Keeping the Faith
Lisa says she was surprised by the freedom the sisters felt. "I think the perception of sisters and nuns is that they lead very strict existences," she says. "So many of the women whom I met, they had successful lives and careers, but they never felt like they could be skinny enough or consume enough. They always felt this underlying insecurity and they wanted more out of life. So in a way, rather than being very strict, their lives are actually much more liberating."
Another myth is that a woman has to be a virgin to become a nun. "If there are any young women out there that are interested in the religious life and they happen to have had sex, is it possible if they could enter the convent? Yes," Sister Maria says. "[They have] to prove that they have been living a chaste life prior to entering. They would also be committed to living chastely for the rest of their lives."
Nuns live in the way God commands them to, but they aren't severely punished if they break a vow. "I don't think any of us view our life like a life of rules. It's an integrated way of life," Sister Mary Judith says. "So to break a vow is like saying you're not living integrated. You're almost lying to yourself. So you're inflicting your own punishment on yourself."
"We do make these vows in complete freedom," Sister Francis Mary adds. "It takes three years before we can even first pronounce those vows, even just discerning and seeing if this is really what God wants and I want."