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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nun Math

More from our readers:
I was wondering (and too lazy to read all the previous posts and comments...), to what order do you belong? What can you tell me about your community? Is it just the three of you?
Also (and this is part of the reason for the above questions, the other part being curiosity), please pray for me. I'm trying to figure out what the Man wants me to do (we're thinking convent, but He's not been really clear about the details yet). :)
Thanks and God bless.

If you are too lazy to read all the other posts, perhaps the religious life is not for you. Just a thought.

I try to void answering personal questions as we don't want people trying to track us down and give us money. (We could use money, really. We barely make ends meet. But believe me, there are people who need it more so if you're moved to charity, find some people who really need it.)

But I'd like to tell you a little about how we came to be in the situation we find ourselves on behalf of the world of nuns, such as it is. We are typical.

We are a teaching order but our numbers are dwindling so there are not enough of us to go around. Our little Catholic school had two nuns, Sister Mary Fiacre and I, and when I came here Sister Mary Fiacre was well into her seventies. We live in a little house. It has a tiny deck and garden, which is like paradise to us.

One year, maybe five years after I showed up, all of the children in Sister Mary Fiacre's class failed math. She taught seventh and eighth graders. Their grades weren't too swift in other subjects either, but the math was particularly glaring. Sister Mary Fiacre 'retired' from teaching and while she was still able, worked around the school doing whatever. She was always great fun during the holiday preparations of any kind, from preparing the little ones for first Communion
( I guess that's not a holiday...I think of it as a holiday, just as stressful but with a great pay off....) or Crowning the May Queen or whatever.

That lasted for about three years and then she was just too dotty to leave alone with the children. She went on 'house' duty.

Meanwhile her replacement showed up. Sister St. Aloysius fresh from the convent, anxious to get to work and a genuis (seriously) at math, took on the seventh and eight grade in math to repair the damage done by the of the end of Sister Mary Fiacre's teaching career and the seventh grade for her everyday class.

Sister St. Aloysius had spent her summers in think tanks and universities when she wasn't in school herself. The band of brothers and gaggle of girls that comprises the seventh and eighth grades were.....a change of pace....for her. Like going from librarian to cage match, like going from bird watching to aerial dog fights, like a honey bee in a hornet's nest.

Sweet, sweet children.

She managed to get through a year of that. The next year she only taught math. The next year we decided we needed her to watch out for Sister Mary Fiacre and when Sister Mary Fiacre started to stay at home, so did Sister St. Aloysius. I'm not sure she can so much as enter the school. Even if the children are singing "Silent Night". She knows they don't mean it.

So that's the deal. The three of us live on my teaching salary.

Our situation is not uncommon.

Today in America there are approximately 80,000 nuns (if we round up and not down). Only about 6000 of us are under age 70. Most of the other 76,000 do not receive Social Security because we never paid into it. There were always young nuns to care for the elderly ones and always lots of young nuns compared to the number of old. No more. Do I need Sister St. Aloysius to come over and tell what these numbers really mean?

It means send a check to the order that taught you. Right now.

It means the three of us live in this house together on my teaching salary and we take care of Sister Mary Fiacre ourselves. My best hope is that after Sister Mary Fiacre is gone, one day I'll just fall over dead, no muss no fuss, and Sister St. Aloysius' brain, what's left of it by then, can go back to it's full function.

Did you know, Dear Reader, that you can go online and be a virtual nun? Obviously recruitment into the religious life needs all the help it can get so many orders have websites that allow you to play nun on line, and then go for a visit for the real thing to help you decide! I'm not joking!

I think we should go down to the mall and park ourselves next to the Marines. Think they would share a space? Let us put up a card table?


KatDee said...

Living in a house with a deck and a garden in LA would be a paradise to anyone, I'd say.

I do tend to worry about what will happen to the nuns like Sr. Mary Fiacre; I try to give to the retired religious fund whenever I can.

Candy Girl said...

i support your order through www.heavenhelpus.etsy.com!

DCMS said...

Thanks. Interestingly enough, after I posted that, I got curious (possibly impatient!) and did a little background reading. Which is not to imply that I'm not lazy. I am. Very.

Sadly, I went to public school all my life, and there were no nuns there to teach me. I guess I send my check when I pay my taxes, which doesn't help any of the (how many was that again?) retired nuns.

I had no idea about the state of religious orders. Thanks again.

Jimmy Mac said...

Anyone who went to a "sister school" and doesn't contribute to the care of retired nums is GUARANTEED one of the hottest seats in the bowels of hell.

Dominican trained and Dominican Supporting in California.

Motherhen said...

No nuns taught me either, public school student. Bleh. My children are in Catholic school, no nuns there either, the pastor ran them off 50 years ago.

One of the service projects the Confirmation class is doing this year is they are going to fix up the Dominican Convent here in our town. Unfortunatly, there is only one nun left living in that convent. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The Dominican's in my family bailed on the faith years ago and got into liberation theology and browbeat my mother for not using birth control.... (among other things) So there might actually be a reason the pastor kicked them out of the parish and whatnot.

Anonymous said...

I've always been puzzled by that "didn't pay into social security so can't get it now" as it applies to Catholic sisters. Makes sense and seems fair except that, over the years, I've read a number of stories about elderly emigres from Russia (mostly) who also never paid into it but who receive it. Some sort of legislation was passed, specifically allowing it for them.
Why can't some sort of legislation be passed, specifically allowing it for teachers and nurses who worked here but didn't take a salary?

owenswain said...

Rumor has it that you are not a nun at all but one of the Pope's staff in the Vatican in the ecclesiastic custodial department. Keep things clean and sparkley with a servant's heart and a lizards tongue. I don't usually fall for rumors but I am sure it will be proven not false on snopes.com sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

The 1996 Welfare bill allows SSI benefits to non-citizens who never paid in to the system for seven years - the idea being that, in seven years, they will have completed the citizenship process.
Maybe American Catholic nuns should fly to Russia, renounce their citizenship, and then come back as fully supported "refugees". Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Like the Santa hat in your profile photo. Impressive that you know how to post photos...and import hats to put on those photos!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Dear Wilhemna,

It's not rocket science. Just decorating for the holidays.

dutch said...

Oh my gosh, that red hat you put on yourself is to die for. that is darn funny...bhwhahwahhaa...unable to work now....you made me sin in my laughter.

It was holy laughter though...

Anonymous said...

Is it too late for you to join the Dominicans of Nashville? They seem to be rolling in the vocations.