Sister Mary McGlone, who has a doctorate degree in Historical Theology from St. Louis University, will discuss “the unique challenges” faced by early U.S. nuns.

by Len Lear

“Living in the Peruvian desert was like living in Jesus’ time and place. I learned how to live much more simply – and how humanly rich simple living is. I learned a great deal about injustice and the impoverishment that results from systems that don’t see their victims. I learned to see our country and culture with different eyes. I made many friends who touched my soul and remain a part of me.

“I learned much about the mutuality of mission … and about the faith expressions of other cultures. We can enrich one another immensely when we are open to learning from a different point of view.”

One of the nation’s most important authors of Catholic Sisters’ history, who made these comments in an interview with the Local last week, will deliver a historical presentation on Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Villa, 110 W. Wissahickon Ave. in Flourtown.

Sister Mary McGlone, 70, who has a doctorate degree in Historical Theology from St. Louis University, will discuss “the unique challenges that early U.S. Sisters faced as immigrants in a country that was just figuring out what it was. Separation of church and state had never before happened in a peaceful way – and the U.S. was trying to invent it – hampered by its majority Protestant disdain/fear of all things Catholic. And I want to do it with lots of historical anecdotes through real people, not theory.”

A native of Denver who now lives in St. Louis, McGlone ministered full time in Peru from 1981 to 1987, then did her dissertation research there, spent time writing “Comunidad Para El Mundo, a History of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Vice Province of Peru,” and “has found other good excuses to go back” to Peru.

A past president of the U.S. Catholic Mission Association, McGlone is also the author of “Sharing Faith Across the Hemisphere,” winner of the 1998 Catholic Press Association award for Best History Book of the Year.

For the past five years, the church scholar has been researching and writing a history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the U.S. The first volume, “Anything of Which a Woman is Capable,” has been published, and McGlone is now working on the second volume, tentatively titled “Called Forth By the Dear Neighbor.”

According to the author, “It was a much bigger pie to make, bake and eat than any of us anticipated. I plan to finish by the end of this year.”

Some communities of the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded to teach, others to care for the sick, etc. “Our founders wanted us to be open to any need that we could address that would be of service to our ‘dear neighbors,’ whomever and wherever we would encounter them.”

What was the hardest thing McGlone ever had to do?

“Follow the discerned intuition that I was called to be a Sister of St. Joseph – and learn all the openness to the unknown that would call forth. It’s ongoing.”

What is the best advice she ever received?

“One of our sisters who grew up with 13 siblings told me to choose my battles carefully and not worry about the small stuff.”

Which talent that McGlone does not have would she most like to have?

“I wish I could sketch because to portray something visually, to portray it from a unique perspective, would give me an opportunity to reverence the beauty of people and nature around me that words can never capture.”

If she could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be?

“After all the writing I have been doing, I am anxious to meet the Sisters who founded our congregations in the U.S. Their names mean little to people who are not Sisters of St. Joseph, but they include Sisters St. John Fontbonne, St. John Fournier, Agnes Spencer, Cecilia Bowen and Eucharista Galvin. I also think it would be great fun to talk to Martin Luther and Ignatius of Loyola, Mary Ward and Hildegard of Bingen.”

McGlone has written profoundly about “that sort of faith that leads people to see miracles in any and every moment of life. This is no glib or sweet, naive religiosity. It is, rather, the privilege of the poor. When people have come to faith in God’s presence in the worst, most hopeless, ever-dead-ending circumstances, then every other moment is also a clear expression of that same miraculous presence. Every birth, every sunrise, every fertile carrot seed reflects the One who gives life in abundance.”

McGlone will have copies of “Anything of Which a Woman is Capable” with her next Thursday. It can also be ordered on BookBaby’s online bookstore, which carries it in paperback, e-book or hardcover format. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com 

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