I didn't know there was a documentary made honoring the Religious Women of the United States. I came across an article online about the film and the changes wrought by American Sisters - with praise for the baby boomers as well! I'm sure some people will hate it.
Babyboomer nuns help revolutionize healthcare.
Within the church, perhaps the biggest agents of this change were its nuns. A wave of new thought during the 1960s opened cloister doors.While modernization of the church did leave fewer nuns in the pipeline to carry out work in the health care and education fields, the ones who stayed -- this baby boomer generation of religious sisters -- undertook a kind of grass-roots, social justice-oriented health care.Even today, their work continues to fill in the gaps left by our general health care system.
Vatican II revolutionizes religious lifeIt was Pope John XXIII who initiated the Roman Catholic Church's modernization movement in 1962. The pope was decidedly not a baby boomer -- he was born in 1881. But he inspired the boomers, who were left to carry out his reforms.He convened the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, whose leaders created 16 documents that redefined the role of the church in the world. They allowed Catholics to work and pray with members of other faiths, replaced the Latin Mass with church services held in local languages, and dramatically changed how religious sisters lived and worked."Pope John XXIII said we had to re-examine who we were as the church and get back to the core teachings of Jesus -- which were about compassion and justice -- and get rid of what wasn't," said Miriam Therese MacGillis of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey.She made the comment in the recently released documentary "Band of Sisters," which examines how this generation of religious women changed the Catholic Church's social justice efforts, something little discussed until now.It was a huge shift for the sisters."For over 1,500 years, cloister and religious habit were absolutely required. So we were not to ever leave the cloister. We were never to be without habit," Sister Theresa Kane explained in the documentary.Vatican II loosened so many requirements that it made the front cover of Time magazine.Nuns no longer had to live in convents, solely work within the church and its institutions, or wear their distinctive habits. The ruling also put the laity on equal footing with religious sisters and priests, who at one time had been seen by the church as being above the people. [Ed.'s note: That's incorrect.]The new freedom shook many convents to their core. Hundreds of nuns left religious life. Others stayed to figure out how they could best use their talents. - CNN
In contrast, this past weekend I received my Sisters of Life newsletter/magazine, published through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus. The sisters are full of life and vitality - bright young women, their testimonies filled with ardent devotion and joy. Likewise the women and families they serve offer testimonies and praise for these women who have brought Christ into their lives. There is something 'vivascious' about the sisters - not unlike the Dominican Sisters as well as the Missionaries of Charity and the CFR's. It strikes me that it is their relationship with Christ which vivifies their lives, their vocation, and subsequently their apostolate. They do not see the cloister as limiting, much less the habit - which they wear with delight and honor.
While the older orders may have revolutionized religious life gone stale, the new sisters are reviving the fervor, the fire of apostolic religious life in the Church and the world - and attracting souls to Christ.