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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Nov 25, 2007

I can offer you the Nashville Dominican Postulants ...

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post has a patronizing yet grudgingly positive article on the Nashville Dominicans, who are opening a high school in the Arlington Diocese. The piece is framed, somewhat facetiously, along the lines of a business-section feature about a successful marketing ploy, focusing on the externals of a well-ordered religious life. Most Catholics readers will understand that more than a change of uniform is at work:

In her floor-length white habit with black veil and a rosary around her waist, [Sister Mary Jordan] Hoover is the picture of affirmation for traditional dioceses, including Arlington's.

And that makes her a hot property. With a stated mission of teaching, the Nashville Dominicans get letters and phone calls almost daily from dioceses across the country, asking that they send their youthful -- and overtly devout -- vibe to one school or another.

Asking that they send their "vibe" ... ? Nope. Tried that 40 years ago. Other also-rans console themselves with the product recognition/market segmentation line: the Nashville gals succeeded on the strength of distinctive branding:

"If Catholic schools don't look any different and use the same textbooks and have the same teachers and the same standards, why have them?" asked Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who studies religious orders. One way to distinguish yourself is "to get a bunch of women in habits in there. They are icons of Catholicity in a diocese that wants Catholicity."

Wittberg suggests that those who'd stoop so low as to make a play for the Catholicity niche-market can do so by deploying "a bunch of women in habits" -- a curious expression. It doesn't exactly sound like a compliment. Not to downplay the importance of distinctive religious garb in an age of increasingly aggressive secularism, but I'm more inclined to think that what aspirants, and parents, and latterly even bishops are finding attractive in the Nashville Dominicans is not principally their vesture, but their Faith.

... or, if you prefer, the Indianapolis Benedictines at recreation.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 26, 2007 9:35 PM ET USA

    The 2 pictures prove that what one believes reflects how one looks and how one looks reflects what is in the soul. Which nuns would you want to teach your children? Which nuns would you trust? Which group looks happier? More joyful?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2007 4:43 PM ET USA

    So many like these poor Benedictines have been terribly deceived as a result of VCII liberalizers. Pray such souls return to God, modesty and true Catholic devotion. “I wish that devout persons would always be the most well-dressed persons in their milieu, but at the same time, the less pompous and affected. As we read in Proverbs, they should be characterized by grace, decorum and dignity.” (St. Frances of Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chap. 25)

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2007 3:44 PM ET USA

    God Bless the Dominican sisters!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2007 9:55 AM ET USA

    It never was the Habit, it was what it represented. Maybe Wittberg is a great Sister attracting many others to follow Our Lord. Who can tell, but women Religious dressed like lay people surely are not attracting young women to join them as consecrated persons. It often seems that a lack of orthodoxy is part of their collective persona. If so, the Holy Spirit is surely involved in their predicament.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2007 9:51 AM ET USA

    Help is on the way. Thank God.

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