At first glance, there seem to be no two populations in today’s world more divergent than women religious and Millennials. But a new organization, dubbed “Nuns and Nones” (as in “none being Catholic”) is finding out that both groups can learn from each other, in one of the most time-tested ways — by living together in one community as roommates.
A six-month-long pilot project saw a group of young activists become roommates to a convent of Sisters of Mercy in the San Francisco Bay area. The “nones” felt called to public service, morality, and social justice, but were unsure of how to fully incorporate such devotion into their lifestyles. So they looked to the wisdom of the “radical, badass women” who are masters of the art.
“‘So many of the millennials would say, “I’m looking for rituals. I’m looking for rituals to work in my lesbian community or social justice or I need rituals for this other thing,’” Sister Carle said. One young woman wanted ritual so much that she started going to Mass every morning.”
And in turn, the sisters derived joy and growth from the new relationships the program fostered:
“Sister Janet Rozzano, 81, chose not to be involved with the young visitors at first, but they started using her kitchen.
‘I kind of got thrown into it,’ she said. ‘We just had so much in common to talk about.’
Sister Rozzano spends most of her time coaching her fellow sisters on their own journeys. Much of this now involves the challenges of living in an ageing body.
‘One of the challenges of ageing is not just to focus down on your aches and pains,’ she said. ‘And I feel like this called me back again to the bigger vision. And on a simple level, I overcame my fear of talking to younger people.’”
The experience of the Nuns and Nones is an object lesson, not just for participants (and there are non-cohabiting groups all over the USA), but for anyone in one group that needs to communicate with another. In short: everybody. I’m going to keep this fascinating community in mind as I navigate my business and personal relationships. Like many of us, I could certainly use a little generosity of spirit, contemplation, and “badassery” in my life.