An Open Letter to Oprah from 40 of my Young Nun friends

A group of us were chatting on Facebook that it would have been great if Oprah had shared the story of other ways of living religious life on her show focused on religious life, February 9. So, we decided to draft an Open Letter to Oprah from younger women religious.

An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey

February 16, 2010

Dear Oprah,

We are younger Catholic Sisters and members of Giving Voice, an organization made up of Sisters in their 20s-40s from all over the United States. We would like to thank you for highlighting the lives of Catholic Sisters on your Tuesday, February 9, 2010 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. No doubt, this was the first exposure of many of your estimated 7.4 million viewers to the lives of Catholic Sisters.

We are pleased that you were able to share the story of the Dominican Sisters of Mary. It is clear that they are very happy in their religious lives. For this we rejoice! We too are happy in our religious lives. Like the Sisters featured on your show, we joyfully live out our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We are women who find numerous ways to follow Jesus’ call to serve others while fully engaged in the world. For example here is a sampling of what some of us Sisters were doing on Tuesday during your show:

* Working as an instructional consultant with teachers of children with special needs in Harlem, NY
* Collaborating with other Sisters on how to serve people who are poor in San Antonio, TX
* Joining 200+ Catholics at the State Capitol to lobby for social service programs in Olympia, WA
* Preparing to teach a class on human dignity to teenagers involved in gangs in Tyler, TX
* Reading applications for a volunteer program with underserved populations in Baltimore, MD Wrapping up after teaching school all day in cities around the country

Our lives of ministry and service are grounded in our experiences as members of our religious communities. Prayer is also an essential component of our way of life. The very nature of our lives is communal, not independent. For this reason, we were disappointed and concerned by how we, as Sisters who are engaged in active ministry in the community, were presented on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on your website:

“Some sisters choose an independent path, which means they live alone, go to college, pursue careers and don’t wear a habit.”

We live in community with our Sisters, often in small groupings close to where we minister. We go to college to develop the skills needed to be effective agents of loving service to God’s people. We do not pursue careers, but seek to educate and transform the world as Jesus would. Our clothing is the least significant part of our lives, yet receives so much attention. However, most of our religious communities choose to dress simply rather than wear habits. We are called to be prophetic, giving voice to God’s love in the world.

We would love the opportunity to share more about our lives of prayer, community and ministry on a future episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. We would gladly speak with you, invite you to experience our daily service, or help broaden your viewers’ understanding of religious life in any way we can.

May God bless you and fill you with peace,

Visit the Giving Voice website to see the 40 signatures (including mine!)


Mike said...

Good letter! I hope she does a follow up ...

Kelly_SSJ/A said...

That is an awesome letter written by all of you. and what a colorful representation of religious life it shows! :) I hope Oprah will take you all up on it and use the opportunity to give a more well rounded view of religious life.