Sisters making mainstream headlines

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In February, Camillian Sr. Candida Bellotti, turned 107 years old and was celebrated with a minor media storm at her community residence in Italy. (Courtesy of Ministers of the Infirm Camillian Religious)
In February, Camillian Sr. Candida Bellotti, turned 107 years old and was celebrated with a minor media storm at her community residence in Italy. (Courtesy of Ministers of the Infirm Camillian Religious)

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This week in the mainstream media: a sister doles out massages at the ballpark, one shares the secret of a long and happy life, and Russell Crowe goes all paparazzi on a couple of women religious in Rome.

Eat, pray, love? Pretty much

First, in case you missed it, Sr. Candida Bellotti, a Camillian sister in Italy, turned 107 years old in February.

(Don't worry – there was not a blaze of 107 candles, just a giant cake in the shape of the milestone number.)

She grabbed the media spotlight and scored a visit with Pope Francis because she is now reportedly the oldest living Catholic sister in the world.

She was kind enough to share her recipe for a long life with anyone who asked. The Huffington Post broke it down this way:

Listen to God: "Throughout my life I have always thought: wherever the Lord puts me, that is the right place for me." 

Thank God: "God does it all. I merely give Him thanks. 

Live in joy: "Only those who feel the happiness of drawing near to the Lord can understand how abundant his love for us is and how much serenity he leaves in our hearts." 

Give to others: "Making those around you happy" is an element of a happy life, she says.

Noah and his 'girls'

Bless me Father, for I am about to sin and say something unkind about Russell Crowe – one guy who was hoping to get face time with the pope.

The actor, who plays the lead in the upcoming movie, "Noah," was in Rome this week for its Italian premiere.

That meeting didn't happen – go figure – but Crowe did pose for photos with clergy members outside of Vatican City and posted them on Twitter, reports England's Daily Mail.

In one picture he's posing with two smiling sisters. He posted the photo with the note: "Pre-show with the girls."

The girls?

Well, at least he didn't call them "the babes."

He also tweeted a photo of himself sharing a laugh with some priests, writing, "Pre-show with some of the lads."

He's a cheeky bloke, isn't he?

He was in Rome for the movie's Italian premiere. While he didn't get to meet the pontiff in person, he did attend his weekly general audience, after which Crowe tweeted: "Ciao Roma, my love for your eternal light just grows deeper. Thank you holy father @Pontifex for the blessing."

Then Crowe loaded the animals back on the ark and headed for Brazil.

A real hands-on ministry

Strong hands, warm heart? Must be Sr. Rosalind they're talking about.

During National Catholic Sisters Week this month, WCCO-TV in Minneapolis profiled the 84-year-old sister known as "The Stress Reliever."

No, she doesn't play baseball. But for the last 21 years she's been a popular attraction at St. Paul Saints minor league baseball games where she gives massages to fans.

"People ask me, 'Are you retired?' I say, 'Well, I have all of eternity to retire, so I am busy now doing massages,'" she said.

And where did such a tiny woman get such powerful hands? She chalks up her strength to milking cows while growing up.

Through her work at the ballpark she's found that people are "skin hungry," eager for a human's touch.

"There are many times that a person needs to talk or cry. Even out at the Saints people say, 'While you're massaging me, will you pray for me or pray with me?'" she said.

"That's where I find that people need to talk. They need to share some of that pain that is within them. I do lots of hugging."

She sounds like an All-Star to us.

Life in the 'Jesus cage'

For six years, scholar/artist Abbie Reese visited the 20 women of Corpus Christi Monastery of the Poor Clare Colettine in Rockford, Ill.

The women live isolated from the world in extreme poverty on a 14-acre campus. They fast. They pray. They work.

They go barefoot.

Reese recorded their oral histories and took pictures of their daily lives – meditating, gardening, driving tractors, swinging on tree swings, feeding their cat.

Reese turned her work into a book, Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns.

Casey N. Cep, who reviewed the book for The New Yorker, notes that "in a time when abstaining from social media for a few days passes for asceticism, the lives of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure to which the Poor Clares make vows seem especially worthy of our attention.

"They use a phone only to operate a prayer hotline; have heard of iPods and text messages only through family visits, which are limited to four times a year; and only one of their members has used the Internet."

The book reveals how an existence cut off from world can be full of joy, Cep writes. "And how the women can experience enclosure as liberty, not prison: laughing instead of recoiling when one woman's four-year-old great-niece says they live in a 'Jesus cage,'" Cep notes.

"They laugh because the world thinks that the metal grille keeps them caged in, but they feel that the bars keep the world out."

So why did they let Reese in? The sisters hope that by sharing their stories they'll attract more women to the cloistered life.

In memory of the Mountie

Sgt. Mark Gallagher, a Royal Canadian Mountie, lost his life when that catastrophic earthquake ripped apart Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. Gallagher was in the country on a United Nations mission to train police officers there.

In his honor, volunteers in New Brunswick raised money and collected supplies to build a vocational school in Haiti to be run by sisters.

Recently, two of the women visited Canada to learn more about Gallagher and meet his widow, reports CBC News.

Sr. Giselle Chapuron, the school's educational supervisor, said the people of New Brunswick have been very generous to the Haitian people. The school is expected to open in October.

"It's to be put on top of a mountain where these nuns have a huge organization," said Eugene Lewis, one of the volunteers who helped raise $1.2 million for the project.

They're just so sweet

The headline reads "What it's like to be a nun in Toronto in 2014."

A recent story on introduced readers to "Toronto's coolest convent," St. Bernard's Residence, operated by the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

It's a busy place, a convent/retirement residence/novitiate/cemetery and "a snapshot of harmonious multiculturalism." Sisters from all over the world – Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas – live and work there.

"That the sisters have successfully operated a non-profit, non-government-funded, highly regulated, care-based business in Toronto since 2002 solely through donor support and resident fees (which are negotiable, by the way) demonstrates a savvy – though they claim divine providence – that cannot be underestimated," the story notes.

Not only that, the story exclaims: "They are really, really sweet."

No quit in her, is there?

The Monterey County Weekly caught up with Sr. Helen Prejean before an appearance this week at Santa Catalina, a private Catholic school in Monterey.

And not surprisingly, Sr. Prejean, the death penalty opponent well-known for inspiring the 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking," is still on fire for the cause, calling the death penalty state-approved torture and sharing stories like this one.

"There was a case in Oklahoma where a guy was scheduled to be executed. He took an overdose of pills and was unconscious. So they brought him to the hospital, pumped his stomach, and two weeks later the state killed him."

Sr. Prejean is working on her third book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

"It's the … journey that led me to poor people and to death row," she said. "My understanding of the gospel of Jesus deepened to more than being prayerful and being close to God.

"Rolling up my sleeves, getting involved where there's human suffering and injustice and changing it – that's what the journey's about."

Thrilla in Manila

Sr. Mary Emilia Lamunda lost her wallet almost a year ago in the Philippines.

Wallets can be replaced. But the hundreds of dollars inside it? That was a huge loss.

Until a few weeks ago.

ABS-CBN News reports that two tourism students from Northwestern University in Ilocos were training in a lost-and-found department at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The students were assigned some "detective" work and asked to try to find the owner of a brown wallet found at the airport by a janitor in April 2013. The wallet contained 39,000 Philippine pesos, or roughly $870 American dollars.

The students found Sr. Lamunda, a member of the Benedictine Nuns of Eucharistic King, through a travel agency receipt.

"God is really good," she said. "Miracles do happen."

Yes, indeed.

See a story about sisters in the mainstream media that we should know about? Let me know at

[Lisa Gutierrez is a new blogger who will be posting weekly for Global Sisters Report. That website is under development, so for now, her work will appear here on; you can read the first installment here.]

Editor's Note: The National Catholic Reporter is embarking on a groundbreaking project to give greater voice to sisters around the world. To learn more about this project or sign up for email alerts visit,

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