My aunt was a professed Sister in a convent. The order to which she belonged allowed only two home visits in a lifetime. Most of the Sisters made that visit at the deaths of their mothers and fathers. I didn't meet Sister Marie Therese until I was a teenager and had grown past the years when my curiosity would have had me asking her many personal questions. My mother told me her name at home was Gladys and that she left home when she was 18 and had only been home once since then. I also knew my mother and my grandma were very proud of her and considered it an honor to have a member of their family in the convent.
The Sisters who taught at the school I attended were a different order and had different rules. All I really knew about them was that they lived in the same house and were very holy. I figured they were just like my aunt and now used different names than their parents had given them at birth. They were not eager to answer my many questions. What was your real name? Where do your mom and dad live? Do you get hot wearing all those robes? Do you ever play games or do you pray all the time?
They seemed to be very good friends with one another. They didn't go anywhere off the school grounds unless they were in pairs. You always knew when they were around because the long rosary that hung from their waist cords rattled when they moved. Every Saturday afternoon they walked as twosomes from the convent the half block to the church to go to Confession. We didn't know why they did that because it was hard to believe they ever did anything wrong. It was years later before we knew anything about receiving spiritual direction while receiving that sacrament
We had playground conversations about whether or not the Sisters had ears and what color hair they had. The white close-fitting cap worn under the veil didn't allow for any glimpse of neck, ears or hair. They often tucked their hands under the long front panel that hung down over the floor-length robe. The back panel whipped in the wind as did their veils and we were always on the lookout to see what was revealed on windy days. We never saw anything special but we always looked.
One Saturday afternoon a priest friend stopped by our house. He was watching the clock and after a short visit he said he had to leave because it was time to go dust the angels. I thought it was strange that he had to come from his parish to do janitorial duties at ours. I pictured him cleaning the angel statues in church. That wasn't what he did when he left our house. Shortly after he walked into church the procession of Sisters, two-by-two were seen walking up the church steps. Then we understood that these were the angels he was talking about.
The convents would have overflowed with candidates if all of us who declared during those formative years that some day we were going to the convent had done so. We thought their lives were quiet, sweet and trouble-free. After all, they didn't have to go out and find jobs and were given a house in which to live.
As we entered our teens we realized what the women who chose this way of life had given up and the sacrifices they made to lead a life of prayer and service. Eventually we, those little girls of yesterday, made different choices for the road we would travel through life. I think the change of mind came when the Sisters were no longer as big a source of mystery as were the boys in high school.