21 Cloistered Dominions
Sister Mary Pia, as pale and innocent as an uncooked loaf, prays for all of them, while knowing virtually nothing about them. There is nothing ironic about this, she believes: “One doesn’t need to be of it to know of it.”See the video. You can say that again, Sister!
The sisterhood is a dying way of life in America. Forty years ago,the United States had about 180,000 nuns. Today there are perhaps 70,000. Fewer than 6,000 are younger than 50. There are estimated to be about 5,000 cloistered, contemplative nuns, a piece of women’s history that may be on the way out.
Reasons for the collapse can be traced to the mid-1960’s: the flowering of the women’s movement, which broadened opportunities beyond secretary, housewife, nurse, teacher and nun. But the Roman Catholic Church unintentionally inflicted damage on itself when it ratified the Second Vatican Council.
“Basically it said that religious women were no more holy than lay women,” said Sister Patricia Wittberg, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. “It was devastating.”