Interesting observation of traditional order vs. modern day order.


This past week I attended a funeral for a friend who had passed away. In attendance were about a dozen Sisters in full traditional habit, from the nursing home where this woman had been living. About 9 of the 12 were under 40 years of age. There were also 6 or 7 postualnts (or novices) from this same order at the service.
Also in attendance were two Sisters from the parish, who like the vast majority of “modern sisters” wear no habit at all and no visible attire or accessory which would identify them as Sisters.

At the post burial reception, I made a comment to one of the parish Sisters about the habited Sisters from the nursing home and how it almost seemed “foreign” to see Sisters in full habit as well as so many “in training” Sisters. This was the response I got : “Foreign, indeed. They’re behind the times. But they do good work.” and she walked away.

I found that to be a very odd statement, as well as the fact that she just walked away immediately after making it. I wasn’t trying to start a debate, but she evidently figured I was. I’m wondering if this type of discussion “hits a nerve” with the more “modern minded” sisters of today. My mentioning the subject was in no way meant to discredit her or her order, but she obviously did.

What would you have made of this ?


From what you have posted, I would make nothing from it. Except -

That the sister’s comment about them being “behind the times” is incorrect.



Since you were actually there when the sister spoke, and thus are able to assess the context of the remarks as a real event rather than - as is the case for us - as a construct of our imaginations, it would be helpful to hear what you made of it.:confused:


I find it interesting how people within the last 40 years can justify throwing out tradition that has stood for many centuries.


In response to what Ocarm asked, I was actually stunned when the comment was made. Since she walked away from me, there was no opportunity for response, and I wasn’t about to chase after her and pursue the issue since her hasty retreat indicated that it was not a topic for discussion.

Afterward, I was thinking about the situation and a few thoughts came in to my head:
1.) Numerous people had been engaging the nursing Sisters in conversation and they were getting a lot of attention. Seeing that many habited Sisters isn’t an everyday occurence here, so this alone (IMO) generated quite a bit of interest.
2.) I think the vast majority of people were surprised at how many of them there were, and the fact that there were novices and postulants really surprised a lot of them. 40 some odd years ago, no one would have given this scenario much thought, as orders back then had plenty of new recruits and most Catholic hospitals and nursing facilities had a high percentage of Sisters staffing them.
3.) The parish Sister’s order was once very traditional, staffed several schools, and also had a branch of missionaries. After Vatican ll, their numbers decreased dramatically, they went through all the assorted “changes” that many orders at the time experienced, (no more community living, no more habit, switching to a myriad of other “ministries” they had previously not engaged in, etc. ) and has never really “recovered” from all of this in terms of membership and attracting new recruits.
4.) Perhaps she realized that her statement of them being “behind the times” doesn’t hold water (given their numbers), and "if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ applies here. It’s just ironic that the traditional orders are the ones that appear to be thriving and going back to something that has worked for hundreds of years…


Gardenman-the last point in your recent post hit the nail on the head!

‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it…’

Some ‘modern sisters’ have no clue; the Orders that have kept their habits and their ways of life are the ones that are flourishing! How hard is that to understand?


I dont think we should judge or make attempts to make sweeping assumptions and generalizations about habited religious or nuns nor sweeping assumptions and generalizations about those not in habits, and it seems this tendancy is developing in The Church and can create real divisions. I know both kinds of religious and nuns and as far as I am concerned they all do good work each in their own way, and are devout and faithful religious and nuns. But then my opinion is limited since I dont know ALL the habited and ALL the non habited in The Church and I think that we are all governed by this personal limitation.
It is not so much a question of the number of novices and postulants as the number that make it to final profession. I also have heard more than one remark made by nuns in habit that were not exactly kindness personified, and the same for those out of habit. None of us is perfect, not even our religious and nuns. They are human too and we need to let them be so while still hoping always for the very best from them and whether they are in habit or not.
And I do love to see nuns and religious in full habit and I have had to disentangle myself from this attachment to glimpse a potential bigger picture and get in touch with a deeper part of myself. History is going to roll on and is not fixed at this point and perhaps habited and non habited will continue to develop and grow side by side. Perhaps they will not. It is all up to The Holy Spirit. After all who expected the great influx into seminaries and religious orders in the fifties and then the massive exodus post V2. LIfe can indeed surprise us. The God of The Surprise. If Rome comes out and says that all religious and nuns must mandatorily wear a religious habit, with no exceptions at all, then things become mandatory in religious life everywhere for all religious. This is what Pope Jean Paul II had to say in Vita Consecrata Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation:

"Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable. Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation."

..........and I wonder if it is up to us to make these determinations and assessments, or up to religious themselves to decide and in accord with their various Constitutions.

I think it is fine to have a personal preference and only natural, and mine is for the traditional habit, but I see no need *therefore *to have negative opinions about those not in habit. Its never about what one wears (or ideally should not be) but about who one is when one wears whatever one is wearing, nor should anyone be judged or assessed by what they wear and certainly not as a total group. We should not judge at all in fact.


:nun1:I’m sure there are many good sisters who don’t wear a habit.However, it seems that many of the communities that don’t do communal living, wear secular clothing,etc.are the ones the church is investigating for whatever reason.

In the local paper, it mentioned that the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word here in San Antonio,Tx are welcoming the visit from the Vatican.As far as I know they still do community life, and some other things nuns do, so not sure on the story behind the visit.
Some of these communities have gotten into new age practices,like rekki,or what have you.

As far as the habited sisters go,I think the habit serves as a reminder to people about their commitment to a life of service to God.Kind of like when you see men and women of the armed forces in their uniforms.Here you have people willing to lay down their life for God and their country,to keep America safe from invaders,etc.Makes me feel better anyways. The same with the sisters. Here you have these women willing to give up the ability to have a family to serve Jesus, to care for the helpless and sick to pray for the rest of us. Nuns like us are human and have their faults too, butwe all must strive through the help of the Holy Spirit to overcome our weaknesses.
Only time will tell on which communities will be around for a long time.


I would also caution you to remember that this was a funeral, I do not know the relationship between the sister you spoke to and the deceased but her thoughts may have been elsewhere and she may not have really wanted to make small talk.


Excellent observation.
Probably too most of us have made a passing distracted remark and then later thought “why on earth did I say that” - or even made some remark one meant and then later regretted it and was sorry one had said it and that it was not only unkind but unfair and but not quite true.


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