Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
IgnatiusofLoyola

What Happens When Nuns/sisters Leave The Order?

Recommended Posts

Francis Clare

Is this the right Phorum for this post?  Would it get more exposure or perhaps a “lead” in one of the other locations on Phatmass?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Luigi
10 hours ago, kjw said:

I was hoping someone in this community may be able to help.  

I started 1st grade at St. Anthony grade school in 1963 in the same year a Monsignor Mead finished our new church in Missoula.   Somewhere around 4th or 5th grade is where my memories of a Sr. Veronica BVM, start.   Within the next few years she would change her name to Sr. Teresa Joy BVM.  She and Mr. Hodge, the only male teacher at the school to that date I know of, were our 7th grade teachers.  We would like to invite Sister to a reunion which he has expressed interest in coming to.  Our problem ... she left the order years later and well ... where does one start?  I have heared she married and continued to teach in the state of Washington.   

A Bride of Christ leaves some heart breaking stories, but a bunch of adults with grateful life stories built on the foundation of the kindness and tough love of our Nuns, with the discipline to be there for us every day, year after year... we just want to find her and hear her stories and say thanks.  To all of you for setting our lives off to a good start.

Any help from any of you would be greatly appreciated.  kj

Contact the BVM provincial office. They often stay in touch with their former sisters, and even have their own entering-class reunions. After all, even if one or some have left the order, they were still friends - often close friends - for a number of years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kjw

 

On 11/1/2017 at 7:07 PM, Francis Clare said:

Is this the right Phorum for this post?  Would it get more exposure or perhaps a “lead” in one of the other locations on Phatmass?

As you see I am new here and do not understand your question.  My ignorance of this site map hopefully does not interfere with my ability to get help in a heartfelt quest.  

Could you please fully explain your need to place lead in quotes "lead" because this has a highly personal significance to me and I truly do not understand why you isolated this or felt the need to do so.  What am I missing  that perhaps others at this site would understand?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Francis Clare

I simply meant that you might have more success in getting information. ( a lead) in the prayer request or open mic portions of Phatmass.  My intent was to see how you could get the most exposure to your query.

This particular thread has been focused on how/ what/ why/ how to interact and possibly help those women we know who have left religious life and returned to the world for a variety of reasons.  

Hope that helps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TabiBookaholic

I made an account specifically to reply to this thread. The first page of comments from 7 years ago made me think of things I had never considered. 

 

You see I am working on my ancestry and found out that my paternal grandmother was adopted by a former nun. She had taken her final vows but for whatever reason left. I don't know how she met her husband, but the next census shows them living in a different state on a farm with an adopted daughter. It is a touchy subject for that whole side of my family. They swear no final vows were taken. 

 

I confirmed through the archivist for her order though. This took place in the mid 1920's. 

 

For some reason, I couldn't understand how they could all still be so devoutly Catholic and yet feel it was shameful. In my mind, it was incredible that she had ever felt that was her calling and that she was a teacher while there to boot. Not to mention she spent a total there of something like 9 years. 

 

Those posts on the first page opened my eyes to my idiocy on the subject though. I can only imagine how hard it was for her and the things that were said.

 

TL:DR Thank you. I have a totally different insight on my Great Grandmother.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kjw

"Those posts on the first page opened my eyes to my idiocy on the subject though. "

I have been on a fruitless search myself.  May I ask what you ment in the above quote?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TabiBookaholic
8 hours ago, kjw said:

"Those posts on the first page opened my eyes to my idiocy on the subject though. "

I have been on a fruitless search myself.  May I ask what you ment in the above quote?

I just meant that I had never seen being a former nun as something to be ashamed of or to hide. I was full of pride that I had a relative who had even felt that was her calling. My maternal family are not exactly religious and differently not Catholic, that all comes into play on my paternal side. So when I would ask about where her order had been, how long she was in, etc. I was always given half answers and long speeches about how this wasn't something to poke around.

 

Seeing how some, not all, of the people on the first page were treated when they left though made me realize that for some it is seen as a fail for some reason. They are judged as being selfish, or as not having enough faith. Being that my paternal side continued to follow Catholicism and are very devout... I can see how back then this was something they had been taught was something shameful or to hide. My Great Grandmother left the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1925 to raise a family. She found her calling on a small farm in Montana with her husband and infant daughter. In such a small town, with such orthodox followers... I understand now that as that daughter grew up she was probably not given the best view of a nun leaving the order. Her children would have those views taken further as she went on to marry a divorced man. Their marriage wasn't recognized by their church for around 30 years.

 

I am so used to things now. Divorce is no big deal, children born out of wedlock, nuns finding other callings. These things happen. I don't judge in any possible way because I myself was born out of wedlock. I myself had children out of wedlock. I tend to forget the world wasn't always so liberal in these things and how much they shaped my family and their views. I can't force my paternal family to feel as I do about her time as a nun. Now I know, thanks to these posts, that I shouldn't push for it either. They each faced their own demons over it and that is their burden, not mine to straighten out for them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kjw

Thank you for your reply.  I see the dilemma.   If they are part of my generation,  I guess their reluctance is a function of being brought up in a time when we were taught not to question our faith.
 My roots are Southern Baptist.   I am born-raised Catholic.  I  only know Baptist from a delightful movie,  “Last Holiday”.  
Ironically, I being born in a town where … A River Runs Through It,  was surprised to see how this movie depicts how “religious” view … religious, especially Baptist. 
One has to hand it to the Baptist.  Anger is what we all at times live with and my roots seem to go toe to toe with their “god”, while I was raised walking on egg shells with our one and only “God”.  I wonder if on the whole Baptist are a healthier group?
My children followed in my wife’s and my footsteps with 12 years of Catholic education.  I mirrored with my children as it relates to his Brides.  I had 8 Nuns and one non-Nun in grades k -8. My children, 8 and 1 Nun.  
They are now adults and I recently asked if they were familiar with the term “Brides of Christ”.  Well, apparently this term has gone the way of the term “Pagan babies”.  Pennies were what we brought in by the envelope to help these lost souls.   My wife and I grew up in the Church when all three of these had tremendous value.  In these few years this represents quite a change from the world I grew up in.  My final years, high school, was spent with the learned Jesuits.  To my amazement,  a Jesuit can now be a Pope.  Times do change.
The Nuns I knew through all those years, rain or shine, heat or bitter wind and cold were there for us every day whether we liked them or not.  They motivated and … well the above says it all.  
But … they also started to leave as divorce rates rose.  The Church was very hard on those parents who would break what God had joined.  For those in my class … whose parents did go their separate ways, these parent’s children, who in our Nun’s eyes where special … were these Nuns forced to examine their circumstance and the reality of their own vows?  Has the Church done all it can to help these Nuns and the implications held in the phrase “Brides …”.  Families of all kinds have disagreements.  
This question is relevant since many families of this era, divorced parents leaving children of my generation went to Him without the benefit of this evolving Church.  Are the Nuns of my era also now leaving in large numbers without an answer?  They were asked to participate in an activity that is legally troubling in all 50 states.  
One in particular, who filled my life as a 7th grader is missing and we as a class would just love to say thank you … eternally.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thijs

One sad story, I knew of a lady on her 50s from the Philippines I met through a friend who was asked to leave her congregation. She was sent to study in the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to do graduate studies for the purpose of training their future sisters in formation when she get back after graduate studies. Her congregation is still a under the protection of a diocese in the Philippines where their motherhouse is located ;  quite poor but many women joining and their primary apostolate is cathechesis and helping various diocese in pastoral formation. Sad thing is she was inhook with enneagram, Schillebeeck, heterodoxy, Zen philosophy, The Synergy Engine and anti-Catholic feminism. She was in-charge as a mistress of the novices and directress of their on-going formation for perpetually professed sisters. While on this position she teaches all those stuff mentioned that made new vocation uncomfortable and some left to join other congregation. The mother general got very upset and she was sent to apply to teach in a local Catholic university. The students made a complaint to the university until such time it reaches the archbishop and made her to resign from teaching. She was asks and pleaded by her superiors to reconsider her views but she decided to pack her bag and rent an apartment to live by herself. A year later, she was asked to leave and she requested a dispensation which was granted. She is now active in a seance,  enneagram and sort of a life coach.

I am a new convert at that time and just done my psychotherapy studies and graduate school. I was in the Philippines for vacation and a religious sister who used to based in the parish near my university told her to contact me since I was on her area. We talked and explained things a lot. I had to restrained myself not to overdo my zeal as a new convert and focus on helping her cope up with the loss of a community, friendship, love and desire to do something for the betterment of the world. She thought I was foolish to hold on to such traditional beliefs having been a graduate  of a top tier university but she was respectful since she knows I of equal in terms of intelligence.

We are still friends. I still do help her online to settle her issues in life. It is tough but that's her choices; good or bad, she made that choice.Right now she wish to found a community based on the synergy principle of Barbara Marx Hubbard, 2 women but later left.  I still pray for her to go back to the Church and receive the Sacraments. She is a friend and  actually she helped me grow in my Catholicism even more and when I heard Pope Francis talks about going to the peripheries; I remember her .

Out of curiosity at that time, I visited their motherhouse and talk to the mother general and try to discuss her situation. The mother general cried and she is one of the sister they love the most . I told her of who I am and what I do. I told him my profession and she plead for me to give them a talk about it to her community.  I gave some talks about pyschotherapy to her congregation at that time regarding  dealing  with issues facing such community, what to do when someone leaves, how to counsel people, how to grow moral fortitude and integrate faith and psychology well that one is not the enemy of other (in Catholic perspective) and how to help people with moral problems like sexual dependency, drug or porn addiction etc. The mother general ended her term 2 years ago and is busy with formation of her sisters as well as doing apostolic work with people that is drug dependents. I have a lots of messages from her asking for professional help on some cases new to her. 

8 minutes ago, Thijs said:

One sad story, I knew of a lady in her 50s from the Philippines (I met through a friend) who was asked to leave her congregation. She was sent to study theology in the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago  for the purpose of training their future sisters in formation when she get back after graduate studies. Her congregation is still a under the protection of a diocese in the Philippines where their motherhouse is located ;  quite poor but many women joining and their primary apostolate is cathechesis and helping various diocese in pastoral formation. Sad thing is she was inhook with enneagram, Schillebeeck, heterodoxy, Zen philosophy, The Synergy Engine and anti-Catholic feminism. After her doctorate, she was task  as a mistress of the novices and directress of their on-going formation for perpetually professed sisters. While on this position she teaches all those stuff mentioned that made new vocation uncomfortable and some left to join other congregation. The mother general got very upset and she was sent to apply to teach in a local Catholic university. The students made a complaint to the university until such time it reaches the archbishop and the archbishop sent a letter to the university demanding her to be removed from teaching theology. She was asks and pleaded by her superiors to reconsider her views but she decided to pack her bag and rent an apartment to live by herself. A year later, she was asked to leave and she requested a dispensation which was granted. She is now active in a seance,  enneagram and sort of a life coach.

I am a new convert at that time and just done my psychotherapy studies and graduate school. I was in the Philippines for vacation and a religious sister who used to based in the parish near my university told her to contact me since I was on the area. We talked and discuss a lot of things.  I had to restrained myself not to overdo my zeal as a new convert and focus on helping her cope up with the loss of a community, friendship, love and desire to do something for the betterment of the world. She thought I was foolish to hold on to such traditional beliefs having been a graduate  of a top tier university but she was respectful since she knows I am of equal in terms of intelligence/knowledge maybe and had years of training and experience.

We are still friends. I still do help her online to settle her issues in life. It is tough but that's her choices; good or bad, she made that choice.Right now she wish to found a community based on the synergy principle of Barbara Marx Hubbard, 2 women joined  but later left and she is all alone.  I still pray for her to go back to the Church and receive the Sacraments. She is a friend and  actually she helped me grow in my Catholicism even more and when I heard Pope Francis talks about going to the peripheries; I remember her .

Out of curiosity at that time, I visited their motherhouse and talk to the mother general and try to discuss her situation. The mother general cried and she is one of the sister they love the most . I told her of who I am and what I do. I told him my profession and she plead for me to give them a talk about it to her community.  I gave some talks about pyschotherapy to her congregation at that time regarding  dealing  with issues facing such community, what to do when someone leaves, how to counsel people, how to grow moral fortitude and integrate faith and psychology well that one is not the enemy of other (in Catholic perspective) and how to help people with moral problems like sexual dependency, drug or porn addiction etc. The mother general ended her term 2 years ago and is busy with formation of her sisters as well as doing apostolic work with people that is drug dependents. I have a lots of messages from her asking for professional help on some cases new to her. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gloriana35

I am not going into great detail (and I am in my 60s, so I cannot say how things are now), but some of what Nunsense mentioned very much resonated with me. Many girls of my generation entered the convent whilst still in their teens, where I was in my 20s, and already had my MA. I originally had intended to enter the community that I knew from university, but they were moving in directions with which I disagreed, and I entered a different congregation. Looking back, I can see (from their overall approach, not only in relation to me) that it should have been obvious to the congregation I did enter that I was not what they were looking for - they were anti-intellectual; even answering a question at a workshop was 'singularisation,' everything was based on doing everything together (and one could not even keep up with teaching duties, since the interruption were 'created', to give one a chance to practise obedience.) When I first met this congregation, it was not with the intention of entering there - but I would see that they often saw anyone they met who wished to pursue religious life as possibly having been led by God to meet them. They encouraged vocations, which few communities did then, but dismissed anyone who they later judged unsuitable.

I live a vowed life to this day (though not in community), and I can see, with hindsight, that I would not have been suited to their way of life, though I loved it in the beginning. However, as Nunsense mentioned, there were many things about me (or others) which might be held against one  - though no-one said anything at the time. For example, the superior had suggested I go for a walk alone, which I was glad to do - but I found out later that, had I been as 'community minded' as they wished, I would have declined, because that meant an hour away from the others. We were allowed to sit anywhere we wished at meals, and to speak, yet (again, without knowing at the time) it was very much against me that I sat regularly with Sisters who were professed.

I had no intention of leaving the community. First, the novice mistress urged me to make confession to a visiting priest, but he spoke no English, and I didn't feel my Italian was good enough... I couldn't understand why she kept pushing me, but realised later that this elderly priest, who was thought of as a saint, already knew they were throwing me out. (I'm summarising.) I shudder to think that this superior would have left me wondering what sin of mine would have caused  a stranger to tell me to leave a convent.  Yet it is possible that, with his already knowing I would have to leave, she may have thought that, if the 'saint' told me to leave, I might have thought it was a divine inspiration of his - or even have been relieved.

One of the schools the Sisters staffed was in a wealthy area, and the superior told me that the parents there wanted a music programme. (No other Sisters were qualified in that subject, and I had BA and MA degrees in music, so it seemed logical.) When I was sent to that other house, the way the other Sisters treated me was deplorable. Their contempt still makes me shudder - and this though it was many years ago. I gather that their goal was to convince me I was terrible, and I had to deal with horrible self-hatred for years after this happened. I received a letter from the superior telling me that she had 'told me repeatedly I was not suited to the life, but that I had refused to listen,' though we had no personal conferences. My spirituality is very focused on the Incarnation, our deification, etc, so the resurrection is very central - yet I could not think of this for years, because I'll never forget the line in the letter which read, "Easter is coming - new dawn, new resurrection! You will be going home, and can rejoice in knowing God's will for you."

Though, afterwards, I did intend to seek entrance to another community, my having been rejected led to Sisters assuming I had bad motives - that my 'useless' music degrees meant I couldn't find work and wanted 'security,' or that I couldn't find a husband, and so forth. I can see, now, that this was a confused time. Sisters had left religious life in droves, and a misinterpretation of the universal call to holiness made many question whether God wanted anyone in convents any longer.  I am thankful that I had somewhere to go - my parents were alive - and the Order did not give me one penny. Yet even my own parents assumed that 'there's something you're not telling us' - it was commonly thought (as I heard from them and others) that, with how communities needed vocations, I must have done something terrible to be dismissed.

The pain was overwhelming, and could not be shared. I heard every cliche in the book - God might want me to have a son who'd be a priest; I could live a hidden life and gain graces; I was going against God's will if I wasn't seeking a husband; I was 'deluded', and must still think I lived in a convent. Everyone was glad I had 'left.' I had expected Religious to have some compassion, but they often were the worst.

I am thankful that I have not seen the community since. Perhaps someone could want to be in touch with those who had judged her unsuitable, but the deceit (I supposedly was transferred to teach music, and then was treated with utter contempt, where any word I uttered was used against me) would prevent my wanting the least contact. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gloriana35

I am not suggesting that what I'm mentioning here is universal! Yet it may be helpful to those who are discerning regarding entering or leaving religious life, or those with whom they deal.

Through the years, I have met others who were forced out of communities, as I was. We were different personalities, from different communities, with varied perspectives - yet, in many cases, those forced out of religious life have an area where we may be highly vulnerable. For all that we know, on an intellectual level, that we have free will - that superiors are not mouthpieces for God - and that, if God personally willed everything that happens on earth, one look at headlines each day would make one agree with Bertrand Russell that it would be the purpose of a fiend - we would have heard 'it wasn't God's will'... 'if God wants you in the convent, no-one in the world can throw you out...'... "it's not what we want, it's what God wants..." There is a danger, all the more insidious because we may see this only with hindsight, that the pain of the rejection (and this hurt that cannot be shared, lest one be torn by even more cliches) can make us wonder if, since God 'didn't want me in he convent,' he has some special mission for us that we could not have fulfilled had we still been there.

I have known a few religious well (both male and female), especially those who are devoted to Therese (and picture that, if her mother had become a Sister, the world would have lost a saint, plus four other daughters totally dedicated to the Church), who lived to regret marrying. They saw, later, that they thought God wanted them to sacrifice their religious vocations, in order for them to have children (perhaps many!) who'd be raised as staunch Catholics. During the 1980s, a good and sincere, but utterly impractical, priest I knew had an idea for a new religious community - and, much as I saw that elements of his ideas would not work well, I thought his inviting me to be a superior was divine providence.

Spiritual direction is a great blessing, but very difficult to find. I worked for the Church for 30 years, and knew many good people, with gifts in varied areas, but true discernment, and the ability to help others see the Truth clearly, is a rare charism. (I mention this because many good people, who do not have this gift, have thought themselves to be suitable directors.) I did not find genuine spiritual direction until 1997! Not to mention that some who are not gifted with discernment can be bound by 'agendas.' For example, in the 1970s , there was such an overwhelming idea that the 'new theology of marriage' (...which I doubt would have surprised any couple in history) and 'universal call to holiness' (hardly a new idea...but it made it seem that religious life was no longer a vocation, only baptism), that those who may have been good candidate for religious life were endlessly told about lay apostolates, lay people living together, 'have you thought about marriage?'.. it seemed communities were doing everything they could to discourage candidates.

I don't know if this still is true, but know it was not unusual, in the past, for someone who was being dismissed to be the last to know. It often was not the case that other Sisters never were told she was leaving - they knew before she did. I'm sorry to say that, in the community where I lived, there were further references to those dismissed - usually raised eyebrows and 'she's sick.' (I have no reason to believe they were.) 

Edited by gloriana35
Forgot to add a detail

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kjw

We are about the same age. 

I repeat ..."rain or shine", it says it all.  

It is the individual not the "committee " who is there to teach.   Thank you, once for every year of your service. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Francis Clare

"Spiritual direction is a great blessing, but very difficult to find. I worked for the Church for 30 years, and knew many good people, with gifts in varied areas, but true discernment, and the ability to help others see the Truth clearly, is a rare charism. (I mention this because many good people, who do not have this gift, have thought themselves to be suitable directors.) I did not find genuine spiritual direction until 1997! Not to mention that some who are not gifted with discernment can be bound by 'agendas."

Actually, as a SD for about 20 years, I can tell you via personal experience that several people did drop out of my formation program once we got to the semester in which we had to actually do  SD, tape the session (verbatims), and submit it to our personal SD and supervisor for their critique/feedback.  It became readily apparent to some that they loved and expelled in the coursework, but had difficulty interacting with others.  Personally, in all my years of doing SD and interacting with others in this ministry (note I said ministry, not job!), I never met anyone with an "agenda".  

I'm sorry if you had this experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gloriana35

The time of which I am speaking was one of great confusion in religious communities (though, unlike today, there still were a substantial number of religious Sisters.) It's very difficult to summarise. Workshops, seminars, articles by current or former priests and Sisters, often presented puzzling, very discouraging ideas. One might here that the 'age of the laity' made religious life obsolete - a presenter well might say that, regardless of whether a Sister wished to leave or not, communities would no longer exist within ten years. Apostolic work was criticised - Sisters who served in third world missions were 'part of the problem' for not forcing the governments to take initiatives for healthcare, and converts who became Christian were 'deprived of their culture.' I knew of  a monastery, which happened to be located near a residence where mostly married members of a charismatic group lived - they recommended this to any potential applicant, because what if this was the way the Holy Spirit wanted community life to be now, not vowed life?  (The charismatic community did not exist for long, but there was great enthusiasm for a few years.) Some friars I knew became so involved in encouraging married people to be Secular Franciscans that someone seeking a convent or friary life would be urged to become SFO instead.

Many religious in final vows had left their communities. I often wonder how many became discouraged, because there was a popular idea (which I encountered, many times) that the only vocation is baptism, and that their consecration had no particular value. Other communities seemed to have abandoned the very charism a Sister may have lived and taught for decades. Supposedly, in past thinking, being accepted for final vows meant it was God's will... had God now changed his mind, with the new 'age of the laity'? And too many congregations no longer spoke of their vows -their reason for existence seemed to be defeating the oppression of women. (A woman who did not think herself oppressed was in need of 'education.')

Someone who has the gift to be a spiritual director should not have agendas - but communities, dioceses, conferences, and so forth frequently did. They probably were well-intentioned. Yet I was one of many candidates who received the impression that communities were doing everything they could to discourage candidates. (I heard such discussions amongst certain Sisters, from different communities, who were in vocation work. )

Just this past week, coincidentally, I heard a priest say that most Sisters he has met, who entered between the 1940s-60s, did so because the feared for future security, and didn't have career and educational opportunities. (This was not the case with most Sisters I knew. Though I am working-class, the majority of the Sisters who taught me were not - their mothers, and even grandmothers, often had university degrees, and many had independent family income.) It did grow tiresome, for myself and others attempting application, to have to hear endless details of career opportunities, new lay apostolates, the sacredness of marriage (which we had known of in the first place!). 

I can see how very much communities did not know which directions they should take. I most definitely saw confusion over whether vowed life was obsolete, and everything should be about secular ministries. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  


It costs about $850 a year for Phatmass.com to survive–and we barely make it. If you’d like to help keep the Phorum alive, please consider a monthly gift.



×
×
  • Create New...