Image via Les Innocentes / RNS

A new film opening July 8 focuses attention on a long-ignored war crime — the sanctioned and systematic rape of Polish nuns during World War II.

The Innocents (Les Innocentes) tells the story of a young French doctor who is called to a Polish convent to aid a young novice in a breech labor. She discovers that Soviet soldiers, with the approval of their officers, raped dozens of the nuns during the occupation, leaving five of them pregnant.

Image via Sally Morrow / RNS

This Mississippi River city and the surrounding area have taken some hits over the past year, from the ongoing racial tensions over police shootings in Ferguson to the deadly and costly floods that struck the region earlier this year. Even St. Louis’ pro football team has bailed, as the Rams announced in January that they are decamping to the sunnier climes of Southern California.

Image via /

Four nuns from the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta are reportedly among 16 killed by gunmen who attacked a church-run retirement home in Yemen, the latest attack on Christians in the increasingly lawless country.

The women religious, members of the Missionaries of Charity congregation, were killed when four armed men attacked the convent and home for the elderly in the southern city of Aden on March 4, the Catholic news agency Fides reported.

Cathleen Falsani 09-24-2015

Image via Joe Reblando/WUSA9/Facebook

And then Wednesday night, at the end of a marathon day in the nation’s capital, after canonizing St. Junipero Serra at the National Basilica, the pope made an unscheduled, last-minute stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order dedicated to caring for the elderly. (The sisters gained notoriety for their lawsuit against the federal government over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, but reportedly the pope made no mention of it when he stopped by the Washington convent.) 

“It’s his actions that give credibility to what he says,” Sister Mary Richard, a nun from Queens Village, N.Y., who met “Papa Francesco” during the surprise visit, told me Thursday morning as we both waited at Union Station to board an Amtrak train bound for New York City. 

She continued, 

“He was exhausted but he came. He took the time to come. We take care of the elderly and he said, ‘Thank you. People just throw them away or get rid of them.’ 

“When he arrived the Mother Superior went out to greet him and she said, ‘Holy Father you must be so tired.’ And he said, ‘Priests and bishops get tired, but you don’t count the cost. But nuns, they never complain.’ “It’s his attitude, ya know?” 

Photo via CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano / RNS

Pope Francis and representatives of the U.S. LCWR. Photo via CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano / RNS

The controversial Vatican probe of American nuns that abruptly ended last month looked from the outside like a tense standoff between Rome and the U.S. sisters, punctuated by occasional public jousts that appeared to signal even tougher negotiations behind closed doors.

Not so, say the sisters, now freed to talk after both sides agreed to a month-long media blackout that ended May 15.

Those involved in the talks said that after a rocky start, the talks settled into a constructive dialogue that cleared up many misunderstandings that Vatican officials had about the sisters.

Gareth Higgins 05-06-2015

Lest we forget, The Sound of Music is a story of hope triumphing almost unimaginable odds.

Photo via U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops / RNS

Sister Mary Ann Walsh. Photo via U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops / RNS

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a quiet nun with a keen wit who led a very public life as a journalist and a longtime spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, died on April 28 after a tough battle with cancer.

She was 67 and passed away in a hospice in Albany next to the regional convent of the religious order she entered as a 17-year-old novice in 1964.

Walsh had moved to her native Albany from Washington last September after it was discovered that the cancer that had been in remission since 2010 had returned.

She was able to receive better care there and live out her days with other members of the Sisters of Mercy. She was transferred to the hospice on April 23 as her condition deteriorated.

“Sister Mary Ann,” as she was known to the many journalists she sparred and joked with and, with regularity, befriended, worked at the communications office of the American hierarchy for 20 years, retiring in the summer of 2014 just before she fell ill again.

She became director of media relations for the USCCB — the first woman to hold that position — after coordinating media for World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, which featured an enormously successful visit by then-Pope John Paul II.

Kathleen Bryant 01-28-2015

The way forward railway. Photo via hxdyl /

While some people may have heard of the great work of Nuns on the Bus to engage people on pressing social issues, there’s also the “Nuns on the Underground Railroad”—a quiet movement of nuns working together to restore dignity and healing for victims of labor and sex trafficking across the nation and the world...

For several years now, Catholic nuns have been proactive in preventing sex trafficking before, during, and after major sporting events like the Super Bowl by raising public awareness and conducting personal visits to hotels to alert them to the signs of human trafficking. Nuns have also placed full-page ads in airline magazines to educate the public about the dangers of child trafficking.

A fundamental theological and scriptural principle for Christians is that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. This belief in the imago Dei helps us to see the face of God even when the person doubts her own beauty and worth because of oppression. “Nuns on the Underground Railroad” seeks to restore a person’s sense of dignity and beauty through two rails of freedom: healing through programs and shelters and empowerment through education and employment.

As we move toward the Lenten season, the prophet Isaiah reminds us: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)

How is God moving your heart as you awaken to the stories of human trafficking victims? What action can you take for your enslaved sister and brother? What will you bring to your faith community to stir up concern? One single action to educate others and liberate the oppressed strengthens freedom throughout the world. As our mission affirms, “Ending slavery is everyone’s work.”

Photo courtesy of Leadership Conference of Women Religious / RNS

Sister Sharon Holland, IHM, LCWR President-Elect. Photo courtesy of Leadership Conference of Women Religious / RNS

The moment was more “Kumbaya” than “Come to Jesus” on Dec. 16 as the Vatican released the much-anticipated results of an investigation of women’s religious communities in the U.S., the first of two controversial investigations of American nuns by the Roman Curia.

The 5,200-word report was largely positive, and participants at a Vatican news conference were even more effusive in their praise for each other, the process, the outcome, and prospects for future collaboration to meet serious challenges. That was a big change from how things started six years ago.

So what did we learn from this whole saga? Here are three takeaways:

1. Rome’s “War on Women” is over

“It is not a truce,” Sister Sharon Holland of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main network of U.S. nuns, told reporters in Rome. “We are not at war.”

Elaina Ramsey 12-16-2014

Nuns listen during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference of the final report. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The much anticipated final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. nuns was released today without controversy. The report ends a process launched six years ago under Pope Benedict XVI through the leadership of Cardinal Franc Rodé, the former head of the Vatican office of religious life, who raised concerns of “secular mentality" and a "feminist spirit" among U.S. women religious communities. 

the Web Editors 10-03-2014

1. The Strange Nostalgia of ‘Left Behind’

The rapture movie (out in theaters today) is—to borrow a phrase—neither hot nor cold. So why the re-make? We take a crack at answering.

2. Lipstick and Seminary

“During seminary, I paid close attention to ways men acted in and outside the classroom. Playing by their rules helped me fit in…I guarded what I considered feminine-seeming parts of my personality — creativity, emotion, and relational ways of perceiving and acting. I got A’s, but my soul was wilting.”

3. WATCH: A Million Ways to Die in the U.S.

Jon Stewart puts concerns over ISIS and Ebola in perspective. “The American government has a sacred obligation to do whatever it takes to save American lives…unless it’s stopping the things that are actually killing Americans.”

A street in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bukavu. Photo via Fredrick Nzwili/RNS.

Three elderly Italian nuns murdered in Burundi were laid to rest Sept. 11 in a Xaverian cemetery in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid heightened calls for action about their death.

Sister Lucia Pulici, 75, Sister Olga Raschietti, 82, and Sister Bernadetta Boggian, 79, of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary were gruesomely murdered Sunday in their convent in the Kamenge area of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura.

The triple murders shocked Christians across the globe and ignited calls for the protection of sisters worldwide. The nuns were reportedly beaten and killed with a knife. At least one nun was decapitated. There were conflicting reports about whether they had been raped.

Sister Simone Campbell addresses an audience July 2, 2012 to conclude the Nuns on the Bus tour. Photo via Chris Lisee/RNS.

This time it’s the Catholic sisters versus the Koch brothers.

That’s one way to look at the upcoming “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which hits the road Sept. 17 for the third time in three years, a monthlong trip though 10 key U.S. Senate battleground states to campaign against the influence of outside money on politics.

The issue has come to be identified with the wealthy industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch, whose huge contributions to conservative political causes have raised concerns about the role of “dark money” on elections.

The spigot for such undisclosed donations, which can be made by unions as well as corporations, was opened by the controversial 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. That was followed by another 5-4 ruling in April of this year, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

Rose Marie Berger 08-05-2014

True power is energy that bears fruit.

Amanda Murphy 02-19-2014

Transform Now Plowshares activist Sister Megan Rice. Photo: Michael Patrick, courtesy Knoxville News Sentinel/RNS

An 84-year-old nun was sentenced to nearly three years in prison on Tuesday for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility in July 2012.

Sister Megan Rice and two other anti-nuclear activists were convicted last May of breaking into a federal complex that stores enriched uranium.

“Please have no leniency on me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me,” Rice told the federal judge at her sentencing hearing, according to USA Today.

Menachem Wecker 10-17-2013

Meryl Streep in “Doubt.” Photo via RNS/courtesy

From Julie Andrews’ performance as Maria in the 1965 film “The Sound of Music” to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt” (2008), many Hollywood actresses are particularly conspicuous for their habits. But although habits or veils are thought to symbolize purity – and especially chastity — some films presented a more complicated portrait of nuns.

The title of Maureen Sabine’s new book, “Veiled Desires: Intimate Portrayals of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film” (Fordham University Press), refers to the paradox of having charismatic and photogenic actresses playing chaste nuns and, in the process, drawing attention to the desires their habits were thought to stifle.

Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Sr. Simone Campbell and other 'Nuns on the Bus' greet rally attendees in D.C., last year. Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

NEW YORK — The “Nuns on the Bus” are revving up their engines for another national campaign, only this time the Catholic sisters are taking their mobile platform for social justice along the country’s Southern border to push Congress to pass immigration reform.

“The ‘Nuns on the Bus’ is going on the road again!” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, told an enthusiastic gathering of faith leaders and charity activists at a Manhattan awards ceremony Wednesday (May 1).

“This time we’re going out for commonsense immigration reform,” she said to rousing applause.

Alessandro Speciale 04-15-2013
RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Rally to honor American nunsin Kansas City, Mo. last year. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Nearly a year after the Vatican announced a makeover of the largest umbrella group for American nuns, Pope Francis has directed that the overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious continue.

The decision, while not entirely unexpected, could nonetheless bring an end to Francis’  honeymoon with the many American Catholics who had viewed the crackdown on nuns as heavy-handed and unnecessary.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met on Monday with the LCWR’s leadership for the first time since Francis’ election on March 13.

According to a Vatican statement, during a recent discussion of the case with Mueller, Francis “reaffirmed the findings” of the Vatican investigation and the “program of reform” for LCWR that was announced on April 18, 2012.

Min-Ah Cho 03-14-2013

From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism. Ave Maria Press

Alyssa Bain 10-19-2012
Photo: SVLuma /

Photo: SVLuma /

Editor's Note: Alyssa Bain tells her story of why she's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

Last weekend I watched Sister Act (both of them, actually) with some friends (who also happen to be nuns)

I am not a nun. I am not a novice. I am not Catholic. Some days I wonder if I am even Christian.

According to a recent study by the Pew Forum, I actually just might be a “none.”

The research is out, and it seems that my generation is stumping the world as the generation that, for whatever reason, refuses to label itself. 

Personally, I’ve been having trouble with labeling myself for quite some time. Lutheran. Non-denominational. Methodist. Universalist. Evangelical. Protestant.

But none of them quite fit right. The problem with labels is that there are always exceptions. Nothing is black and white. The label “none” lumps together atheists, agnostics, and, well, me. I am not an atheist. I might be kind of agnostic, but there really is just something about that Jesus guy.