The Other I

December 30, 2007

The Maryknoll publicity department

Filed under: Catholicism and other questions of religion,Life as a Nun — theotheri @ 9:08 pm

For anyone reading this blog who may be trying to make coherent sense out of it, I apologize.  It isn’t coherent.  Occasionally I am obsessed with an impulse to organize it into some rational form, but right now it would create too much of a strait jacket for me.  I don’t know what – if anything – might eventually result from this thinking out loud, but right now I know it’s a hodge podge.  All of which is my explanation for why I am now returning, without logic, to describing one of the seminal times I had at Maryknoll, and which I remember with energized delight.

After the three years of probation in the novitiate, I took the traditional temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Poverty didn’t mean being poor, but rather that I would not legally own anything.  By any standards I was not poor.  Chastity meant renouncing sexual relationships.  It would not have been possible to establish a viable heterosexual relationship in those particular circumstances, in any case, but I entered into the covenant voluntarily.  Obedience obliged me to obey the wishes of superiors.  These wishes sent me for several years to work in the Motherhouse bakery, pantry, sewing room, and promotions.   Promotions was even more brainless than the pantry, and I hated the boredom of mindlessly filling out multiple copies of forms for hours a day.

But then I was assigned to the Publicity Department.  The department was headed by Sister Maria del Rey, a published journalist, and author of the book, Bernadette Becomes a Nun,  that had influenced many of us to enter Maryknoll in the first place.  In publicity, we actually wrote articles to be published in the Maryknoll magazine, and I developed darkroom skills, spending hours developing photographs sent in from the missions to accompany the stories they illustrated.  But the most exciting thing we did was to put together a weekly television show for children recorded in NBC studios in New York City.   The show was written by Sister Frances Louise, a talented nun who also had professional writing experience before coming to Maryknoll.  The show consisted of several puppets who carried on conversations about events of the day with a Maryknoll sister.  I was the Maryknoll sister.  We might talk about why we hide Easter eggs or decorate Christmas trees, or discuss a recent news event like the Watts riots by angry and disenfranchised Blacks in Los Angeles.   

Every week we drove to the NBC studios to record the show for transmission on Sunday mornings.  The show was made to meet the law requiring a certain number of television hours every week dedicated to religious programming but we were young, innocent, dedicated, fresh, and enthusiastic, and thought NBC was running the show because of its intrinsic worthiness.  The NBC staff adopted a protective stance toward us, and never suggested that what we were doing was anything but something of great moral worth.

Inevitably we got to know the director and producer and the cameramen and the people behind the scenes.  They told us about their families, and sometimes told us about their own family rituals.  Many of the staff were Jewish, and their stories were my first introduction to Judaism in New York.  The rituals were different from those I was familiar with, but the roles of special food, and candles and prayers and fasting were ones I knew well.  I was fascinated with the whole process, with the people, with the drive and creativity of this media world.  I felt an affinity with them, as if in some way I came from their world, and was returning home. 

It was the New York to which I had thought to escape at the age of seven.  And it was, in the end, to world to which I did escape when I left Maryknoll.


  1. I admire your intrinsic self evaluation regarding your convent experience. I too attempted to enter religious life at the college that I had followed my high school teachers. It was the late seventies and my ‘beloved’ mentors were in an uproar of what they might suggest to those of us expressly interested in a religious vocation. After many attempts to nail down the sister in charge of vocations, I felt the split that inevitably happened when one huge province was cut into smaller ones. The confusion I experienced remained with me for forty years. I can now, with joy say that at 56 years of age, I have met a community with traditional but fresh ideas about what a sister truly is. Pray for me as Im finally beginning the process of becoming a sister with my eyes wide open and my heart free from the entanglements of the sisterhood desperately trying to survive the period where the ‘baby’ was literally thrown out with the bathwater! I am no longer afraid to be whom God created me to be, but I look forward to discovering each moment of the process that brings me closer to the Lord who has been with me all my life. God bless you for your cando and honesty! Caitie


    Comment by caitie jachimowski — May 21, 2015 @ 3:20 am | Reply

    • Thank you, Caitie. I very much appreciate your comment. I wish you the very best as you begin your new life as a sister. I have seen some courageous, creative, loving and very important changes taking place in some communities of sisters. In some ways, I think they are among the most important forces in Christianity in the world today. I hope that you feel you are part of that. God bless.


      Comment by theotheri — May 22, 2015 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

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