The Liberation Of The Convent

Alex Mar talks to a prioress about why she became a nun:

None of the women I meet this week give me the “revelation” story I expect and kind of hope for—apparently, it doesn’t really happen that way. When I asked Carol, a clearly devout woman, now serving her second term as prioress [a nun in charge of a priory], what led her to enter the convent, her eyes didn’t gloss over as she recounted some miraculous dawning of awareness. “It wasn’t anything spiritual and all that,” she said simply.

“The leaders and the popular girls” in the class ahead of her had entered, and another group of seven from her year were poised to become postulants. “We all went to the convent. Because in those days you went to college, we used to laugh, for an MRS: that’s where girls went to get smart men. There was no Peace Corps; there were no professional women; there was none of the women’s movement at that time.” Women could work as nurses, teachers, or secretaries, she said, “and that was only until you got married.” And while Carol describes her family as a happy one, married life seemed limiting. “At home my mom was a great cook, but she didn’t like it,” she says. “She read all the classics—I always remember her reading—but it didn’t look like she was excited about being a housewife.”

Her young teachers at St. Agnes were another story. “The nuns, they were happy. Great teachers, and interested in things.” Besides, she admits, “because I was much taller than the other girls, I thought, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’ll ever get married.’” Carol graduated from high school in 1956 and that same year, along with nineteen other eighteen-year-olds—Sister Adrian included—entered the convent. She entered to be able to do more; not for a moment did she consider the cloister.

(Hat tip: Longform)