In the past 50 years much has been said about the nuns who taught little monsters like myself during 8 years of grade school in Catholic schools. Yes, it has been 50 years or more when boomers began graduating in large number from the Catholic Grammar schools that were created to educate that special class of Americans that Benjamin Franklin called Romans who practiced a religion which many thought more of a superstition than anything else.
In some ways the Catholic schools culled together the huddled masses that the rest of the country considered dirty, primitive, and uncouth--at least in the early days. Shortly after World War II, those huddled masses were pretty much like the rest of the country, but they continued to send their kids--then in record-breaking numbers--to Catholic schools. In many ways school enrollments were able to grow very quickly because there was special class of teachers working for nothing or next to nothing.
There were 140,000 plus Sisters in the United States at their most populous point. In the big cities, many of them taught in classes that exceeded 50 pupils--and those classes included more than a few children who by today's standards would need special education. Many of the Sisters taught well into their retirement years and often while living with illness and disease. Why?
If your knowledge of nuns comes from TV shows and bad jokes, let me help. The Sisters believed and were taught in fact to be perfect for God. The Sisters had tremendous faith and they believed in faith in action. They acted out their faith every minute of the day. They put their hearts into everything they did. Back in the convent when a Sister dried a dish, she made sure it was perfectly dry. When she swept a floor, she made sure every crumb was swept up. And in her work outside the convent, when she taught a child or treated the infirm, she put everything into it. For those who attended Catholic Schools when the nuns were teaching in great number, can you ever remember a Sister with an unclean, unpressed habit when the day began? No they were immaculate. The Sisters taught us to put everything into everything we did. Give it 100%. From the most routine job to brain surgery.
Those who attended Catholic schools like myself, would often joke about the Sister was too tough with the ruler or one that was bit odd in her appearance, etc. But those jokes were born mostly in a time when you assumed that people knew the real story--that the little funny incidences could never compare with the millions of times these Sisters focused their best efforts on those they served. Today, it's frightening to think that some people have access to the jokes, but not the real story.
Shall we say the nuns' reputation is unjustly tarnished? YES!
When I go to Netflix and key in "Nuns," here are the top three hits:
"The Nun" A horror story about a sadistic Sister.
"Nude Nuns with Big Guns" As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
"The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine" Too awful to even describe in my opinion.
I suspect that the Sisters were (and are) too humble and too busy to fight for their reputations in the media. They were busy feeding the hungry, treating the sick, clothing the naked, teaching the ignorant and praying for everyone else. In my opinion, the Sisters were and still are one of the best groups of people to ever walk the face of the earth. I was lucky to know many of them and will never forget them.
Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press