You hear a lot about nuns—they sing, they fly and they do holy things. But it is not often you hear about the dark side of nunnery—their subversiveness. I’ve been working for over 35 years as social entrepreneur and I’m a firsthand witness to their not so undercover efforts in the arena of social change and sustainability. One of our first shows for Operation Bon Appétit television series will be about my favorite subversives—nuns!
Sister Michaela Rock—the name alone should tell you that she is not a mild, submissive kind of person and I met on the phone shortly after the launch of the Earth Charter—a global Declaration of Interdependence—in the United States. The launch involved the satellite connection of 12 cities including Santa Rosa, California—where Sister Michela and her “nunnies”—as she affectionately calls them—ran the St. Joseph Centers for Social Change. The Sisters were attracted to the core value of the Earth Charter, which can be interpreted as the “Oneness of Being”, and the principles of the charter for justice, peace and sustainability. It did not take them long to get crackin’ on a set of lesson plans for middle and high school students based on the EC principles that also met the California State Education Standards.
Sister Michaela and I were in sync from our first phone conversation where I loved her directness and raucous approach to life. She took it upon herself to be my advisor offering me usually appreciated guidance. When I was doing the Earth Charter Living TV Series, she and her nunnies would sit and critique my performance with such salient remarks as “your lipstick does not match the polish on your toenails”. That critique I could have lived without but most often, I found her thoughtful insights truly helpful and have been deeply appreciative of her being in my life.
Sister Michaela is one of many Sisters who devote their lives to making society and this world better. Others who have crossed my path include Sister Miriam McGillis, who started Genesis Farm– one of the first community supported gardens (51 acres)in the US and Sister Anne Dougherty, who founded Tampa’s St. Francis House in 1989 for people with HIV & AIDS.
The American nuns’ good works caught the attention of the Vatican, which ordered an investigation into their work a couple of years ago with that report coming out in the near future. There is concern that the Vatican wants to rein in American nuns, returning them to traditional ministries and lifestyles. It’s a tragedy that wonderful women, who are dedicated to making life on this planet better, have to put up with such an unwarranted intrusion.
I love the nuns and for good reason–they embrace the hallmarks of Operation Bon Appétit—subversive works for the good AND a good glass of wine.