinom otvorena kako bi studenti mogli pozdraviti ili ako im treba neko s kim mogu razgovarati. Imam mantru koja kaže da će ‘Bog dati’ koju učenici vole i vjeruju da pomaže u rješenjima. Također sam odgovoran za web stranicu pokrajine i prisutnost na društvenim medijima, pa ‘gubim’ puno vremena na Facebooku i Twitteru! Mislim da je od vitalnog značaja biti na ovim mjestima, posebno ako radite s mladim ljudima. ”

Na Twitteru sam vidio nekoga kako kaže: 'Zašto bi đavo trebao imati sve najbolje tweetove?'

Sr Silvana Dallanegra RSCJ voli kuhanje, čitanje i fotografiju Fotografija: Sr Silvana Dallanegra RSCJ

„Često nas nazivaju časnim sestrama. To je neka vrsta stenografije - lako razumljiv generički pojam koji uvelike proizlazi iz nedostatka znanja ili je samo gledala sestrinski čin (časne sestre vode „zatvorene“ živote i rijetko napuštaju svoje samostane, dok sestre izražavaju svoj poziv „aktivnim“ u zajednicama. Mada da stvar bude još zbunjujuća, nazovite časnu sestru sestrom kada joj se obratite). Prošlo je više od 40 godina otkako su vjernici izašli iz svojih navika. Bili smo jedna od prvih skupština koja je to izabrala 70 -ih, a ipak mediji i dalje koriste religiozne slike za opisivanje cijelog vjerskog života.

„Nadam se da se sestre mogu prepoznati po drugim stvarima, poput toga kako su kao ljudi. Kad sam bio u Španiji, jedna od naših sestara koje nisam dobro poznavala morala mi je objasniti jelovnik. Nakon što smo naručili, jedna gospođa na stolu do nas je pitala da li smo vjerske sestre. Nismo nosili nikakve vjerske oznake pa sam pitao kako to zna. Znaš li šta je rekla? ‘To je način na koji ste se ponašali jedna prema drugoj.’ Njena kćerka je išla u školu Svetog srca i promatrala kako su sestre zajedno. "Bilo je jasno da se zapravo ne poznajete, ali bilo je to kako ste bili jedno s drugim." Za mene je bio blagoslov što se tako nešto dogodilo tako rano u mom vjerskom životu. "

Pozivi žena u vjerski život dosegli su ove godine 25-godišnji vrhunac u Katoličkoj crkvi u Engleskoj i Walesu. Uz poziv koji je došao putem Facebooka (zavjete je položila u septembru prošle godine), sr Silvana dijeli svoje savjete za žene koje razmišljaju o poduzimanju istog koraka.

„Da, može biti teških stvari u vezi s vjerskim životom, ali postoje teškoće u svim sferama života - brak ili odgajanje djece nisu krevet od ruža. Lako je biti paraliziran u razboritosti. Jedna od naših sestara koja je ušla 60 -ih sjećala se kako se mučila zbog toga. Neko joj je rekao: ‘Ono što želiš je da tabla padne s neba i kaže da ćeš se pridružiti sestrama i da ćeš biti sretna. Ali to se neće dogoditi! ’Ovo je sjajan život. Ako te pozovu, postat ćeš žena kakva bi trebala biti. Samo napred djevojko! ”


Položaj žena u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi

Dvorac Eltz, jedan od najpoznatijih i najljepših srednjovjekovnih dvoraca u Njemačkoj.
(Slika: Julia700702/Shutterstock)

Građansko pravo i brak u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi

Žene su u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi bile legalno zavisne od svojih muževa. U okviru građanskog prava, ženama je bilo zabranjeno potpisivanje ugovora, svjedočenje na sudu ili posuđivanje novca na njihovo ime. Sve je to moralo biti izvršeno pod zakonskim ovlaštenjima njihovih muževa. Ukratko, udate žene znatno su ovisile o svojim supružnicima. Zanimljivo je da su ova ograničenja postojala u mnogim evropskim zemljama sve do nedavno.

Možda ćete se iznenaditi kad saznate da se ti zakoni nisu primjenjivali na neudate odrasle žene, kojima je bilo dozvoljeno da potpisuju ugovore, posuđuju novac i rade stvari koje bi se očekivale od zakonski odgovorne odrasle osobe. To je bila prilično značajna prednost u odnosu na Rimsko carstvo. U to doba svim ženama, bez obzira na bračni status i godine, bio je potreban muški staratelj.

Ovo je transkript iz video serije Visoki srednji vijek. Gledajte sada, na Wondriumu.

Poslovne žene u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi bile su u stanju zaštititi svoju imovinu ako su bile u trgovini koja se razlikovala od trgovine njihovih muževa. Na primjer, ako je žena radila kao krojač, a njen muž bio pivar, njihova imovina bila je potpuno odvojena jedna od druge. Stoga, ako se muž suočio s bankrotom, njegova supruga nije imala zakonsku odgovornost da isplati njegove vjerovnike. Pojam femme sole (doslovno “samo žena ”) skovana je za opis ovih žena.

Krivično pravo i smrtna kazna

Za razliku od građanskog prava, bračni status žene nikada nije bio bitan za krivični zakon. Drugim riječima, kada je udata žena počinila zločin, podlijegala je istim kaznama kao i neudata. Jedini izuzetak bio je u slučaju trudnoće: trudnice su bile izuzete od pogubljenja ili bilo koje vrste mučenja. Osim toga, bez obzira na bračni status, srednjovjekovni sudovi su sve žene izuzeli od određenih oblika mučenja. Na primjer, žene se nisu mogle slomiti na volanu.

Mjesto pogubljenja zločinaca u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi - blok za sjeckanje i vješala na drvenoj platformi. (Slika: Zhuravlev Andrey/Shutterstock)

U nekim slučajevima, pravosudni sistem u srednjem vijeku srednji vijek se prema ženama prestupnicima odnosio blaže. Na primjer, istospolne veze, koje su za muškarce nosile smrtnu kaznu, uopće nisu bile zločin za žene jer takva veza nije utjecala na ljudsku reprodukciju.

Žene koje su proglašene krivim za teški prekršaj ipak nisu imale tu sreću. Zapravo, morali su pretrpjeti najbrutalniju i najbolniju vrstu pogubljenja u to doba: spaljivanje na lomači. Za razliku od muškaraca koji su osuđeni na različite vrste pogubljenja ovisno o težini zločina, pogubljenje žena imalo je samo jedan oblik.

Savremenici su tvrdili da je to neophodno za očuvanje ženske skromnosti, jer su se drugi oblici pogubljenja smatrali neprikladnim za žene. Iako možda postoji određena istina u ovom opravdanju, moderni povjesničari identificirali su mizoginiju, kao i duboko ukorijenjenu sumnju i nesviđanje prema ženama od strane muškaraca, kao osnovni uzrok ove prakse.

Politika i žene u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi

Politički, žene su mogle da se uzdignu do najviših nivoa suvereniteta. Mogle su postati kraljice i vladati kraljevstvima, ili postati regenti i vladati u ime maloljetnog djeteta. Bilo da je žena kraljica ili namjesnica, vladala privremeno ili trajno, njene se moći nisu razlikovale od ovlasti muškog vladara.

Ova jednakost moći bila je samo zato što je srednjovjekovna politika bila dinastička. Drugim riječima, uredi su se prenosili s očeva na sinove. Stoga bi u nedostatku zakonitog muškog nasljednika ured mogao pasti u ruke žene. To se odnosilo i na kraljevstva i na manje političke jedinice. Županije su prolazile između članova obitelji, vojvodstava, pa čak i kaštelanija i područja pod kontrolom jednog kaštelana, u radijusu od 15 ili 20 milja. U rijetkim slučajevima ovim područjima su upravljale žene.

Međutim, žene u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi bile su potpuno odsutne u javnim političkim ulogama. To je uglavnom bilo zato što su srednjovjekovni gradovi slijedili republičkiji oblik vladavine u kojem su se birali zvaničnici i služili na određeni mandat. Dakle, žena nije mogla naslijediti političku funkciju. Situacija se promijenila tek u posljednje vrijeme. Ironično, demokratija je kroz istoriju bila vrlo neprijateljska prema učešću žena.

Ekonomija i (skoro) jednake mogućnosti

U srednjovjekovnoj Evropi žene su bile relativno aktivne na tržištu. Anketa provedena na 100 cehova u Parizu 1300. pokazala je da je 86 posto bilo voljno primiti radnice. Iako su neke kompanije zahtijevale dozvolu supruga žene, dobijanje posla nije bilo nemoguće.

Postojao je i neki osjećaj jednakosti u smislu obuke. Profesionalke su mogle obučavati pripravnike bez obzira na njihov spol. Činilo se da nitko nije mislio da je žena koja obučava muškarca čudna.

Skulptura časne sestre na fasadi Katedrale dobrog pastira u San Sebastijanu, Baskija, Španija. (Slika: Roman Belogorodov/Shutterstock)

Religija i ženski manastiri u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi

Razumno je očekivati ​​slične trendove u vjerskim okruženjima, gdje su žene bile odsutne u nekim područjima, a ipak aktivno uključene u druge. Na primjer, monaštvo je bilo rasprostranjeno među ženama. Žena je lako mogla izabrati da postane monahinja i živi u ženskom samostanu. Mogli su se čak uzdići u činove i jednog dana komandovati ženskim samostanom. Još u srednjem vijeku, samostani su bile velike organizacije s raznim poslovima i u njima je bilo smješteno na desetine ljudi. Dakle, to što je bila na čelu ženskog manastira omogućilo je ženama da vrše moć nad drugima. Ova moć bila je posebno privlačna visoko rođenim ženama koje na drugi način nisu mogle doći do statusa autoriteta.

Međutim, žene nikada nisu mogle ući u sfere svećenstva. Drugim riječima, nije im bilo dopušteno da zauzmu mjesto svjetovnog svećenstva jer su bili neređeni članovi crkve koji nisu živjeli u vjerskom institutu i nisu slijedili posebna vjerska pravila.

Uobičajena pitanja o položaju žena u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi

U srednjovjekovnoj Evropi postojao je veliki stepen nejednakosti između muškaraca i žena. Žene u nekim slučajevima nisu imale pravo glasa ili izbora da li se žele udati, imati djecu ili čak raditi.

Žene su u srednjem vijeku mogle raditi kao zanatlije, posjedovati ceh i zarađivati ​​novac na svoj način. Mogli su se i razvesti od muža pod određenim uslovima. Mnoge izuzetne autorice, naučnici i vlasnici preduzeća živjele su u to doba.

Žene u srednjovjekovnoj Evropi mogle su raditi u većini esnafa. Osim što su bile supruge ili majke, često su odlučivale postati zanatlije ili časne sestre.

Većina žena u srednjem vijeku nosila je kiklje, haljine do gležnja do poda izrađene od obojenog lana. Među seljankama vuna je bila povoljnija i pristupačnija opcija. Ženska odjeća#8217 također se sastojala od podtunika nazvanog mantil ili sako.


Monahinje koje su kupovale i prodavale ljudska bića

Američke časne sestre počinju se suočiti sa svojim vezama s ropstvom, ali još je dug put do pokajanja.

Kredit. Ilustracija Katrien De Blauwer, fotografije C.M. Bell i Joseph John Kirkbride, putem Odjela za štampu i fotografije Kongresne biblioteke Washington, D.C.

Gospođa Swarns je pisac za The Times.

Pripremna škola za posjete Georgetown, jedna od najstarijih rimokatoličkih ženskih škola u zemlji, dugo je slavila viziju i velikodušnost svojih osnivača: odlučna grupa katoličkih časnih sestara koje su se zalagale za besplatno obrazovanje za siromašne početkom 1800 -ih.

Sestre, koje su osnovale elitnu akademiju u Washingtonu, također su vodile „subotnju školu, besplatnu za svaku djevojku koja je htjela učiti - uključujući robinje, u vrijeme kada javnih škola gotovo da nije bilo, a učenje robova da čitaju bilo je nezakonito, ”Prema službenoj istoriji koja je nekoliko godina objavljivana na web stranici škole.

No, kad je prije nekoliko godina novozaposleni školski arhivista i povjesničar počeo kopati po zapisima samostana, nije pronašla dokaze da su časne sestre poučile porobljenu djecu čitanju ili pisanju. Umjesto toga, pronašla je zapise koji su dokumentirali mračniju stranu povijesti narudžbe.

Sestre pokazuju da su sestre Georgetown Visitation imale najmanje 107 robova muškaraca, žena i djece. Prodali su desetine tih ljudi kako bi platili dugove i pomogli u financiranju proširenja svoje škole i izgradnje nove kapele.

Image

"Ništa drugo do učiniti osim zbrinjavanja porodice crnaca", napisala je majka Agnes Brent, nadređena samostana 1821. godine, odobravajući prodaju para i njihovo dvoje male djece. Porobljena žena bila je udaljena samo nekoliko dana od rođenja trećeg djeteta.

Redovnice odlaganje crnih porodica? Pregledavam crkvene zapise iz 19. stoljeća već nekoliko godina i takva ležerna okrutnost od čelnika vjere mi i dalje oduzima dah. Ja sam crni novinar i crnac katolik. Ipak sam odrastao ne znajući ništa o časnim sestrama koje su kupovale i prodavale ljudska bića.

Generacijama su robovi uglavnom bili izostavljeni iz priče o porijeklu koja se tradicionalno priča o Katoličkoj crkvi. Moje izvještavanje o Univerzitetu Georgetown, koje je profitiralo od prodaje više od 200 robova, pomoglo je posljednjih godina da se skrene pažnja na univerzitete i njihove veze sa ropstvom. No, ropstvo je također pomoglo potaknuti rast mnogih suvremenih institucija, uključujući neke crkve i vjerske organizacije.

Povjesničari kažu da su gotovo svi redovi katoličkih sestara uspostavljeni krajem 1820 -ih bili robovi. Danas su mnoge sestre katolkinje otvorene pobornice socijalne pravde, a neke se bore sa ovom bolnom istorijom, čak i dok poslanici u Kongresu i predsjednički kandidati raspravljaju o tome treba li odštetu platiti potomcima porobljenog naroda.

Njihovi pristupi variraju po opsegu, a neke su sestre izrazile sumnju, plašeći se da bi ih razotkrivanje prošlosti moglo ostaviti otvorenim za kritiku. No, dok pretražuju svoje arhive i razmišljaju o putu naprijed, neke religiozne žene razvijaju okvire koji mogu poslužiti kao mape puta za druge institucije koje nastoje priznati i iskupiti svoje učešće u američkom sistemu ljudskih ropstava.

Sestre iz vizitacije Georgetown i školski službenici organizirali su niz diskusija za studente, nastavno osoblje, osoblje i bivše studente, uključujući molitvu u aprilu koja je odala počast porobljenom narodu "čije su nevoljne žrtve podržale rast ove škole". Oni su objavili mrežni izvještaj o robovlasništvu u samostanu - članak školskog arhiviste i povjesničara koji se također pojavio u američkom katoličkom historičaru ovog proljeća - i digitalizirali su njihove zapise vezane za ropstvo, učinivši ih po prvi put dostupnima javnosti.

Religiozni Presvetog Srca, koji su posjedovali oko 150 porobljenih ljudi u Louisiani i Missouriju, ušli su u trag desetinama potomaka ljudi koje su nekada posjedovali i pozvali ih na memorijalnu ceremoniju u Grand Coteau, La. Na svečanosti prošle jeseni, časne sestre otkrio spomenik robovima na lokalnom župnom groblju i ploču na starim prostorijama za robove. Najavili su i stvaranje fonda za stipendiranje afroameričkih učenika u njihovoj katoličkoj školi, koji su djelomično izgradili robovi.

"Nije to bilo samo pitanje gledanja u prošlost", rekla je sestra Carolyn Osiek, pokrajinska arhivista za Društvo Presvetog Srca u Sjedinjenim Državama/Kanadi. "Bilo je: 'Šta ćemo sada s ovim?'"

Sestra Osiek, koja je vodila odbor Društva Presvetog Srca za ropstvo i pomirenje, rekla je da njen red želi da potomci znaju da su njihovi preci igrali vitalnu ulogu u razvoju i održavanju samostana i škole. (Religiozni Presvetog Srca su članovi Društva Presvetog Srca.)

"Ne bismo mogli bez vas", rekla je, opisujući poruku koju je potomcima uputio pokrajinski vođa reda. "Toliko dugo vas nismo priznavali i žao nam je zbog toga."

Ali traženje duše nije univerzalno prihvaćeno. Neki potomci odbili su učestvovati u ceremoniji u Louisiani, smatrajući da je to previše bolno. A neke časne sestre izrazile su nelagodu zbog odluke o otkrivanju prošlosti.

"Mnoge zajednice sada su vrlo predane rješavanju pitanja rasizma, ali činjenica je da je njihova povijest problematična", rekla je Margaret Susan Thompson, povjesničarka sa Sveučilišta Syracuse koja je ispitivala katoličke časne sestre i rasu u Sjedinjenim Državama.

"Počinju se suočavati sa vlastitim rasizmom i svojim saučesništvom u rasizmu iz prošlosti", rekla je, "ali to je jako dug put."

Sestra Irma L. Dillard, afroamerička članica Religionizma Presvetog Srca, rekla je da neke bijele časne sestre nisu voljele ponovno posjetiti ovu povijest jer su se plašile da će ih se „smatrati rasističkim i lošim“. Pohvalila je korake koje je do sada preduzela po njenoj naredbi i rekla da se nada da će biti učinjeno više.

Rekla je da je do sada dodijeljena samo jedna stipendija, gest koji je opisala kao "znak".

I dok bi htjela da se istorija reda ropstva uvrsti u nastavni plan i program škola koje su osnovali, neke od tih škola su javno priznale njihovo porijeklo, rekla je, uprkos opsežnom istraživanju koje je provedeno.

"Nijedna od školskih web stranica nema ništa o porobljavanju", rekla je sestra Dillard, koja je bila i član odbora društva za ropstvo, odgovornost i pomirenje. "Bijelili smo svoju istoriju."

Prilikom posjeta Georgetownu, Susan Nalezyty, školski arhivista i povjesničar, otkrila je da su veze reda s ropstvom mnogo dublje nego što je ranije objavljivano. Nijedna službena istorija ne opisuje razmjere robovlasništva sestara niti detaljno opisuje zaradu časnih sestara od prodaje ljudi.

I više od jedne decenije, web stranica škole pozdravljala je časne sestre Georgetown Visitation zbog njihove "velikodušnosti duha" za učenje robova čitanju, anegdote koja se prenosila usmenom tradicijom, rekli su školski službenici. Taj jezik, koji ostaje nepotkrijepljen, uklonjen je s web stranice 2017. godine.

"Odbor je sretan, škola je sretna što sada ima informacije kako bismo mogli s autoritetom govoriti o ovoj istoriji na osnovu onoga što nam dokumentarni dokazi govore", rekao je dr. Nalezyty.

Povijest je u velikoj mjeri izblijedjela iz naše javne svijesti, čak i među mnogim od tri miliona crnaca katolika koji čine oko 3 posto katolika u Sjedinjenim Državama.

Odrastajući u New Yorku, živio sam samo nekoliko blokova od samostana koji je vodio knjižaru i festivala u zajednici koji je postao vrhunac mojih ljeta iz djetinjstva. Katoličke časne sestre obrazovale su moju majku, moje tetke, tri moja ujaka i obje moje sestre. Moja majka i njena porodica, koji su emigrirali s Bahama na Staten Island, čak su neko vrijeme živjeli na farmi koju je vodila Dorothy Day, osnivačica katoličkog radničkog pokreta i kandidatkinja za svece. Crkva koju smo poznavali imala je tendenciju prema irskim i italijanskim imigrantima, njihovoj djeci i unucima i gomili crnih porodica. Nismo ni zamišljali da bilo koji od njegovih vjerskih redova ima veze s ropstvom.

Darren W. Davis, politikolog sa Univerziteta Notre Dame i koautor knjige "Upornost u župi?" o crncima katolicima, rekao je da ljudi često pretpostavljaju da je većina crnaca katolika nedavno obraćeni. Ali mnogi pripadaju porodicama koje su prenosile vjeru s koljena na koljeno.

Neki su prihvatili vjeru nakon slijetanja u gradove poput Chicaga i New Yorka za vrijeme velike seobe koja je odnijela milione Afroamerikanaca na sjever, rekao je. Drugi imaju dublje korijene. "Katoličanstvo seže stoljećima unazad, posebno u porodicama s juga", rekao je.

U prvim decenijama američke republike, Katolička crkva je uspostavila svoje primarno uporište na jugu, u zajednicama u kojima se robovlasništvo smatralo znakom bogatstva i ugleda za župljane, svećenstvo i časne sestre. Nije bilo neobično da svećenici i časne sestre američkog porijekla odrastu u robovlasničkim porodicama, a mnogi su se redovi oslanjali na robovski rad, kažu historičari.

Na primjer, svećenici isusovci, koji su osnovali i vodili Georgetown, bili su među najvećim robovlasnicima u Marylandu. I kako su žene počele ulaziti u prve katoličke samostane krajem 18. i početkom 19. stoljeća, neke su donijele svoju ljudsku imovinu sa sobom u sklopu miraza, kažu historičari. (Naišao sam na ovu istoriju tokom svog izvještavanja o Georgetownu.)

Imućne pristalice i rođaci časnih sestara takođe su donirali samostanima porobljene ljude. U međuvremenu, katoličke sestre su kupovale, prodavale i razmjenjivale porobljene ljude. Neke sestre su prihvatale robove kao plaćanje školarine u svojim školama ili su im predale svoju ljudsku imovinu kao plaćanje dugova, pokazuju zapisi.

Mary Ewens, autorica knjige "Uloga časne sestre u Americi devetnaestog stoljeća", otkrila je da je sedam od osam prvih redova katoličkih časnih sestara osnovanih u Sjedinjenim Državama posjedovalo robove do 1820 -ih. U novijem istraživanju, Joseph G. Mannard otkrio je da je i osmi red bio dobar, barem na neko vrijeme.

"Oni su zaista došli definirati katolicizam u Sjedinjenim Državama", rekao je dr Thompson o tim ranokatoličkim časnim sestrama. „Između 1810. i 1820. godine, sestre su došle nadmašiti broj svećenika u Sjedinjenim Državama. Oni su postavili temeljne obrasce za ono što su sestre radile u SAD -u. ”

Neke časne sestre izrazile su odbojnost prema ropstvu, dok su druge opisale svoju nespremnost da prodaju ljude koje posjeduju, a zapisi dokumentuju neke napore da se porodice drže na okupu.

Sestre iz Georgetown Visitation -a i Sacred Heart -a ujedinile su porodice u kojima je muž bio u vlasništvu časnih sestara, a žena u vlasništvu nekog drugog. U svakom slučaju, sestre su kupile žene kako bi okupile porodicu. (Časne sestre iz Georgetown Visitation -a kupile su i djecu porodice.) Karmelićanke iz Baltimora brinule su se za neke starije robove kada su postali nemoćni. Sestre milosrdnice iz Nazareta u Kentuckyju ostale su toliko povezane sa svojim bivšim robovima da su se mnogi vratili, s djecom i unucima, na proslavu stogodišnjice samostana 1912.

No, dr. Mannard, povjesničar sa Sveučilišta Indiana u Pennsylvaniji, i drugi istraživači otkrili su da su financijske potrebe časnih sestara - i privlačnost neplaćenog rada - često nadmašile svaku nesklonost trgovini ljudima.

„Uprkos mojem odbojnosti što imam crnačke robove, možda ćemo morati da ih kupimo“, napisala je Rose Philippine Duchesne, koja je osnovala Društvo Presvetog Srca u Sjedinjenim Državama 1822. Godinu dana kasnije, sestre Svetog Srca u Grand Coteau je kupio njihovo prvo lice, robova po imenu Frank Hawkins, za 550 dolara.

1830., sestre karmelićanke navele su zabrinutost zbog toga što moraju poduzeti „zbrinjavanje naših siromašnih slugu“ kako bi objasnile svoju nevoljkost da se presele u Baltimore sa svoje plantaže u ruralnom Marylandu. No, oni su odustali od tih primjedbi nakon što su saznali da će im prodaja otplatiti dugove i omogućiti im da zadrže seosko imanje. Prodali su najmanje 30 ljudi, rekao je dr. Mannard.

Gotovo desetljeće kasnije, sestre milosrdnice Svetog Josipa u Emmitsburgu, Md., Koju je osnovala Elizabeth Ann Seton, prva Amerikanka rođena u Americi koja je proglašena sveticom, pristale su slijediti savjet svog vjerskog poglavara koji im je rekao mogli su prodati svoje "žute dječake" uz dobit od 10 do 12 posto "a da nikome ne učine nepravdu".

Što se tiče časnih sestara Georgetown Visitation, prihod od prodaje robova postao bi vitalni spas u periodu ekspanzije. 1820 -ih, sestre su krenule u građevinsku kampanju, zbog čega su bile opterećene dugovima. Kako bi se olakšalo financijsko opterećenje, prodali su najmanje 21 osobu između 1819. i 1822. godine, pokazuju zapisi.

Dok su se neki kupci usuđivali u plaćanju, sestre su ih odvele na sud, otkrila je dr. Nalezyty.

Sestre milosrdnice iz Nazareta u Kentuckyju, koje su imale 30 ljudi u Emancipaciji, bile su među prvim sestrama koje su se pokušale iskupiti. Pridružili su se s još dva naloga - dominikankama svete Katarine i sestrama Loretto - kako bi 2000. godine ugostili molitvu na kojoj su se službeno izvinili zbog robovlasništva. Godine 2012. sestre milosrdnice iz Nazareta podigle su spomenik na groblju na kojem je sahranjeno mnogo robova. Do sada su identifikovali tri potomka ljudi koje su nekada imali.

"Njihovi doprinosi su zanemareni", rekla je sestra Theresa Knabel, koja je istraživala historiju reda i obratila se potomcima. "Morali smo znati ko su oni, znati njihova imena, znati njihovu priču i učiniti ih vidljivima."

Roslyn Chenier, afroamerički softverski savjetnik u Atlanti, saznala je da su njeni preci bili u vlasništvu vjernika Presvetog Srca kada ju je kontaktirala sestra Maureen J. Chicoine, koja je istraživala historiju reda i identifikovala desetine potomci.

"Bila sam zadivljena, zadivljena", rekla je gospođa Chenier, koja je prisustvovala ceremoniji koju su sestre organizirale u Grand Coteauu u septembru prošle godine. "Bilo je jako emotivno."

Gospođa Chenier je odustala od vježbanja prije mnogo godina. Ali neki od njenih rođaka ostaju pobožni. Začudilo ih je saznanje da su njihovi preci u vlasništvu časnih sestara. Ali to nije poljuljalo njihovu vjeru, rekla je. To nije poljuljalo ni njen snažni katolički identitet.

To ne čudi oca Gregoryja C. Chisholma, crnog svećenika koji vodi župu sv. Charles Borromeo, Uskrsnuće i Svih svetih u Harlemu. Imao je brojne razgovore o katoličkom robovlasništvu. Razgovori su često bolni, rekao je, ali malo je crnaca iznenađeno čuti o rasizmu među svećenstvom.

Stariji ljudi još se sjećaju dana odvojenih klupa i odvojenih crkava, rekao je. Drugi su se susreli s rasizmom unutar svojih župa i unutar vlastitih vjerskih redova, čak i kada njeguju blagoslove koje katoličanstvo donosi u njihove živote.

"Cijela ova stvar otkriva načine na koje nas je religija na neki način iznevjerila", rekao je otac Chisholm, koji kaže da je ohrabren nedavnim naporima crkve da prizna svoju prošlost. „Teško je. Teško je. Ali dobro je. To je način da se naša crkva obnovi i to mora biti. Mora se obnoviti. ''

U studenom se Konferencija katoličkih biskupa Sjedinjenih Država obratila ropstvu u pastoralnom pismu u kojem se raspravljalo o rasizmu unutar crkve i zatražilo oprost. 2017. godine, otac Timothy P. Kesicki, predsjednik Jezuitske konferencije Kanade i Sjedinjenih Država, izvinio se zbog prodaje ropstva 1838. godine koja je pomogla održati univerzitet Georgetown na površini.

Sestre kažu da imaju još posla. Na Georgetown Visitation -u, odbor se fokusira na dublje uključivanje istorije u školski program. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are creating a permanent exhibit on their campus that will highlight the contributions of African-Americans to their congregation. The Religious of the Sacred Heart are weighing additional steps to promote inclusion and diversity and to eradicate racism within their order and in the schools they sponsor.

Sister Dillard and other members of her committee have already visited some of the schools founded by their order, sharing the history that their sisters have unearthed and urging young people to commit themselves to combating systemic racism.

She wants to make sure that students no longer grow up, as I did, without learning about the enslaved people who helped to build the church. She wants to make sure that we all know their names.


When Women Became Nuns to Get a Good Education - HISTORY

Select the community to which you would like to donate:

Caribbean, Central America, South America

More than 60 sisters serving in eight countries. Administrative center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

More than 60 sisters serving in eight countries. Administrative center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Mid-Atlantic

Nearly 700 sisters serving in twenty states and two countries. Administrative center in Merion, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 700 sisters serving in twenty states and two countries. Administrative center in Merion, Pennsylvania.

New York, Pennsylvania West

More than 250 sisters serving in two states and the Philippines. Administrative center in Buffalo, New York.

More than 250 sisters serving in two states and the Philippines. Administrative center in Buffalo, New York.

Sjeveroistok

More than 500 sisters serve in New York (Albany and surrounding areas), Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

More than 500 sisters serve in New York (Albany and surrounding areas), Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

South Central

More than 400 sisters serving in 18 states and Jamaica. Administrative center in Belmont, North Carolina.

More than 400 sisters serving in 18 states and Jamaica. Administrative center in Belmont, North Carolina.

West Midwest

Roughly 500 sisters serving in 16 states and one country. Administrative center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Roughly 500 sisters serving in 16 states and one country. Administrative center in Omaha, Nebraska.


Despite evidence demonstrating how central girls’ education is to development, gender disparities in education persist.

Around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries.

Worldwide, 132 million girls are out of school.

Only 66 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. At the secondary level, the gap widens: 45 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in lower secondary education, and 25 per cent in upper secondary education.

The reasons are many. Barriers to girls’ education – like poverty, child marriage and gender-based violence – vary among countries and communities. Poor families often favour boys when investing in education.

In some places, schools do not meet the safety, hygiene or sanitation needs of girls. In others, teaching practices are not gender-responsive and result in gender gaps in learning and skills development.


When Women Became Nuns to Get a Good Education - HISTORY

As caretakers of children, family and community, it was natural that women were the nurses, the caregivers, as human society evolved. Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from the beginning. This was especially true of wet nurses, who nursed a baby when the mother died or could not nurse her child. A woman whose infant did not survive birth, or who was ready to wean her child, or who was capable of nursing more than one baby, would accept employment as a wet nurse, usually going to live in the home of her employer.

The home, in fact, was the center of health care, and for the first two centuries after European exploration of North America, all nursing was home nursing. Even when the nation’s first hospital began in Philadelphia in 1751, it was thought of primarily as an asylum or poorhouse another century or more would pass before the public viewed hospitals as reputable and safe.

The Civil War gave enormous impetus to the building of hospitals and to the development of nursing as a credentialed profession. Initial wartime volunteers, however, often were seen as no different from “camp followers,” the women (sometimes mistresses and sometimes wives) who followed their soldier men. It was an era of sharp class definitions, and especially in the South, “respectable” women could not be seen in a military hospital.

Some women had the courage and common sense to defy decorum, though, especially in the North, where the US Sanitary Commission became the forerunner to the Red Cross. The best known of these women, of course, is Clara Barton—but her genius was in supply distribution and in development of systems for the missing and dead, not in nursing. Barton herself acknowledged that she actually nursed for only about six months of the four-year war and that other women did much more.

Perhaps the best known nurse at the time, was Mary Ann Bickerdyke of Illinois. A middle-aged widow, her accidental career began when she delivered money raised by local charities to the giant, if temporary, hospitals that the Union built at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. After witnessing suffering soldiers who had literally no one to care for them, she went on to be the only woman that General William T. Sherman allowed with his army. At the Tennessee battle of Lookout Mountain, she was the sole nurse for some two thousand men.

In the Confederacy, the most prominent nurses were Captain Sally Tompkins and Phoebe Pember. Tompkins was commissioned as an officer in the Confederate army so that she could have the power to commandeer supplies. She converted her Richmond mansion into Robertson Hospital and established a reputation for extraordinary quality: Tompkins’ hospital had by far the lowest death rate of any facility in the North or South, even though physicians sent their worst cases to her. Her staff of six—four of whom were black women still in slavery—treated more than 1,600 patients and lost only 73, an uncommonly low number in an era before germ theory was understood.

Phoebe Levy Pember c. 1855

Phoebe Levy Pember has become somewhat better known since the Post Office recently included her on a series of Civil War stamps. A young widow from a wealthy, Jewish family based in Charleston and Atlanta, she went north to the Confederate capital of Richmond and eventually ran the world’s largest hospital. On an average day, Pember supervised the treatment of 15,000 patients, most of them cared for by nearly 300 slave women.

The war thus led to greater respect for nurses, something that Congress acknowledged in 1892, when it belatedly passed a bill providing pensions to Civil War nurses. More important, the war served as the beginning of moving the profession from the home to the hospital and clinic. The result was an explosion of nursing schools in the late nineteenth century. Usually these schools were closely associated with a hospital, and nurses—all of whom were assumed to be female—lived and worked at the hospital.

Often called “sisters” (as British nurses still are), their lives were indeed similar to those of nuns. Forbidden to marry, they were cloistered in “nurses’ homes” on hospital grounds, where every aspect of life was strictly disciplined. Student nurses were not paid at all, and because too many hospitals valued this free labor over classroom and laboratory time, many spent their days scrubbing floors, doing laundry, and other menial tasks. Curricula improved, however, in part because of the development of a tradition with caps: each nursing school had a distinctive cap that women wore after graduation, and because her educational background was literally visible every day, schools soon raised standards so that their graduates would affirm their quality.

There were more female physicians (and hospital administrators) during the 19 th century than most people realize today—and some of these female physicians recognized the need for nurses and worked to professionalize the occupation. Dr. Marie Zakrewska founded a medical school for women in Boston that was affiliated with her New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1862, during the Civil War—and a decade later, in 1872, she began an associated nursing school that was the nation’s first.

Linda Richards was its first graduate and thus is known as America’s first professionally trained nurse. Richards went on to establish her own precedent-setting programs as superintendent of nursing at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and at Massachusetts General Hospital she also set up the first nursing school in Japan.

Like most educational institutions at the time, these schools did not admit African Americans, and the informally trained black women who nursed during the Civil War seldom were able to obtain credentials. The first credentialed black nurse was Mary Mahoney, who graduated in 1879 from Dr. Zakrewska’s nursing school in Boston. As segregation remained the rule far into the 20th century, Mahoney led the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, which began in 1908.

During the four decades between the Civil War and the beginning of the twentieth century, the image of nurses moved from being viewed as somewhat less than honorable to a respected profession. The next century would bring still more changes, and nurses of the 19 th century would scarcely recognize the occupation as it is in the 21 st century. They would, however, agree that a world of difference has occurred in the care of patients, and that has been an unmitigated good—achieved primarily by women.


Empress Wu Zetian

The Tang dynasty (618-906 AD) was a time of relative freedom for women. They did not bind their feet nor lead submissive lives. It was a time in which a number of exceptional women contributed in the areas of culture and politics. So it is no surprise that Wu, born into a rich and noble family, was taught to play music, write, and read the Chinese classics. By thirteen years of age she was known for her wit, intelligence, and beauty, and was recruited to the court of Emperor Tai Tsung. She soon became his favorite concubine. But she also had eyes for his son, Kao Tsung.

When the emperor died and Kao Tsung took over, Wu was now twenty seven years old. In time she became a favorite concubine of the new emperor, giving birth to the sons he wanted. As mother of the future emperor of China, she grew in power. She managed to eliminate Kao Tsung's wife, Empress Wang, by accusing her of killing Wu's newborn daughter. Kao Tsung believed Wu, and replaced Empress Wang to marry the up and coming Wu Zetian.

Within five years of their marriage, Emperor Kao Tsung suffered a crippling stroke. The Empress Wu took over the administrative duties of the court, a position equal to the emperor. She created a secret police force to spy on her opposition, and cruelly jailed or killed anyone who stood in her way, including the unfortunate Empress Wang. With the death of Emperor Kao Tsung, Wu managed to outflank her eldest sons and moved her youngest, and much weaker son, into power. She in effect ruled, telling him what to do.

In order to challenge Confucian beliefs against rule by women, Wu began a campaign to elevate the position of women. She had scholars write biographies of famous women, and raised the position of her mother's clan by giving her relatives high political posts. She moved her court away from the seat of traditional male power and tried to establish a new dynasty. She said that the ideal ruler was one who ruled like a mother does over her children.

In 690, Wu's youngest son removed himself from office, and Wu Zetian was declared emperor of China. In spite of her ruthless climb to power, her rule proved to be benign. She found the best people she could to run the government, and treated those she trusted fairly. She reduced the army's size and stopped the influence of aristocratic military men on government by replacing them with scholars. Everyone had to compete for government positions by taking exams, thus setting the practice of government run by scholars. Wu also was fair to peasants, lowering oppressive taxes, raising agricultural production, and strengthening public works.

During her reign, Empress Wu placed Buddhism over Daoism as the favored state religion. She invited the most gifted scholars to China and built Buddhist temples and cave sculptures. Chinese Buddhism achieved its highest development under the reign of Wu Zetian.

As she grew older, Empress Wu lessened the power of her secret police. But she become increasingly superstitious and fearful. Sorcerers and corrupt court favorites flattered her. Finally, in 705, she was pressured to give up the throne in favor of her third son, who was waiting all these years in the wings. Wu Zetian died peacefully at age eighty the same year.

Want information on resources on Empress Wu? Clink here.

For a discussion of women within the family: Ancient China and India. Click here.

The unit Eyes of the Empress: Women in Tang Dynasty will tell you more about Empress Wu Zetian and other women of the period, and daily life in the glorious years of the Tang Dynasty,

Statue of seated Buddha that the Empress Wu Zetian had carved into the 1000 Buddha Caves at Luoyang, China. The face is suppose to resemble the empress.

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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Nun Abuse: How My Mother, a Former Nun, Suffered at the Hands of 'The Good Sisters'

Catholic priests have become synonymous with “abuse” in recent years, but they’ve never been the only people of the cloth guilty of inflicting physical and emotional pain on innocent victims. Seldom talked about are the rarely maligned women of the Church: sisters who intentionally abused fellow nuns behind convent walls. Nun abuse is that other dirty little secret of the Catholic Church—and it’s a secret that affected, and crushed, the spirits of scores of young women. My mother was one of them.

My mother entered the convent in the fall of 1957 at the age of 21, determined to save the world through her faith. She left nearly a decade later, beaten down physically and mentally, emaciated and fragile. On the early morning in which she finally exited, her head was bald in patches, owing to the hatchet-job-style haircuts the convent had subjected her to for years. She had no civilian clothes to wear—having given all of her worldly possessions up upon entering the convent—and so was forced by a pair of presiding nuns to wear ill-fitting clothing that she said smelled and a pair of mismatched shoes. She shook uncontrollably. Worst of all were her eyes. Her large brown eyes, wide and excited when she’d entered the convent, went listless and flat. In the words of my uncle, my mother’s youngest brother, who was horrified at the sight of her the morning she returned to their childhood home, “She looked like a mangy dog. A beat-up, mangy dog.”

“It was those nuns,” my uncle said, growing angry. “They were supposed to protect her, but they did just the opposite.”

Nun abuse remains little talked about in the church. There are a few studies that have been conducted, including one in 1996 that reported that as many as 40 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States (or around 34,000 sisters at that time) claimed to have been sexually abused in some capacity and that “all nuns who claimed repeated sexual exploitation reported that they were pressured by religious superiors for sexual favors.”

But most cases of the variety of nun abuse my mother was subjected to—emotional pain and physical tolls intentionally inflected upon nuns by nuns in positions of power—have gone unreported. In cases like my mother’s, the tales of abuse were passed along in hushed whispers, first in psychiatrists’ offices, then, later, to family members. In many instances, sisters suffered in silence, resigned to their fate, afraid to come forward. Nuns take vows of obedience. Historically, there were few, if any, means of reporting wrongdoing without breaking strict and rather ancient rules of church hierarchy. Consequently, there’s been little to no accountability. Young sisters, in particular, have been particularly vulnerable, as they’ve always been the lowest on the totem pole and expected to be the most obedient.

In my mother’s case, the stories of abuse came out in bits and pieces over the decades, mostly in the wake of two nervous breakdowns. Her hesitation to come forward was twofold. First, she, like so many victims of abuse—within or without the Church—felt as if it was her fault and that no one would believe her. Who, she wondered, would believe that “good sisters” could be so mean? Second, she worried that speaking up meant going against the Church she continued to love and believe in, even after she left the convent.

My mother had gone to live at a convent in Indiana just three months after graduating from college. She’d graduated with honors, and with an impressive resume. As a teenager, she’d met privately with President Harry S. Truman in the White House’s Rose Garden after being recognized for her work in student government. But it was a life of prayer—not politics—that most appealed to her. And so she sought out the “good sisters” of her convent. Her goal was to use her degree to educate and feed the poor.

When men become priests, they get to keep their names, cars, even bank accounts. Not nuns. When my mother entered the convent, she gave up virtually everything. And by everything, I mean everything. When my mother became a sister, she surrendered all of her belongings as part of her vow of poverty. That meant that her poodle skirts and saddle shoes, even the stories and plays she’d written in high school, were destroyed. She also lost her name. She entered the convent as Anne Virginia Diener and was promptly renamed Sister Aurelia Mary. She had no say in its selection it was decided upon by presiding nuns.

Visits home for a young nun were forbidden. Visits from family members were closely supervised. Incoming mail was censored, often seized. Letters from my her old college boyfriend? None of them ever reached my mother. They were intercepted by the presiding Mother Superior, as were packages from doting grandparents deemed “too excessive.”

My mother was at peace with her new name and surrendering her privacy. But soon came more invasive controls. There was the hair. Even though my mother’s brown curls could easily have been covered by the enormous habit she wore (her veil was like something out of The Flying Nun and could have covered any hair length), she was forced to have it cut off by the presiding sisters. The goal of the closely-shorn head, explained my mother’s younger sister, who also became a nun in the 1950s, was “to make everyone forget that we were women.”

Then there was the food, or lack thereof. Sisters were expected to fast for hours, sometime entire days, in a bid to show their faith. Those with low blood sugar, like my mother, passed out during peak fasting times. They were considered “unfaithful.” Instead of being given food to prevent additional fainting spells, they were told to pray harder. My mother did so, but passed out again. Her punishment? Longer periods of enforced fasting.

Even worse than food deprivation, my mother would later recount, was the lack of medical care. Sisters who complained of medical maladies were told to “pray it off.”

“Sisters who said they were sick were treated like they were making things up to get attention,” my mother’s friend Marian, who was also a sister at her convent in the 1950s, told me.

Even when my mother doubled over in physical agony, owing to abdominal cramps, and was scarcely capable of moving, she was ordered to get out of bed. Her pleas for medical care fell on deaf ears. It was a priest affiliated with the religious academy in which she taught who ultimately insisted upon getting her treatment, ordering a pair of nuns to take her to the doctor. The doctor on duty was appalled at her appearance, calling her a “bag of bones” before sending her on to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery on her tipped uterus. She was additionally diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder, which explained her extreme fatigue.

My mother was fortunate on a pair of levels. First, someone had intervened on her behalf—someone who held the most power in her convent community: a man of the cloth. His actions enabled my mother to circumvent the system. Sisters were property of the Catholic Church, and it was the presiding group of nuns who determined when, and if, any sister ventured out to receive anything, even medical care, from the outside world. “No sister was allowed to seek medical care on her own,” Marian told me. “Always she had to have at least one escort to any doctor’s appointment. If an appointment was allowed.”

Second, my mother’s treatment came in time. Other sisters in her convent weren’t so lucky, like one of her fellow nuns who complained repeatedly of a bad headache. “She complained for weeks, months,” Marian remembered. “By the time she finally got them to take her to the hospital, it was too late. They took a biopsy from the roof of her mouth and discovered cancer. It was everywhere. A big portion of her brain and a large section of her face had to be removed. It was horrible.”

My mother’s growing friendship with the priest who had helped save her—coupled with her popularity in the classroom with her young students—did not go over well with the nuns in command. She was removed from the classroom, with no opportunity to say goodbye to her young students, then demoted and assigned to the tasks of scrubbing floors and sorting convent correspondence. Pleas to re-enter the classroom resulted in more reprimands, more periods of enforced silence. That’s when the tears started, and didn’t stop.

In an effort to silence my mother and what the convent called her “nervous habits,” the punishments grew, my mother would tell me, “more severe.” It’s hard to gauge what exactly she meant, but family members report there were unexplained bruises. And my father has suspected that sexual abuse was a factor, owing to her later behavior in their marriage, but she never explicitly told him about inappropriate sexual contact. What is clear is that a piece of my mother died behind those convent walls.

My mother ultimately left the convent at the encouragement of the priest who had worked to get her medical care. It was the 1960s, and, he told her, with the coming of Vatican II and the growing women’s movement, there were new opportunities for women like my mother to lead a meaningful life and serve the Church as a layperson.

My mother was among the first in her “class” of nuns to muster the courage to leave. But she was hardly the last. Scores more would follow. Today, the once burgeoning population of nuns at her convent—some 800—has dwindled to a few dozen. Nationally, the population has similarly plummeted. In the 1960s, when my mother last wore her habit, there were 180,000 American nuns. Today, the figure has dropped by more than 75 percent, to just over 40,000, with new convents shuttering every year, owing to a depletion of funds, and interest. A 2008 study found only eight percent of Millennials have “ever” considered becoming a nun.

Many Catholics wring their hands over “the nun shortage,” lamenting the end of an era. I remain Catholic and my husband and I are sending our children to Catholic school, and so I understand, to a degree, the feelings of nostalgia. Good nuns and good convents can and do exist. And when they do, both are special things. But I understand something more. In my family, convents are not synonymous with warm, fuzzy places in which all is good and holy. In my family, a convent is known as the place that killed the spirit of my mother and the spirit of countless other young women.

Mary Pflum Peterson is a multi-Emmy-Award-winning producer for ABC News/ Dobro jutro Ameriko. She chronicles her mother’s time in the convent, and the story of three generations of women in a decidedly complicated Catholic family, in her new memoir, White Dresses: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughter .

Illustration by Tara Jacoby. Photos courtesy of the author.

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My one aunt is a former nun, who left the convent and became a Jew. I have another aunt who is still a nun, and she absolutely hates it. She is a free spirit, and only joined to escape a bad, abusive home situation, just like her sister did. The other nuns are terrible to her- they force her to eat in silence, they are verbally abusive, they make her feel like shit because she likes to wear the earrings, necklaces and bracelets I make her. She is an intelligent, beautiful, creative woman with so much to offer this world, but because she is nearing seventy, she cannot simply leave the convent. Zašto? Because she has not paid into social security, she has no retirement despite working as a professor at the same university for more than for decades and having a PHD, and our family is not a family that comes from money. So she stays, miserable and depressed. She doesn’t even believe in god anymore, is disgusted by the pedophilia scandals and the church’s response to them, and is completely beside herself.

It makes me sad when I think about all of the things my Ciocia Asia would have done had she not joined, or left the convent like my Ciocia Mania. I know she never would have married and had children, but she’s the sort of person that would have joined the Peace Corps, and lived a life of service and activism. She’s pro-choice, she is pro gay rights and considers Cindymoo to be her niece and even bought us an iron with the little money she has when we got our own place. There are some really cool nuns out there, don’t get me wrong. Little Sisters of the Poor is an amazing organization. But a lot of nuns are cruel and awful, something I know from personal experience and from the experience of my Ciocia Asia and Ciocia Mania.


The Meaning of the Terms Nun, Sister, Monk, Priest, and Brother

Is there any difference between a nun and a sister? What about a monk are they priests or brothers? I have always been confused by these terms.

These terms are indeed confusing, because they are often used interchangeably even though they have technical differences. First, let's look at the difference between nuns and sisters. A nun is a woman who belongs to a religious order and takes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Their vows are publicly accepted by superiors in the name of the Church and solemn. In general, solemn vows are professed by members of religious orders after a period of temporary, simple vows. When bound by solemn vows, a woman is a nun but is commonly called "Sister" (although some orders use another formal title, like "Dame" or "Mother") when bound by simple vows, a woman is a sister, not a nun, and thereby called "Sister." Nuns recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office in common, and engage in some work to help support themselves.

Another distinguishing mark of nuns is that they live a contemplative, cloistered life in a monastery. "Cloistered" refers to living within the confines of the monastery behind the "papal enclosure." Nuns are permitted to leave the cloister only under special circumstances and with the proper permission. Moreover, visitors are not be permitted to enter into the cloistered area. When visiting these monasteries, like the Poor Clares' Monastery in Alexandria, a person may enter the public area of the chapel, but a wrought-iron screen separates it from the nun's side or "cloistered" side of the chapel. Also when visiting one of the nuns, the visitor is physically separated by a grill or other barrier from the nun who is in the cloister. Besides the Poor Clares, other strictly cloistered nuns are the Carmelites and Benedictines.

In some cases, the cloister restrictions are not as strictly enforced. Some orders of nuns, while technically cloistered, conduct works of charity or education, interacting with the public. For example, the Visitation Sisters are technically cloistered nuns but teach school.

With this understanding of the term "nun," the title "Sister" denotes a woman religious under simple vows, who is a member of a particular religious congregation. (The distinction between a "solemn vow" and a "simple vow" is a determination made by the Church when the religious community is established: members of religious orders make a final profession of solemn vows, and members of religious institutes or religious congregations make a final profession of perpetual simple vows, after a period of temporary simple vows.) These women religious also take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience live in community in a convent and share in a particular apostolate. These religious congregations may serve either a particular diocese under the immediate jurisdiction of the local bishop, or serve throughout the universal Church under the immediate jurisdiction of the Pope. Examples of these communities are the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Daughters of St. Paul.

Since the 6th century, monks and nuns following the Rule of Saint Benedict have been making the so-called Benedictine vow at their public profession of obedience (placing oneself under the direction of the abbot/abbess or prior/prioress), stability (committing oneself to a particular monastery), and "conversion of manners" (which includes forgoing private ownership and celibate chastity). A monk may be a priest or a deacon, who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, or a religious brother, who is not ordained. Monks live in a monastery, the word from which "monk" is derived. Depending upon the circumstances of the particular order, they may have a very strict contemplative, cloistered lifestyle, like the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance (commonly known as the Trappists), or a less strictly cloistered lifestyle, like the Benedictines.

Just as an aside, these monasteries are referred to as abbeys when they are independent, self-sufficient, and have a certain number of monks or nuns. The head of the abbey is either the abbot or abbess.

Moreover, religious institutes or congregations of men include those of both priests and brothers, like the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, and those of only brothers, like the Brothers of the Sacred Heart or Brothers of St. Francis Xavier. These men religious also take the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, live in community, and share in a particular apostolate, like education, health care, or other charitable work.

While this article has dealt with the fine distinctions of terminology, we must not forget that these individuals have totally dedicated their lives to God taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience serve the Church in special way work for the salvation of the world and strive for the perfection of charity in their own lives. They are an outstanding sign of the Church, and a witness to Jesus Christ.

Saunders, Rev. William. "The Meaning of the Terms Nun, Sister, Monk, Priest, and Brother." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.


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