Saturday, August 06, 2005

Should Fools Laugh or Cry?

Chicago Tribune explores "The modern face of nuns" This sister ain't your mother's nun, that's for sure:
Louise Bernier begins each day in quiet reflection in her Wheaton condominium, reading scripture in French. "There's kind of a nice surprise in language," she says, "that makes you stop and think about things."

She then heads to work at the DuPage County Circuit Court clerk's office, where she pores over new software applications, making sure everything works and the right case history information gets into the right hands.

Around the courthouse, where she's worked for 30 years, she prefers to be known as "plain old Louise." But some still call her "sister," as in Sister Louise Bernier of the School Sisters of St. Francis.
Her religious Order seized the "Spirit of Vatican II" and decided to become "more in tune with the lives of laypeople." The result is many sisters in Sister Louis' order, the School Sisters of St. Francis, live lives apart from community and often inin the hustle and bustle of the secular world:
But the School Sisters and many others have more liberal notions now of how to serve. Among the School Sisters' 1,200 nuns worldwide is Catherine Ryan, a former Cook County assistant state's attorney who led the Juvenile Justice Bureau there before taking over Maryville Academy last year.

At the same time, many Catholic schools and hospitals have closed, shutting off some of the traditional jobs for nuns, said Pat Shevlin, associate director of development at the Catholic Theological Union and a former nun.

"It used to be the superiors would say, `Go to this school,'" Shevlin said. "And now they say, `Fix your resume, you're on your own.'"
Of course, they still focus on care for the poor and Social Justice, as one would hope:
Nuns with jobs like Bernier's help support those who work in impoverished areas and do not bring in money.

"Some of us have to earn big bucks for others of us not to earn big bucks," said Bernier, whom the county pays $68,000 a year. She sends more than half of that, after taxes, to her order's headquarters in Milwaukee.
. What's the cost of this new religious life? This:
She meets periodically with other sisters to pray, share books and socialize. She's a trustee at Milwaukee's Alverno College, run by the School Sisters. And she encourages the order to take public stands on political issues.

At the end of the day, Bernier is back at her condo with her two cats. She talks to them as if they were people--part of the Franciscan legacy, she jokes. St. Francis was known to love animals.

There are stacks of books, from yellowed paperback novels to coffee-table hardbacks--but she particularly loves medieval mysteries, theology, cosmology and travel.
She's a woman living alone. Nuns that lived in cloistered convents performed the same ministry of prayer that contemplative orders of monks served. Sisters that lived ministries of active service worked among the poor and marginalized to whom they were called, and lived with one another in solidarity. Their lives together as well as their service witnessed to the love and presences of Christ. Where is that witness in this woman's life? I feel sorry for all that she has lost. Perhaps she may not. However, I can't help but wonder how any of us would feel if we were to return to an empty home for the rest of our lives. Even with regular contact with the sisters of her order, can such a way of living a vowed life truly be a life of solidarity?

The "Spirit of Vatican II" may have done more to inhibit the proper fruitfulness of the Second Vatican Council than any resistance thrown up by Radical Traditionalists or Sed Vacantists. Many graying proponents of the "Spirit" testify to this every time they foam at the mouth while demanding some ridiculous practice become Church Tradition. Unfortunately, so does the lived vocation of Sister Louise Bernier.