An Italian priest is organizing an online beauty pageant for Catholic nuns “to give them more visibility within the Catholic Church and to fight the stereotype that they are all old and dour.”
Are you kidding me? A reader of my blog sent me a link about this story. At first I thought the beauty content was a joke, but when I started reading the article and then another person sent me the same story from MSNBC (so it must be true ), I was astounded.
Here’s a snippet about the “Miss Sister 2008″ contest:
The “Miss Sister 2008″ contest will start in September on a blog run by the Rev. Antonio Rungi and will give nuns from around the world a chance to showcase their work and their image.
“Nuns are a bit excluded, they are a bit marginalized in ecclesiastical life,” Rungi told The Associated Press after Italian media carried reports of the idea. “This will be an occasion to make their contribution more visible.” (Source: Associated Press via Fox news, August 25, 2008)
According to the article, people who visit Rungi’s blog can “vote for the nun they consider a model.” The rest of the brief article includes additional information such as Rungi’s assessment that “being ugly is not a requirement for becoming a nun” and that the beauty contest will not have nuns parading around in bathing suits. Great.
While I applaud Rungi’s desire to promote the good work that Catholic nuns are doing, I am appalled by the technique with which he is doing it. Granted, maybe something got lost in translation, but the whole idea is offensive to me as a Catholic nun. Here are some thoughts of the top of my head:
I know you have thoughts running through your head so please join the conversation with me and other readers and offer your thoughts.
The problem is that Vatican City never sends athletes to the olympics. I want to see a team of weightlifting nuns. Or Nuns curling at the winter games. That would shoot down some stereotypes. But no Beach Volleyball nuns…might as well just do the beauty contest.
I think women who dedicate themselves to helping others are extremely beautiful. Too bad the priest can’t see the beauty within each nun.
We would love to interview you about the Miss Sister contest today on our nationally syndicated radio show Matt and Ramona. I co-host an afternoon weekday program that airs in seven states. I aso co-host a faith-based show for women that airs on Sundays. I loved what you had to say about the online beauty pageant. It was so smart to post your blog address as part of your comments!
Been away from the blog for a while … ton of work… I like the new look. I was planning on sending you a link to the BBC article about this contest, but looks like I was “beaten to the punch.” Like they say “truth is stranger than fiction.” Hope that all is well and that you are still safely rolling … Best, always, David
Amen, Sister Julie. You need to send your blog comments directly to Rev. Antonio Rungi. AMEN!
Beautifully written – well done. Now send it to Rev. Rungi!
Aw, man. What a horrid idea. Beauty contests are shallow and skin-deep. No matter what you call them. The nature of the event is to glorify what is “pretty,” and what is on the surface.
In comparison, those who’ve taken religious orders are NOT about what is pretty, and what is of the world, but they are devoted servants in the Lord’s service, concerned with bringing people to the world that awaits us in heaven.
I saw a link to this on a biblical studies blog this morning and groaned. Nun stereotypes are bad enough, but it’s even worse when people in the Church promote them.
I appreciate all your points, but I think that I would also add that I find the objectifying of all women as objects in beauty contests offensive. Years ago I read something by Lavinia Byrne in which she argued (if I remember correctly) that the stereotypes that people create of “nuns” are often an intensified way of stereotyping women in general.
Wowsers. Just wow… and this is coming from a priest Did the bishop agree to it? Did he get approval? Physical beauty/attraction should have no place in the mindset of a servant/bride of Christ, nor those thinking on these brave devout souls. How much more fundamentally wrong can one person get?! Is he really a priest? The search for a “hot nun” usually comes from the sick minds of the porn industry, not from priests, that consecrate the hosts into the living flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is NOT a good thing, even though I’m sure Paris Hilton would call it “HOT”.
I read about this first thing this morning on your blog and within an hour a co-worker found it somewhere and told me and then a colleague mentioned it at lunch. There’s about 10 Sisters who minister on campus. We all thought it was inane. All the Sisters I’ve known are beautiful (especially my own community!) The irony of this is laughable except that it’s true! Eek.
When our Tertianship (on-going formation, but it seems more like a third novitiate [the second one being the 6 weeks before final vows for us]) group was in Rome, we noticed that the Italian nuns, while wrapped in traditional or only slightly modified garb, wore such dour faces while waiting for a bus on the streets of Rome, or screaming at the scantily clad girls that got past the modesty police at the doors of the basilicas somehow, that their faces couldn’t POSSIBLY attract young women to join their orders! Maybe this is what the priest should address instead of a holy meat market!
Who’s to say who is beautiful or not? Mother Theresa never looked more beautiful than when she was looking with love into the face of a dying person. Or the face of my own foundress in her last photograph, hours from meeting her great Love and Lord, all bent over with weakness and great pain, her body but an ember spent in living out the Will of God in service to His people in faith and trust.
Can you see I’m passionate about this?
Who does this priest think he’s fooling, this is for his own personal pleasure. Perhaps he should get on his knees and ask God if this contest is the right thing to do. The nuns that enter the contest are only showing how much they are dedicated to serving the Lord…NOT. Then again times are changing. I went to a Catholic school for many years and the nuns all looked the same but now they have changed their style of dress, went more modern…why?
Well its a little (make that a lot) sad, but the minute sexy and either nuns or priests hit the internet it gets a million hits.
I read about it in today’s Irish News – couldn’t believe it.
for heaven’s sake, european catholics are like a dying breed…his main purpose is to bring people closer to God, to evangelize the Good News, to help re-awaken peoples’ dying faith…not organize a beauty contest or a POPULARITY contest! and if this idea is so cool, why not implement it on his fellow priests first? why does he have to make nuns his guinea pigs? somebody should call the vatican and give that priest something to do.
(after reading the Times Online article)… a calendar featuring handsome priests and seminarians…i cant believe it!!! what is happening to my Church?!?!?! this is so heartbreaking.
this just goes to show that we need to pray really hard for vocations, for REAL vocations, for REAL men and women who will uphold Christ’s values, and for church authorities who will be strict enough and smart enough to discipline and stop the harmful behavior of those who are not just terribly confused about their vocation but are also somehow destroying the Church from within.
and maybe a letter to his bishop or superior will be helpful.
i just hope that nobody enters his contest. what self-respecting nun will?
Simply disgraceful. There are no other words to say for it. I don’t get the fascination with beauty anyhow; physical beauty fades with time. Real, inner beauty is what gets better with age and grace.
I agree with Fr. Rungi’s goal – at least his *stated* goal (and I phrase it that way on purpose). Stereotypes in general are bad, and anything we can do to break down those stereotypes is a good thing. And if this shows young women that they don’t automatically become old and sour and dour when they become nuns, then it just might open some minds to a vocation as a nun.
That said, his chosen method of breaking down the stereotype is simply the wrong way to go about it. It *does* reinforce the idea of judging women (not just nuns) by their physical beauty instead of celebrating their inner beauty and committment to God.
The one caveat that I would submit is that it would be good to remember that beauty and sexuality/sensuality have somewhat different definitions in Italy than they do here in America.
It would be awesome if not one nun participated and spoke out against it It shouldn’t be disobedient.
Oh, my goodness! That poor priest needs a reality check and perhaps he need to spend more time in caring for his “flock” He has way too much time on his hands. Your reply to this well worded and most appropriate.
Breaking news! The “pageant” was cancelled! WHO-HOO!
I am happy to learn that this priest has given up his wild idea of a Miss Sister Contest. I hope it has as well left his heart..or is he still carrying it. The Fr. should not claim to have been misunderstood.. he has simply never understood the beauty of religious life as it is lived by the Sisters. In any case it has shown the world what some of these priests we trust for their level of formation and responsibilities can in truth be so empty . What a learned Moralist Fr. Rungi had imagined and had planned to do must have shocked not only the holy founders of the religious congregations, his founder included, but even the devels. Did Fr. Rungi think of Mr. Fr. Italy 2009. Wow..how far can this go.
I am so glad. I think beauty contests are degrading for any one.
i’m very very happy and thankful to God that his superiors and bishop were not happy with the idea, and that he had to cancel it. i do feel sorry for fr. rungi because it always feels very awful when so many people criticize you and hurl hurtful words against you. but i pray that he may not see it as a personal attack but appreciate it as a sign that people around the world are still passionate about the Church, about the concept of nuns and priests being true servants of God, and how much these people would fight to preserve the Church’s values which are always rooted in Christ.
there are a million ways to show the world how genuine and wonderful it is to live as a bride of Christ, as a servant of the Lord…but i think the most effective way cannot be done by showcasing it or parading in front of the whole world to see…but instead by the seemingly “little” things priests and nuns do, things that arent known to the world but very well known to individuals whose lives they have touched — the way they have counseled people, the way they have uplifted their spirits, the way they struggle to be more faithful to each vow they have professed, the way they inspire people to be more obedient and closer to God by being living testimonies of His mercy, compassion, wisdom and love…there is no need to blow out horns and shout to the world what it is like to be a nun or a priest. good works shine on their own and sincerity is loudest in silence. i think it is enough that priests and nuns have created blogs to share to us lay and young people what it is like to be a consecrated servant of God in the 21st century. we are learning a lot from the blogs that we read and because of these we are appreciating and respecting your vocation more and more.
I’m glad too, but I do feel for the priest in question. The beauty he may have had in mind may well have been that which shines through from our souls, regardless of our facial features , and seeing that sort of radiance in peoples’ eyes and faces can indeed lift the spirits, especially when we know the person in question is a servant of God. I agree with all mjpss says too -the facets of beauty are many.
I was so excited to see the headline that the pageant was cancelled, and I couldn’t wait to tell you and your readers. I’m new to the site, currently in classes to convert to the Catholic faith, and find this such a great blog to read. I was astounded when first reading about this pageant. While I understand what Father Rungi is trying to do, there are better avenues in which to do it. He, and this whole process, has been on my heart since reading it. When something is in my heart and mind, I know it is God asking me to focus and pray. Thank you for sharing yourself in this public forum. It’s truly a relief to remember that nuns, clergy, and all people involved in the Church are still human. Have a great day! ~~Denise
I’ve decided to start a contest of my own. No trophies. Have a visit.
I do not understand points 1, 3 and 4 of your argument/thoughts.
1. “All Catholic nuns are not old and dour.” – That’s what Rungi said and the goal of the contest was to brake that stereotype.
3. Rungi wanted a contest based on external and internal beauty with a big emphasis on the latter. Where’s the reduction of women to external beauty?
4. “We do not need to showcase ourselves: we live our charism day in and day out.” – So why do you have this blog? It is not a criticism. I find it a good way of increasing awareness and communicating your work and the work of other nuns. It could increase vocations and attract more people to the just and good causes. The contest would have the same effects.
Your point 2 is well taken. Spiritual life is not about competition/pride and the contest could increase both.
Awww. The tap shoes too? That’s at least a talent.
The article was interesting, as it appeared that the Father had not run this past his supervisors. One might have thought a cursory mention would have been in order prior to publication…
Dear Sister Julie, I was so surprised to see the “nun beauty pageant” on google, that I was compelled to look for a site that seemed to be representing the whole story and I came across your site. I think that the beauty pageant is not a good idea for anyone; males, females, laity or religious. It is demeaning to humans as a whole. But, there is always something good from all of this attention to this priest. I found your blog, I backtracked for a retreat, and found a section on the St Ignatius Press page that was inspiring and I was able to send that to my teenage boys. So, God found a way to make good out of bad, I now have your blog and the Press bookmarked to use regularly. Thank you.
aw shucks…i was just getting my photo ready to upload…just kidding…
seriously, i’m sure fr. had good intentions…i hope he learned something from this and that folks did not attack him personally….
I have to say I’m so glad this contest was cancelled as well! Pagents are bad enough for people who aren’t nuns!
Thank you for your answer. I understand better your points, specially the last one!
I am glad it was cancelled. Besides the fact that I do not like the image of women that beauty contests give, the whole idea sounded phoney. I think a woman would create a much more positive way to promote a healthy image of sisters.
You know, just when I think that I’ve heard it all … As always, I enjoy your analysis, Julie, of this ridiculous event and appreciate the above discussion that it inspires. It seems to me that this is yet another indication of the problems inherent in Catholic clerical culture — a culture in which men are often taught to reduce women to their bodies. I know that sounds harsh and I know that there are good, women-friendly (in the feminist sense rather than a “Thorn Birds” sense of the term) priests out there, but it seems safe to say that far too many priests will probably be signing-up to be judges for the contest.
hello Sr Julie, just want to comment on this even though it is alte for me to comment on it.because i see the reality here,in my age now ,in my generation not many young men or women considering the priesthood or religious life.i can see that fr. Rungi’s way is too much to handle,i mean my friends made a lot of comments everytime our conversations turn about it and it appears that nuns now became a butt of jokes.and i do get hurt sometimes…you see sister im entering the convent this june…
all i can say is the nuns ive met and befriended are not dour nor ugly…i believe that there are no ugly nuns…Jesus makes us beautiful inside out.and nuns are beautiful because of thier moment by moment encounter with our Lord…i hope fr. Rungi could instead launch a more effective vocation campaign for religious life instead of having a pageant…just like what we do here in the Philippines.
please pray for me sister and rest assured im praying for you too..more power to your apostolate…… PAX ET BONUM