My mother came to visit us for a few weeks. She liked to go to church on the weekend. My brother and I took turns taking her.
Last Sunday, as I sat beside my mother listening to the Homily, I noticed some donation envelopes at the end of the pew. Without really thinking, I picked up one of them. I opened my bag, brought out my checkbook and started to write a check paid to the Church. I had gone as far as sealing the envelope when I remembered something in the news while I was getting ready that morning.
I had listened to Rachel Martin on NPR’s Sunday Weekend Edition interview a nun, Sister Maxyne Schneider of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sister Schneider is the current president of her congregation. She has been a nun for about 50 years, having taken her vows as a teenager. She is now responsible for over 200 nuns. Unfortunately, their congregation is on the brink of financial collapse. Many of the nuns are like her, well on in their years, with all the travails of aging.
I looked around and observed few people sitting on the pews of this rather modern semi-circular church. I could not help but wonder if perhaps many people are away for the summer or, could this be the current sad state of affairs with the dwindling Catholic membership everywhere.
We were in Europe last month with my hubby’s sisters. We joined some walking tours in Prague and parts of Germany (Regensburg, Nuremberg, Passau to name a few). All these cities where Catholicism was pretty much the way of life of just about every citizen for several centuries leading to the second world war, were dotted with the most elaborate and beautifully built churches. Prague alone boasted of about 200 churches. Sadly, most of these places are seeing a rapidly dwindling attendance and membership. The Czech Republic is said to only have a 10% active membership these days. The others were not much better.
I noticed the musical director quietly preparing his music sheets, He looked sideways to the other musicians and gave them an almost imperceptible nod to prepare for the next song. I watched the priest celebrating the mass, not really paying attention to what he was saying. At the back, the ushers were making their way to prepare for the Offertory. It was going to be handed by a family of five in bright summer garb.
I could not help but wonder, with all the collections of the various Catholic churches around the world, surely, this institution could have some kind of fund for the health care of its religious nuns and priests. Aging is as inevitable as the changing seasons, taxes, and gray hair.
I could not help but wonder if certain groups of American Nuns who have been vocal about their disagreements with recent ridiculous Vatican edicts have fallen out of favor and therefore are now deprived of access to the Vatican’s coffers. Or, is it because nuns are women and they don’t get equal treatment in the eyes of the Catholic church? I resolved to do my own research when I get a chance.
My thoughts turned to the current climate on Universal Health Care in the United States. I wonder if I will see this finally come to fruition in my lifetime. There are certainly enough political, religious, and self-interest groups with deep pockets who are doing everything to dismantle Obamacare in its infant state. If the Catholic church does not have the right sense nor the compassion to provide for its religious members, then, the government should step in and provide it for them. Technically, the nuns don’t really have an income. Their work is not paid. They receive a stipend. So, how does this work with Medicare then? We are still set up in this country with the notion that Health Care is an earned right, not a human right.
I noticed an usher coming our way to collect our donations. I hastily folded my envelope and stuffed it in my bag. I know better where to put my money. I may be one small voice but I can certainly show my opinion with my wallet. I resolved to look up the address of Sister Schneider’s congregation when I got home.
- National Catholic Reporter’s $2.3 million grant to cover religious sisters (catholicnewsagency.com)
- Sister Fights To Save Her Order From Financial Collapse (wnyc.org)
- Ordinariate Sisters Have a Permanent Home (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- What Catholic women want (washingtonpost.com)
- Viewpoint: Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield president Maxyne Schneider says her congregation faces financial challenge with optimism (masslive.com)
To all my friends at WordPress: My apologies for my absence. I will catch up with you all somehow.