joining the holy sisterhood

Every ten years or so I consider looking into joining the sisterhood, ya know, the nunnery. No, I didn’t grow up Catholic, have never been Catholic, didn’t even attend Catholic school. I do however respect much of the witness and ministry of sisters around the globe. Like most organizations in the world, the sisters do the real work, they’re on the front lines, active and present in neighborhoods with the poorest of the poor, healing hurts, righting wrongs, and mending brokenness. Imagine living in community with in a diverse company of women who are all living out what they believe God has called them to do and be in neighborhoods with people everywhere. Sisters can change the world.

When I was in my twenties, I worked in a Catholic Orphanage and spent time up-close with the nuns who were administrators of the place. I remember a couple of sassy, no-nonsense, f-bomb flipping nuns who were not reticent to let you know their thoughts or when they were angry about some injustice that would impact the children in our care. They were righteous sisters.

With the selection of the new pope, I’m attracted once again to the sisters. Pope Francis, whose chosen name derives from Francis of Assisi, a 12th century Italian friar and preacher who left the creaturely comforts of his family background and took a vow to live in poverty with the poor and suffering. Saint Francis of Assisi is known also for his relationship with nature and the environment. He’s said to be one of the first known people to receive stigmata, the actual wounds of the passion of Christ. Today, Pope Francis also makes a choice to identify with the poor of the world. He flaunts simplicity and throws off any signs of opulence in lifestyle. He prefers walking among the people and touching the people vs. reigning above and apart from the people. This Passion Week, in an act of reverence, the Pope lay on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica during Good Friday’s Mass at the Vatican. Yesterday, Maundy Thursday the Pope kissed and washed the feet of young offenders at a youth detention center during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This Pontiff’s humility and commitment to the poor has apparently always been evident even before his rise to the high calling of Pope. Those who knew him before, tell stories of his everyday simplicity, living in a small home, cooking his own meals, riding public buses and walking in the neighborhood.

Yes, yes, I know, there are concerns about this Pope’s extreme conservatism in other realms, particularly LGBTQ issues. Notwithstanding, his commitment to the least of these is commendable. So I have decided to revisit my desire to join the sisters, taking my own vow of poverty, living, being, and doing, in community. At this point in my life I don’t feel like I’m losing out or missing anything. There’s no huge social sacrifice to make. My own husband, my own children, my own home and car? My students think I’m already a nun. As a matter of fact, maybe I really did miss my calling. I like what I see unraveling in this re-branding of Roman Catholicism via the new Francis. I just hope it’s not too late for me. Hey sisters, wait up! Here I come!



Happy Easter friends! And Happy April 1st (April Fools) ~ all due respect to the holy sisterhood but I’m joking about joining, I’ll probably never join the real nunnery and you probably wouldn’t even want me      images

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care