Catholic Sisters in the United States, you continue to be scrutinized and criticized by Vatican officials who claim to speak for the good of the church, but who are putting doctrinal conformity ahead of loving and serving the people of God. I want to add my voice to the many who are speaking in support of your good work, and name just a few of the dozens, probably hundreds, of women religious who have made a positive impact on my life:
Sister Bernita, you were so kind to my shy kindergartener self. And I still know the melody and words to your “Put Away Time” cleaning song.
Sister Joyce, you were the first woman I met who had a leadership role in ministry, both as the principal of my Catholic grade school and in leading us in song during so many liturgies.
Sister Rosemary, you made a special trip to be present at my First Communion.
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, as a teenager I didn’t understand the complex geopolitical realities of Latin American solidarity work, I just knew that the local convent was providing shelter for a family from El Salvador, and that it was a Good Thing.
Sister Ruth, you were a teacher-by-example of what it means to live in radical solidarity with people experiencing poverty and discrimination.
Sister Carletta, I wish I had known you better, both as my great aunt Philomine and as a woman who also studied at a Jesuit university. I was honored to receive the Franciscan cross that belonged to you.
Sister Brenda, your office was a student lounge where all were welcome. You helped put me on the lifelong path of acknowledging white privilege and challenging racism, beginning with myself.
Sister Mary Peter, you continued to wear a modified habit and veil and taught contemporary theology with joy in your voice. You helped show me how to honor the traditional piety of my Catholic upbringing while also embracing new, progressive ideas.
Sister Fran, you taught me yoga and meditation, and ministered to me with wise and gentle counsel when I was in emotional crisis.
Sisters at the Eighth Day Center for Justice, your courage and dedication were an example to me and other student activists as we began to build our skills of political organizing and advocacy.
Sister Gloria, you were the first to read what became the first draft of my master’s thesis, and your affirmation of my topic and method helped keep me going during the difficult process of writing.
I cannot imagine how different my life would be without the positive influences of these and so many other holy women. Thank you, sisters.