Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nuns and Justice

The New York Times continues to have pieces in support of Catholic nuns in America. I presume they're getting a large number of letters and editorials on the subject by people whose lives are positively affected by Sisters across the nation. The Order I work for have their roots in contemplation, though they have always done apostolic work-- hospitals and education, mostly, the work of almost every order in the United States in the 19th century. However, many other orders are rooted in justice work. By rooted I mean their founding monasteries in Europe worked in prisons and nursed people through the plague and took in orphans.

When they left Europe, in the bloody wars that followed the Reformation or later, sending out missionaries to help immigrant populations in the New World, they brought with them this traditional work. The Sisters of St. Joseph stand out in this regard. I was told a story by a Sister of St. Joseph of Orange about how the Sisters who survived the guillotine or prison in the French Revolution continued to live in hiding and serve the poorest of the towns near Puy, France, while they also continued their tradition of making lace. This is a common story, and celebrates what I see as twoo ongoing traditions for Sisters: Work to meet the needs of the world and preserve art and craft traditions (usually, while praying). To read the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, click here.

These justice-oriented Orders are the Sisters who went to Latin America in the 60s-80s and provided places of refuge for struggling people and fought for justice, often at the cost of their lives.

These are the kinds of Sisters described in the most recent editorial in the New York Times. They work for justice locally, and their achievements are dramatic. To read the editorial, click here.

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