Nun Sense: Women in the Catholic Church
A habited woman speaks.


Kathryn Jean Lopez

LOPEZ: What does your average day look like? How long do you pray?

SISTER PRUDENCE: My day during the week usually begins at 4:30, when we rise. Beginning at 5:30, we pray together, singing the Liturgy of Hours in our chapel in the convent where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. At 6:45, we have Mass celebrated in the convent chapel, usually with a priest who is associated with the seminary where four of us teach (philosophy, canon law, Scripture, and liturgy and sacraments). Then we share breakfast together and go out to our apostolic work. One of our sisters works for the office of the vicar of clergy here in Denver; and we have two sisters in the mountains near Vail — one is principal of a Catholic elementary school and the other a teacher of music and religion there.

At noon we return to the convent for lunch together, and then return to our various apostolic works. At 5:15, we return to the convent for a Holy Hour, which includes exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a time of silent prayer, common prayers, chanting the Divine Office of evening prayer, and when possible, benediction. After that, we have a short choir practice for the music of the following day, a common dinner together, followed by various charges (dishes, walking the dog, setting up for Mass the next day, etc.) and then usually a time of recreation together. We complete our day at 8:00 with night prayer chanted together in the chapel. After that there is quiet time until 10:30, when lights must be out. Many sisters use this time at night, the early hours of the morning after rising (and before our official beginning of the Divine Office together), and brief moments during the day for sacred reading and private prayer.

Although it is difficult to tally up the time, it likely adds up to three or four hours of formal prayer together and variable times of informal individual prayer each day. On Sundays we add an extra individual hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to that. We also get up a little later on weekends.

The schedule may have some slight variations, but the content of the daily schedule is basically the same. This is what we call our “horarium,” in which all time is made sacred for the Lord. It gives us much strength to be present to the Lord Jesus Christ in our convent chapels and to pray together this way. A fundamental part of our vocation is prayer and intercession for the Church and the world and its needs.

LOPEZ: You’ve got a Ph.D. Why would you ever take the vows you have, wear a heavy, colorless habit, and spend so much time praying?

SISTER PRUDENCE: The simple answer is that I received a call from Jesus Christ to follow Him, who was poor, chaste, and obedient, and who came to serve. The specific way of following was revealed over time not only to me but also to those in charge of the formation of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. The vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service we freely take bind us to Jesus Christ forever, in a spiritual marriage. We live a common life in a spirituality of communion with our sisters, who are formed in the specific charism of our foundress, Venerable Catherine McAuley. Our particular charism is expressed in works of mercy at the professional level. So we become educated, not for ourselves, but to give ourselves in service to the Church and the world. It is a joy to serve this way.

We wear a religious habit as a sign of our consecration. It represents the spousal bond with our Lord, as we belong totally to Him. It is an individual sign and a communal sign, as we wear the same habit. We sew them ourselves as a way of living the vow of poverty. It frees us to be who we are called to be for the Church and the world, witnesses of the Kingdom of Heaven, the final reality to which we are all called. In our case, they are not “colorless,” because they are blue or black. If you check our website or the website of over 100 religious communities, you will see that there are lots of variations in color and style. Our religious habit is also only heavy (wool) in the winter; in the summer — and for our sisters who are living in or working in education or medicine in warm climates, such as in Australia, Africa, India, or Haiti — it is a light-blue pinstripe material.


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