Catholic Nuns Today

Several Texas congregations of Catholic nuns are trying to change their image. They've gone high tech, with a website to let people know that times have changed, and so have they. They don't even look like nuns anymore, as Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

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They don't look like nuns because they don't wear the traditional black and white habit nuns have worn for centuries.

"Many times people don't recognize who we are because we're not dressed in the traditional habit, so we're not as easy to see. I can sit next to you in church or stand next to you in the grocery store line and you might not recognize me because I'm not dressed in the traditional habit."

Sister Deenan Hubbard of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word says you can forget every stereotyped movie image of nuns you ever had. Nuns these days even have computer skills and a Blackberry. Even so,

"And we're not naive, we're not uneducated, we're not just the sweet little sister with her hands thrust under her scapular and her eyes cast to the ground."

They don't even call their leader the Mother Superior anymore. That person is now the Congregational Leader. And they don't spend all their time singing and praying. Sister Deenan says they're too busy working outside the convent.

"Many of our sisters work in just about any kind of profession that you can think of. I live with three other sisters, one of whom is a physician. I myself have the background of nursing. Another one of our sisters is a nurse, another one of the sisters I live with is a school teacher and has been principal, or administrator of schools."

Sister Deenan says today's nuns generally come into the religious life in their 30s and 40s, and their orders are putting their education, skills and life experience to work wherever they're needed. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word is based at Villa de Matel in Houston, but it has sisters working as doctors, nurses, counselors, and other health care jobs in more than a dozen countries around the world. The problem is they work so quietly their orders are suffering from an identity crisis, and that's why they created the website CatholicNunsToday.org.

"People don't know we're there, and what we want the world to know is we're not only here, we're alive and well, our habits may have changed, our exterior look may have changed, but our mission hasn't."

Sister Deenan says they hope the website will get the attention of women who feel drawn to the religious life, but whether it will or not remains to be seen. The site is cosponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Houston, the Dominican Sisters of Houston, the Sisters of Divine Providence in San Antonio, and the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Corpus Christi. Sister Deenan says come check them out. They're not your grandmother's nuns anymore. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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