Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sr. Bertrille and Boniva

The July-August issue of our Catholic diocesan magazine, Faith, is now online. I was asked again to write four blog-like entries for it. Two I adapted from ones I had written here, the other two I wrote new just for this issue.

Here is one of the new ones--that I titled, "Memories of Sr. Bertrille."

"The director of the Women’s Studies Dept. at Loyola University of Chicago is on a sabbatical, taking time to produce and film a full-length documentary, A Question of Habit. Her thesis is that the visual portrayals of nuns in pop culture (movies, greeting cards, T-shirts, print ads, TV commercials, even Halloween costumes) don’t show or do service to the reality of who nuns are and what they are doing in our culture today.

Recently, the film crew on this project spent a day with us. They were here to interview Joan Chittister as one of the most well-known and best articulators of the life of women religious in the U.S. In addition to the interview, they taped our community’s Evening Praise and visited some of the Benedictine community ministries to use as background shots for the film.

As we talked to the film crew about Whoopi Goldberg, Sally Field, Julie Andrews and other media portrayals, the discussions took me down memory lane, for I spent my first three years in community dressed in the traditional habit – the 17th century garb of women religious that we were still wearing. One day I was walking along West 7th Street from nearby St. Andrew’s School. I passed lots of children playing outdoors on this residential street. As I came toward one group of preschoolers, I looked at them and said, “Hello there.” Immediately they turned, looked at me, and responded with their own “Hi’s.” And then one stepped toward me, paused and asked, “Can you fly?” The Flying Nun was at that time a big TV hit, remember?

Thankfully I had enough experience with little children – or maybe it was just the grace of the moment – but I paused and then responded, “Well, when the wind is right, I certainly do try!” Which, as I think about it now, years later, still fits: when the wind of the Spirit is right, I certainly do try – lots of things."

I was tempted, but resisted, adding at the end, "And what of Sr. Bertrille today, 40 years after her novitiate? You can see her on any number of TV commercials explaining the benefits of boniva--the calcium supplement for the boomer generation!"

If you'd like to see all four of the entries, click here.