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The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence don't hold a candle to the ACNA Sisters of St. Mary

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence don't hold a candle to the ACNA Sisters of St. Mary
Episcopal religious orders dwindling while the number of drag queen "Sisters" increase

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 9, 2023

As June dawned, one Episcopal News Service headline read: "Episcopal churches celebrate Pride Month with special worship services, parade participation, fundraising events."

The story, written by Shireen Korkzan, goes on to highlight the various Pride events taking place within Episcopal dioceses, cathedrals and individual parishes to endorse and salute the celebration of one of the seven deadly sins -- lust.

It used to be that June was Dairy Month which my home state of Wisconsin celebrated fully. Farmers would host Saturday Dairy Breakfasts on their farms where city-folk would get up and personal with cows and see where the dairy products they bought in their grocery stores -- milk, cream, cheese, ice cream and butter -- get their starts.

June is Dairy Month was established to help foster the agriculture industry, educate the populace about the barn-to-table connection, and to celebrate and thank the farmers who work from before dawn until after dusk to bring farm products to the American dinner table.

Now June has been co-opted by Pride Month where 30 days are spent celebrating debauchery where the drag queen Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are celebrated, championed and honored for their sexual proclivities and outlandish "habits."

In 2007, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence first popped up on my radar when on October 7, 2007, at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco, Archbishop George Niederauer (VIII San Francisco) gave Holy Communion to two "Sisters" in heavy white-face makeup while wearing their bizarre habits, coronets and veils.

I was incensed! As I am today over the Los Angeles Dodgers willingness to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who identify as "queer and trans nuns," with its Community Hero Award at the baseball team's 10th annual Pride Night event on June 16, as well as the California State Legislature's recent singling out "Sister Roma" as its official Pride Month honoree.

"For 44 years, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have given love, laughter, and support to the LGBTQ+ community," the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus noted in honoring the queer nun. "The sisters have stood and fought with us when no one else would."

In 2007, few, other than Roman Catholics, even noticed what happened in a San Francisco Catholic parish at the hands of the archbishop. However, conservative Catholics and other concerned pro-family Christians were encouraged to voice their outrage at Archbishop Niederauer's action by contacting the Archdiocese of San Francisco; or Bishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in Washington, DC; and/or Cardinal William Levada, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
Cardinal Levada, who preceded Archbishop Niedetauer as the VII Archbishop of San Francisco, was instrumental in the formation of the Anglican Ordinariates.

However, I went a step further. I wrote to German-born Pope Benedict XVI in English and in German, which is my second language. I have never heard back from him. I guess my German wasn't up to snuff.

Now, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are again making headlines. But this time there is a dust-up. Not because it has anything to do with religion, but because it has something to do with sports.

This time, the Los Angeles Dodgers face a growing pushback from faithful Catholics joined by other committed Christians, and others, over plans to honor the militant gay group as a part of the Pride month celebrations. Christians are joining together to take a stand against the blasphemies of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Plans are in the works on the LA Dodgers' Pride Night for a peaceful, prayerful procession to wind from Our Lady of the Queen of Angels Catholic Cathedral to Dodger Stadium in protest of the Dodgers honoring the fake "nuns."

The cry is that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a "gay anti-Catholic hate group" that "mocks Catholic beliefs as part of a performance repertoire expressing support for alternative sexual identities". They parody Catholic nuns as The "Sisters" and not only dishonor Catholic nuns, but all religious Sisters-in-the-Veil whether they are Catholic, Episcopal or Anglican.

In recent years, the Catholic sisterhood has dropped more than 75% from 180,000 before Vatican II to 42,000 nuns in the United States today. It is estimated that by 2042 there will be fewer than one thousand American Sisters remaining. Now the average age of a Roman Catholic nun hovers around 80 and few younger Sisters are joining their ranks.

But Catholic convents are not the only nunneries which are being emptied. Just recently the Community of St. Mary (CSM), the former Episcopal order of nuns which transferred to ACNA, has dwindled to three aging sisters -- Mother Miriam, Sr. Catherine Claire, and Sr. Mary Elizabeth. The fourth remaining ACNA nun was Sr. Mary Jean, who died in February. She was 84 and she was a Sister of St. Mary for 60 years.

I first met Sr. Mary Jean in 1991. She was then known as Mother Mary Jean when I met her at the LXX Episcopal General Convention in Phoenix. At the time, she was the Mother Superior of a thriving Episcopal convent in Peekskill, NY.

The Community of St. Mary, the oldest community of nuns in the Episcopal Church, was founded in 1865 during the waning days of the Civil War. Eventually there were three autonomous provinces of that particular religious community -- the Eastern Province based in New York, the Southern Province in Tennessee, and the Western Province in Wisconsin.

Initially the Community of St. Mary was the only nunnery in the Episcopal Church. Now there are another nine women's monastic and religious orders in TEC. Some are thriving, more are just holding their own, and a few are drying up on the vine.

The other nine Episcopal religious sisterhoods include: the Community of St. Francis in California; the Community of St. John Baptist in New Jersey; the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York; the Community of the Transfiguration in Ohio; the Order of Julian of Norwich in Wisconsin; the Order of St. Helena in South Carolina; the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity in Wisconsin, the Sisters of St. Anne in Massachusetts; and the Society of St. Margaret in Massachusetts.

In 2021, Sisters of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary left The Episcopal Church and followed their bishop (William Love -- IX Albany) into the Anglican Church of North America; the Western Province is dying out; and it is only the Southern Province which is currently sustainable with the involvement of associates and oblates.

However, the ACNA Sisters of St. Mary are leaving behind a living legacy. They founded a daughter house in Luwinga, Malawi, Africa. The Malawian Sisters are growing and now have their own motherhouse and established a novitiate to train and spiritually form new African Sisters. The Sisters of St. Mary in Luwinga is the first Anglican monastic house for women in Malawi.

What helps make the ACNA Sisters of St. Mary unique is that they still retain their traditional religious habit and they are noted far and wide for their excellence in plainchant. They helped to create the Monastic Diurnal, which is an English adaptation of plainchant used for chanting Divine Office. Gregorian plainchant is usually chanted in Latin.

Sadly, now there is only one remaining Sister in the Diocese of Milwaukee-based Community of St. Mary (Western Province). She is Sr. Mary Grace, who at 103-years-old is living in an assisted living facility in Milwaukee. The Community of St. Mary's in Sewanee, Tennessee (Southern Province) has several Sisters in the community who are younger. They still are open to accepting new vocations.

In 2003, Bishop Daniel Herzog (VIII Albany) invited the Sisters of the Peekskill Community of St. Mary (Eastern Province) to the Diocese of Albany. Twenty years ago, after praying for more than a century in Peekskill, 14 nuns answered the call and packed up their habits and prayerbooks and willingly and joyfully relocated.

But that was not the first time that Sisters from the Community of St. Mary's answered the call to service. In 1878, five CSM Sisters responded to the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee. Four of the Sisters and two Episcopal priests got the dreaded mosquito-borne disease and died. They were: Sr. Constance, Sr. Thecla, Sr. Ruth, Sr. Frances, Fr. Louis Schuyler and Fr. Charles Parsons. They are now considered the Martyrs of Memphis and their commemoration was added to the Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts in 1981. Their feast day is celebrated on September 9.

Only one Southern Province CSM Sister survived the Memphis yellow fever epidemic which killed 5,150 people. She was Sr. Hughetta. In addition, Fr. George Harris, then dean of Memphis' St. Mary's Cathedral, also recovered and lived.

In 1872, the Eastern Province Sisters built an impressive stone convent and school along the banks and on the bluffs of the Hudson River. Saint Mary's School on Mount St. Gabriel closed in 1977. From 1979-1988 the former school site was used as the fictional setting of Eastland School, an all-girls boarding school in Peekskill, on the TV sitcom "Facts of Life."

When the Sisters of St. Mary relocated to Greenwich, New York, the Peekskill property was sold and turned into a high-end luxury hotel called The Abbey Inn and Spa which opened for guests in the spring of 2020.

"Formerly the convent of the Episcopal Sisters of Saint Mary, The Abbey Inn emerges, wholly renovated and re-imagined, as the premier retreat for today's modern traveler," the Spa's website proclaims. "The lovingly and painstakingly restored convent and chapel atop Fort Hill in Peekskill is the ideal venue for celebrating all of life's meaningful moments."

I am sorrowful that the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary is in danger of eventually dying out, and that its majestic convent on the Hudson River has been turned into a five-star hotel.

But I'm livid that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence thrive and grow. I am angry that their brand of debauchery is championed and celebrated.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were established in 1979, whereas the Community of St. Mary was founded in 1865 by Mother Harriet (nee Harriet Starr Cannon).

The Sisters of St. Mary live a hidden life of dedicated, concentrated, consecrated prayer and humble service in imitation of their namesake the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The world has turned its back on the Sisters of St. Mary and many other faithful and prayerful Sisters-in-the-Veil -- Catholic, Episcopal or Anglican -- yet embrace the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as the Los Angeles Dodgers prepare to bend their collective knee to the rainbow-colored Pride altar.

Shame, shame ...

Lord, have mercy!

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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