Bobbling, giddy nuns? Stern, ruler-wielding nuns? Holier-than-thou and out-of-touch? Not so, my friends. The Philadelphia Daily News recently published an article about the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) and did a great job at tapping into the real spirit and life of Catholic sisters and nuns.

Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus

Here’s a great quote from the article “Don’t let movies and TV taint view of women religious” (January 15, 2011) which speaks to not only the SHCJ Sisters but to the vast majority of Catholic sisters and nuns in the U.S.:

The public often knows little about the realities of women in religious orders, other than what they see portrayed in movies or television. Singing nuns, flying nuns and dancing nuns are popular depictions. Although SHCJ Sisters are quick to acknowledge the joy they experience from their commitment, their joy evolves from rigorous intellectual study, productive contemplation and a studious pursuit of understanding the wants of the age. The ability to remain adaptable and respond to challenges enhances the experience.

Let me just repeat that sentence because it is powerful: “Their joy evolves from rigorous intellectual study, productive contemplation and a studious pursuit of understanding the wants of the age. The ability to remain adaptable and respond to challenges enhances the experience.” That to me is a life WAY worth living. Although I am a bit biased, I can say for certain that if I did not encounter this in religious life or in my IHM congregation, I would never have been attracted to this way of life. There is a depth, a passion, an all-out embrace of God that this way of life calls for.

And a little history helps shed light on how religious life began to shift with a nudge from the Holy Spirit:

Entering the Society before the Second Vatican Council (held from 1962-65), they anticipated a life of teaching, obedience and prayer. During the early years, this was the path they followed. Following Vatican II, they experienced less structure, broader choices and increased freedom. While the Society’s teaching mission guided their decisions, the Sisters explored strategies that allowed them to consider less-traditional ways of serving their communities and continuing the Society’s mission…. Doing God’s work enables the Sisters of the SHCJ to carry out their mission and help the needy in a variety of settings.

Compare and contrast this real-life example of religious life with a TV or movie version. What gives?