Miss Martian / Megan Morse from DC Comics "Young Justice"

Shapeshifting: not your average nun ministry -- or is it? Although the idea of shapshifting has found itself in today's popular imagination through Marvel Comics and the TV show Supernatual, it's actually a rather ancient concept. According to Wikipedia, shapeshifting is "the ability of an entity to physically transform into another being or form." Sometimes an entity has a natural ability to shapeshift such as the Marvel character Mystique. Other times, there is so-called divine intervention such in the case of the greek goddess Athena transforming Arachne into a spider. (Note to self: Never insult the gods.)

While granted, there are times when I may transform into an ogre at dawn when I am unable to get to the coffee pot fast enough, Catholic sisters and nuns aren't exactly shapeshifters in the ordinary sense of the word. We cannot manipulate our own molecular structure or rearrange our physiological features. We cannot take on the appearance of other beings (although there was that one Halloween I was the spitting image of Karl Rahner).

But, nuns are shapeshifters in a very real way.

Catholic sisters and nuns have always adapted to the signs of the times, listening to the Holy Spirit and to the needs of people. What this means is that while we may have corporately been about one kind of ministry -- let's say teaching in high school -- as needs emerged, we have been able to shift to meet those needs. Sisters and nuns in this case, for example, have been able to take their experience and skills in education and apply them to other areas such as helping people who are homeless or connecting with people in need via social media or ministering as prison chaplains. While we may not have the shapeshifting abilities of Mr. Fantastic who has the physical ability to stretch and bend at extraordinary lengths and degrees, we do know what it means to shapeshift ...

  • to bend our minds around complex social problems to find extraordinary soultions
  • to stretch our gifts and skill sets beyond their "normal" use in order to meet new needs
  • to have passion, strength, love and determination that remain our truest identity even whille our ministries, dress, geographies, locations, etc. may change.
  • to witness to the power of love the size of a mustard seed that can change the world.

We don't need a fancy superhero name or outfit. We don't need superpowers like Doppelgänger morphing or appendage generation. We Catholic sisters and nuns are about God's grace in the world - a grace which is about transformation at the deepest levels of who we are -- spiritually and molecularly!

Shapeshifters? Maybe so.