“What We Will Be Has Not Yet Been Revealed…”

new years resolutionIt is January – the month of resolutions. The glossy covers of magazines encourage the launching of self-improvement routines and offer advice on kicking bad habits and creating better ones. They promise that 2015 can be the best year ever as long as we have enough grit, determination, and self-control to make it so. After excess holiday eating and drinking, we resolve to be healthier. Or we rededicate ourselves to improving that relationship, finishing that degree, tackling that cleaning project, addressing that character flaw.

The assumption behind any resolution is that we are in control – in the words of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, that I am “the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” That’s an appealing idea to us first world, middle class North American folks. Whether it’s our health, finances, relationships, spiritual lives, or any other area – it’s nice to think that we can systematically set goals, achieve them, master our flaws, and maximize progress. That through a combination of smarts, willpower and planning we can both chart and then walk the road of growth in wholeness/holiness.

Underlying this mindset is a subtle, secular Pelagianism and that is challenged by these words which have been working on me in prayer: “…what we will be has not yet been revealed” (I John 3:2). John the Evangelist tells his readers (past and present) that we are children of God now, but we do not know what we will be in the fullness of time – or even (I would add) next year. Not only can we not get there by our own power – we cannot even know what we will look like.

An anecdote that Catholic journalist John L. Allen, Jr. shared recently about Pope Francis’ transformation that illustrates this idea and provides a healthy counterpoint to the prevailing New Year’s mindset.

Allen challenged us to do a google image search for “Jorge Mario Bergoglio not Pope Francis.” Try it, and you’ll see: in many of the photos he looks stern, awkward, unapproachable, and even downright dour. In his pre-pope days, close associates described him as “shy.”

Of course, this is a man whom we know now as the world’s most popular religious leader – admired by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, followed by 12 million on Twitter, more than comfortable in the media spotlight (did you see him on the cover of Rolling Stone?) voted as Esquire’s best-dressed man of the year. If you want visuals, do a google image search for “Pope Francis” and make a comparison.

So what happened? How did the shy, spotlight-dodging Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio become the charismatic, warm Pope Francis?

By the reports of those who have worked with him closely, Bergoglio underwent a significant change the night of his election. Allen reports that after receiving news of his election but before stepping out on the balcony of St. Peter’s for the “habemus papam” pronouncement, Bergoglio went into a chapel for a few moments of private prayer. A Vatican photographer who witnessed him stepping out chapel reported that his entire countenance and way of carrying himself had changed. There was a new vitality and radiance present – the vitality and radiance which have come to characterize his papacy.

“Jorge Bergoglio had a mystical experience on the night of his election – he went from being someone who was shy and avoided appearing in public to a ‘rock star,’” Allen says of the transformation of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

When Pope Francis was approached by prelates about this dramatic change, he acknowledged: “It’s true. I believe the Holy Spirit has changed me.”

Francis’ example encourages a generous dose of trust that change is at least as much about what we receive as what we create. Transformation has more to do with that old-school Catholic term “cooperation with grace” than with the masterminding and implementing of a detailed personal annual strategic plan.

Allen’s description of Bergoglio’s election night and the words of John’s epistle both point to the same humbling, counter-cultural truth: we are not, finally, the authors of our own transformation.

Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin’s encouragement to “above all, trust in the slow work of God” includes a line that you cannot know “today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.”

Indeed, what we will be has not been revealed. And we aren’t in the driver’s seat of how we will get there. So we write out our plans, set our goals, resolve to change…and then hold those resolutions with gentleness and humility, trusting that our transformation is held in hands immeasurably larger and seen with vision infinitely broader than our own.

About the author: Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Originally from Wisconsin, her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is currently a Partner in Mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary at the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania where she will be facilitating a program on “The Spirituality of Pope Francis” in April.


Of lunchtime, doing time, and the Vatican report on the sisters

Sr. Megan Rice, one of three arrested for breaking into a nuclear facility in Tennessee in 2012. She was 82 at the time. Photo by Shawn Poynter for the New York Times.

Sr. Megan Rice, one of three arrested for breaking into a nuclear facility in Tennessee in 2012. She was 82 at the time. Photo by Shawn Poynter for the New York Times.

A nun at my lunch table described a “shakedown.” A “shakedown” is when the prison guards raid your cell block to search for contraband. They might rummage through your bedding, turn out your pockets, conduct outright strip searches, the whole nine yards.

It took a moment, but I realized she wasn’t talking about a story she’d heard, or a show she’d watched. Nor was it something she knew through prison ministry. The sister had served time. She had gone through “shakedowns.”

I was eating with several sisters who worked in social justice fields. I found that most if not all of them had gone to jail for civil disobedience. One mentioned the name of a prison. She asked the nun next to her: “That was your prison, right?” Her neighbor confirmed that it was, in fact, her prison.

Another sister related how she was part of a group of defendants. They gathered to receive their sentences: jail time and a several thousand dollar fine. The judge said he would waive their fines, but they had to promise to never trespass again. All of them, including the sister, refused. They all paid.  Read more of this post

All Families Are Holy … Except Yours

south-dakota-marriage-equalityMy husband and I were with family on Holy Family Sunday, so we went to a Catholic service. The priest gave his homily about how the face of the family was changing, so that there were fewer and fewer families that looked like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. He claimed that families in which grandparents raised the children, families with adopted or foster children, and even (gasp) single-parent families could all be “holy families” because it’s not about “what families look like,” but “how they treat each other.” [My husband thinks the single-parent thing was a concession because there are so many of them and the priest didn’t want to diss a sizable contingent of parishioners, and I did note that he seemed to think single-parent families were only okay if the parents didn’t “plan” for it to happen that way.]

He then went on to assure us that families led by same-sex couples could not fit into the Biblical definition of a Holy Family by their very nature–as the “readings showed.”

This comment perplexed me, and the priest did not offer any clarification. So I re-examined the readings for the day and still found nothing. Yes, there is reference in the readings to marital relationships between “husbands” and “wives,” but if this does not exclude single-parent families, why does it exclude same-sex headed households?

He couldn’t offer clarification, of course, because as more GLBTQ people come out and more straight people can put faces on the “issue,” all of the old excuses stop holding up so well. All the ready defenses crumble, so that the best you can do is make vague statements about your disapproval and hope that no one calls you on it.

On Monday, a federal judge overturned South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban. In so doing, she addressed every one of the state’s “defenses,” showing them for the flimsy covers for prejudice that they were. The whole opinion came across as a slap on the hand for Governor Daugaard and Attorney General Jackley, and it’s about time. On page 23, she wonders why South Dakota’s state leaders are so hung up on “preserving the status quo.”

A very good question.

One I would like to ask the priest from Holy Family Sunday.

Sometimes, someone with more power finally swoops in and chastises those who refuse to stand on the side of love and equality. The top-down approach in the Catholic church means there are many options for someone with “more power” to swoop in and chastise priests that continue to make discriminatory comments and behave in exclusionary ways.

Progressives love to grab hold of Pope Francis’ now iconic “who am I to judge?” comment as a signal of real change in the church. But the truth is, until the church holds its officials accountable for their hurtful choices, until the church rethinks its teachings on homosexuality and reexamines the meaning of love in all its complexity, diversity and simplicity, the church that our “non-judgmental” pontiff leads is passing judgment every single day.

“Who am I to judge?”

You’re the leader of the world’s largest denomination, that’s who. I’d like to tell Pope Francis to please, go ahead and judge, because we’ve been waiting too long for watered down statements about love and acceptance to bring about real change. Go ahead and judge, and when you do, perhaps you can take a page from the 26 federal judges who finally said, “Enough is enough,” and struck down discriminatory state marriage laws, one after the other.

That’s the kind of judgment that makes me proud to be American, and finally proud to be South Dakotan.

I would love that kind of judgment to make me feel proud to be Catholic again as well.

The Spirit of Non-Violence delfin style

Below are a series of reflective responses that I was asked to write by and for Soulforce.  I have been involved with Soulforce since 2007 when I took part in the second Equality Ride, visiting colleges and universities that have anti-LGBT policies and practices.  Since that faith-filled bus ride for justice, I have participated in Soulforce’s action at the General Convention of the United Methodist Church in Dallas,  the 2008 96 mile Equality Walk for Marriage Equality in Phoenix, the 2009 witness at the Vatican Embassy in New York City, and lastly the delegate program which was a part of the queer pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio.  My journey with Soulforce has been soul-filled teaching me the transformative force one’s testimony can bring as we live into solidarity with marginalized communities (a solidarity with myself and with others).  

As Soulforce turns 15 they are working to create a Living Nonviolence Archive, a collection of personal stories and experiences about how folks have lived into and out nonviolence as a “guiding philosophy for us since our inception, calling us to be creative, self-reflective, and intent on subverting power.”  I was asked to be part of this oral-history/herstory/theystory project and I wanted to share glimpses into my testimony as a way of introducing (or reintroducing) folks to the transformative intersectional solidarity of Soulforce.  To learn more about this project and learn from the witnesses of others, visit: http://soulforce.com/resources/living-nonviolence-archive-toolkit/

What does nonviolence mean to you? Especially in terms of the organization, how do you see nonviolence play a core role in terms of what Soulforce does and what Soulforce is about?

Expressing nonviolence in its fullness is tough but I will try to give a glimpse into what it has meant and how it continues to evolve for me.  Nonviolence is something that is lived everyday from words to deeds to thoughts…however is not about perfection or always getting it right.  Nonviolence is open to bloopers and good intentions and to learning from one’s mistakes.

Soulforce has complemented and enhanced my principles as an activist theologian who strives to create a space where we are meeting people where they are.  Its not othering the other but trying as best as one can to inhabit their space and see the world from their perspective.   Nonviolence moves away from the right vs. wrong, us vs. them, privileged vs. disadvantaged…it creates a narrative of us, we, together…allowing all of us to recognize our privileges so we can use that power to make it better for all of us AND to recognize where we are disadvantaged so that we can live our solidarity with others more authentically and less misappropriatingly.

For a long time I spoke about not reducing or limiting folks to just one aspect of who they are…I constantly fought being reduced into a box…Soulforce gave me the language of nonviolence in which I learned about words like intersectional and queer and both/and.

In living nonviolence, we must remember that all of us are not just one thing or can be limited/reduced/boxed into one aspect of our mosaic of identities; we are complicated beings whose identities coexist and clash…nonviolence as lived by soulforce affirms and celebrates that we are many identities; in my case queer, trans, catholic, Catholic, latin@, child of immigrants, social worker, theologian, activist, married, sibling, hyphenated US American, person of spirit, scholar, flatfooted, fullfigured, lives with depression…all of the identities make me, me.  I cannot pick and choose or allow systems to pick and choose…its all or nothing.

When we embrace nonviolence it is embracing all of who we are and all of who others are.  Its confusing, its messy, its real.

What are the most important stories to tell? When you think about Soulforce and nonviolence, is there a particular story that comes to mind?

On the 2007 Equality Ride, I co-organized the visit to University of Notre Dame.  As a person raised Roman Catholic and whose relationship with the institutional church has been wrought with many different emotions, the stop took on many different feelings.  It was my first time engaging the possibility of direct action which my family was not a huge fan of.

My mother did not agree with what we were doing and kept telling me that Notre Dame was a private institution who could do what they wanted…leave them alone and focus elsewhere.  Though her maternal practical logic made sense, I couldn’t leave Notre Dame alone.  A message needed to be sent to LGBTQ folks on and off campus of solidarity, a message that church was not limited to the hierarchy in the Vatican or the hierarchies created at Notre Dame…we are all church.

As a Latin@, openly questioning religious figures is a no-no, even if you disagree with a priest or other clergy person, you don’t question much less protest or defy whatever it is they are saying.   Notre Dame was countercultural for me personally and spiritually; I was taking a step of publically calling out the Church and the church on its teachings and practices based on discrimination, contradiction, and severe misunderstanding of sexuality, gender, and Christianity.

It was the first time that I truly understood what it meant to come into voice and that the church was and is the people, not just its leaders.  Change was not limited to the top but could be sparked and spread from the bottom…as a lay person I embraced my prophetic calling of priesthood that all of us receive.

Notre Dame also showed me how activists show their solidarity to each other; when I was escorted out of the student center and interrogated outside the chapel, a cool soft hand gentled touched my hand and my shoulder…I look back to see not only Haven but also Wick who was asking the police force how silencing a group of students and visitors is sound catholic social justice teaching.

Just as I was putting myself out there to show that LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff as well as members of the South Bend community were not alone…I was reminded that I too was not alone and that I had a whole group of folks who were I solidarity with me as we together embodied solidarity with marginalized individuals and groups…who in turn were also in solidarity with us…it was and is a big ol’solidarity lovefest.

Notre Dame was a stepping stone for me; it showed me what it meant to live into and out “grace under fire” and that speaking out against injustice is not a matter of perfection or not being nervous…it is the exact opposite, it is bloopering and risking and leaning into one’s fears and insecurities, reminders that we are human who are learning as we go (and sometimes as we make it up as we go).   Notre Dame was a rebaptism for me…a welcoming into a community and communion of social justice rainbow warriors.

Were there strategic moves that contributed to our success? Do you have any activist tips or details about the action that come to mind that really helped it all to work?

In looking back at Notre Dame and at other actions I have participated in with Soulforce (Methodist Convention, Equality Walk 2008, Vatican Embassy, and Delegate Program), I pick up on things to perhaps do differently but don’t get caught up in dwelling on mistakes made.  Nonviolence is ongoing and evolving practice of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy.   That written, what I think all of the actions have in common is that it is a mix of individuals who are connected to the challenge being addressed supported by allies who may not fully understand, in this case what it means to be Catholic, but who know that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”   It is about meeting all involved where they are on the journey in order to find ways to co-exist.

Going into Notre Dame ranting how G-d is queer and trans, Jesus bisexual, and the Virgin Mary a feminist along with calling out discrepancies in church teaching and misuse of church power/authority…though this could be a lot of fun, it will also create barriers where conversations are not possible and where the encounter of mutual presence is not created.

However, going in wearing a polo shirt and khakis reciting the prayer of peace attributed to Francis of Assisi while sharing what it meant to go to CCD and praying the rosary as a family and sharing stories of growing up Catholic…that created a safe space for people to come together and talk and more importantly listen.  It was not a proving match of who was more catholic or the right type of catholic, but more of lets share what catholic means to you and how we can create a church where all are welcome truly means all are welcome.

Fast forward to summer 2013 where I led a group of pilgrims to World Youth Day in Rio, many of the lessons learned and insights gained from and with Soulforce helped frame the trip.  We were not angry outsiders participating in the largest gathering of Catholic youth..we were proud and queer Catholic youth who love our church and want to see OUR church welcome and embrace all.

Our message was that all of us are equally blessed and expressed that through sharing rainbow rosaries, rainbow sashes, soulforce /dignity/newways pamphlets, participating in Mass and in Catechesis sessions…our tactic was simple, to simply be Catholic and through that witness, show that a rainbow church is possible.   Similar to other experiences, it was sharing stories rather than getting muddled in theological, ecclesial, and biblical debates (which to be honest we did have those but caught ourselves and moved the conversation back to story sharing).

 Just being us, humanizes that being LGBTQ is just an aspect of who we are and enriches our experience of faith individually as well as communally.

How do you imagine the action would have been different if the commitment to nonviolence was not a core part of Soulforce’s identity?

I don’t think it would have happened and I think the seeds would not have been planted…at Notre Dame as well as in Brazil, we had folks come up and share their stories of being LGBTQ or knowing a LGBTQ person…if we went in violently, those narratives would have been lost.  People may have been pushed deeper into the closet and fractured even more.  Soulforce is about solidarity not imposition, it is not replacing one oppressive dominant narrative with another…it is about being with people and together finding ways to transform community into spaces where all are welcome and where all coexist, across and because and with our differences.

delfin bautista is a member of the CTA 20/30 Leadership Team and the CTA National Board of Directors; delfin is also a member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and is co-chair for Dignity’s Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog “Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito” and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes—But Humans Do

LeelahLGBTQ inclusion in Christian communities is a matter of life and death.

As you may have already heard, a transgender teen was hit by a truck between on December 28th and left a suicide note on Tumblr. Leelah’s note is a clear example of how fundamental Christians can be inadvertent accomplices in widespread LGBTQ suicide.

Leelah Alcorn was the child of Christian parents who didn’t accept her transgender identity, saying “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

True, God doesn’t make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean Leelah was wrong. God made Leelah transgender.

It seems Leelah was sent to “conversion” therapy after she came out to her parents. She wrote:

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

I agree Leelah needed to turn to God, but not in the way she thought the therapists meant. She needed God’s love, not God’s “help” to reverse her transgender identity.

Read more of this post

Studying theology, doing theology

St. Thomas Aquinas, theologian. Carlo Crivelli, 15th cent. Via Wikipedia.

St. Thomas Aquinas, theologian. Carlo Crivelli, 15th cent. Via Wikipedia.

Jorge Juan Rodriguez V, a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, has a Dec. 24 article at Religion Dispatches entitled: “‘This is What Theology Looks Like': Disrupting a Crucifying System.”

Rodriguez writes about the wave of national protest that has erupted following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Protesters seek to “disrupt a system which perpetually declares black and brown lives less than human—a system that thrives on Wall Street, in congress, in institutions of higher education, and even in churches.”

Marchers chant phrases like “Black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Faith leaders who have joined them often chant: “This is what theology looks like.” Rodriguez observes: “From Ferguson to New York City this phrase has been invoked.”  Read more of this post

Reality vs “Reality” of The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns


The cast of “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns.” (image: http://www.mylifetime.com)

Though I rarely watch TV, as a millennial in a motherhouse, I couldn’t resist tuning in to the “docu-series” about young women discerning religious life.  The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns aired on the Lifetime Channel in November and December and followed five twentysomethings (Christie, Eseni, Claire, Francesca, and Stacey) to convents in New York, Illinois, and Kentucky.  The title was my first clue this show would be inaccurate since there is a  difference between the terms “nun” and “sister.”

An ominous voice over announces at the beginning of each of the six episodes: “At the end they’ll face a choice…follow their calling and become nuns or go home.” The (patently false) implication is that if someone decides not to enter religious community, she has “failed” at discernment.  This creates the tension needed to keep viewers tuning in; however, it misrepresents the discernment process.  Discernment is listening to that still small interior voice and, as Daughter of St. Paul Sister Rose Pacatte wrote in response to the show, is “individual, personal and private.” By its very nature discernment is internal and mysterious – between one’s soul and God.  Having such an intimate process filmed feels weirdly voyeuristic and even exploitative.  Discernment is not a competition and certainly not something that can fit neatly into a six week series.

 “The Sisterhood” delivers plenty of meltdowns, crying fits, and (to use the term employed by several of the girls) moments of “bugging out.”  One of the girls hyperventilated.  Another one stalked off announcing that she wanted to “punch somebody in they (sic) face.”  Conflicts are magnified with camera angles, background music, and intentionally scheduled commercial breaks.  To the surprise of the girls and the chagrin of the sisters, Eseni’s boyfriend is brought back by the producers in one episode to stir the drama pot even more.  During a commercial break, my viewing buddy – a Franciscan Sister of over fifty years – said, “Don’t you think this kind of melodramatic?”

Sister Lisa nailed it: “The Sisterhood” – like all reality TV – is about drama.  In contrast, religious life is about inclusion, generosity, service, welcome, and love.  Don’t get me wrong – those values aren’t lived out perfectly. Convent life is not free from tension or disagreement, but it is a far cry from the constant histrionics we see displayed on the show.

“The Sisterhood” overall has a feeling of being scripted and contrived.  The conversations about chastity take place as the girls and one professed sister are sitting around a pool in bathing suits, and another one happens out in a bar when two of the girls have rolled up the skirts of their “discernment habits.”   An exchange between an older professed sister and one of the girls about twerking feels obviously staged.  The handing over of the cell phones to the mother superior each time they arrive at a new convent is a fake stunt to create tension.  The argument that the girls need to “unplug” to be free from distractions and focus on God rings false when they are being followed around by a phalanx of cameras 24/7.

Some have expressed disappointment that the communities portrayed are conservative and habited.  The show offers a portrayal of Catholicism which is not representative of that practiced by most lay and religious US Catholics today.  For example, at the archives of the motherhouse in Chicago, a hair shirt and first class relic from the archives are presented in a sensationalized way.  Focusing on these more obscure elements of Catholic religious practice is pandering to a secular audience with things that seem exotic and unusual.  Then there is the overblown romantic language about marrying Jesus which makes the show seem like the bizarre religious analog of “The Bachelor.”  Those unfamiliar with Catholicism would walk away from the show with a definitely pre-Vatican II understanding of our rich and varied faith tradition – not entirely false, but far from the whole truth of contemporary Catholic religious identity in the US.

Beyond this, my larger concern is the portrayal of the girls’ service.  From serving in a Chicago soup kitchen to cleaning up the yard of a home bound woman in rural Kentucky to praying bedside with a woman in a hospice, the girls participate in service challenges at each convent.    The girls appear to be thrown into the service experiences without training before or processing afterwards.

Apostolic acts of service are at the heart of religious life. They are opportunities to meet God in human beings who are poor and vulnerable, and therein to find our own poverty and vulnerability.  These experiences challenge us, stretch us, grow us, and convert us.  Great care must be taken to protect the dignity of those being served and not objectify them – something that is virtually impossible when accompanied by a camera crew. When the girls were on the Chicago streets handing out bag lunches to people who are homeless, the goal was not to have genuine and respectful interactions of mutuality but rather to “win” the challenge of handing out their bags the fastest.

I found myself wondering:  How must the woman with a disability who had her trailer cleaned by the girls feel when they describe how bad her house smelled?  Did the family members of the woman in hospice with whom the girls prayed the rosary give their consent for their mother, grandmother, aunt, to be filmed in her hospital bed in final days?  Why are the adults with intellectual disabilities described as “kids” by one of the professed sisters?  The treatment of the people served in the show is insensitive at best and ethically seriously questionable at worst.

Furthermore, the girls gave details about their pasts that seem more appropriate for sharing in confidence with a spiritual director than with an entire viewing audience. Though I’m a member of the over-sharing Facebook generation – marked by constant self-disclosure through a variety of media – but on-camera disclosures about experiences of sexual assault or struggles with a serious eating disorder cross the line and make me wonder if the girls felt exploited.  In the producers’ defense, this level of deep sharing on camera is the norm for reality TV, so it fits well within the genre.

More than once over the six episodes professed sisters would sternly say to a camera operator, “Don’t film this!” before having a conversation with one of the girls.  I found myself cheering from my armchair that the sisters had the sensitivity to hold the girls’ deep sharing with protection in at least some cases.  Many times the girls speak about – and are shown on camera – having panic or anxiety attacks. It’s another case of inappropriate painful-to-watch over-sharing. It also makes me question how they would fare in the psychological testing required before entering religious community.

Overall, “The Sisterhood” disappoints – not a surprise since I have fairly low standards of network TV.  However, the value of the program is that it has provided much material for conversations among women religious and discerners.  As religious congregations seek to be relevant to and reach out to my generation, we can thank “The Sisterhood” for giving them something against which they can push back.  Lively conversations on social media as well as in mainstream and religious media have been spurred on. While far from presenting the reality of religious life and the discernment experience, we can be grateful for the conversations sparked about vows, service, community, faith, vocation, and discernment.

In the words of my friend Eilis, a candidate with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary: “Overall, it’s not a  realistic portrayal of the discernment process…I think the best part is following the live tweets by other sisters/communities/A Nun’s Life Ministry. People are sharing their own stories and reactions. So, in that way, the show is ‘succeeding’ because it’s bringing religious together and showing others that we exist. If some discerner googles “The Sisterhood,” she might come across these tweets and/or blogs, realize the show isn’t completely realistic, and also realize that there are still people entering religious life.”

For me as a “motherhouse millennial,” “The Sisterhood” and its commentators leave me intrigued by the unorthodox approaches religious communities are taking to engage with young adults through pop culture and social media – and also very grateful that the convent where I live is camera-free!


(image: Annmarie Sanders, IHM – http://www.lcwr.org)


About the author: Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Originally from Wisconsin, her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is currently a Partner in Mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary at the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania.


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