揥 read a ബ Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns effectively ꗛ Kindle By Kenneth Briggs 솘 揥 read a ബ Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns effectively ꗛ Kindle By Kenneth Briggs 솘 Chapter OneMaking Waves in KansasToting a small hoe and pruning sheers, Sister Agatha Grosdidier crept her way along the flower beds straddling the massive stone Ursuline convent in Paola, Kansas, bending to paw the earth and clip a useless twig She was lean and large boned with a broad, handsome face A plain black head covering that fell back to the nape of her neck a veil was the only outward sign that she was a nun The profusion of roses, irises, tulips, jonquils, wild sweet Williams, poppies, bluebells, and tiger lilies, among others, was her doing Her love of tending flowers dated back to her childhood spent on a Kansas farm It was a passion that she later saw as helping her to nurture children in the classroom.When she wasn t digging in the dirt, Sister Grosdidier answered the convent phone or sewed aprons In 1995, she was ninety five years old, the eldest of the sisters For nearly seventy five of those years, she had been an Ursuline sister in Paola, a farming town forty miles south of Kansas City Her chronology coincided remarkably with the history of the sisters community She was born five years after the Paola community s founding by thirteen nuns and three postulants, or trainees, and had lived to celebrate its hundredth anniversary in 1995.Sister Grosdidier was the kind of sturdy survivor who attracts accolades such as remarkable or awesome She was astonishingly robust, with a sparkle still dancing in her eyes Her health had been so resilient that an insurance man, noting that no claims had been filed under her name, called the convent to ask if Sister Agatha was still alive She loved tacos, spicy foods, and chocolate milk shakes Lighthearted and quiet, she adored her flowers and her sisters, and her sisters adored her She was special, but she did not see herself that way rather she was a sister among sisters doing the ordinary things It had been for her the best life she could imagine.Longevity and constancy had been hallmarks of Ursulines for nearly five hundred years St Angela Merici 1474 1540 began the community in sixteenth century Italy, forsaking riches to feed the poor She took the name of the order from the ancient German saint Ursula Two centuries later, in 1727, the Ursulines became the first order to reach North America when French nuns from Rouen planted a convent in New Orleans seventy five years before the city became absorbed into the United States The Ursuline migration to Kansas had been by way of Louisville and St Louis Over that inclusive span of history, the sisters had endured waves of plenty and scarcity in both numbers and resources Various branches had waxed and waned By the dawn of the twenty first century, the Ursulines still carried a distinct heritage but generally fit the profile of most other orders Their story has become the familiar story of scores of communities from Sinsinawa Dominicans to Sisters of Mercy to Blessed Sacrament nuns The circumstances differ, as do the particulars of their community arrangements, but they are much alike than dissimilar Sister Grosdidier and her fellow Paola Ursulines, therefore, reflected a much wider picture of the recent struggles and triumphs of American nuns in the mid 1990s.Sister Grosdidier joined the Paola sisters in 1924 when they numbered than fifty She had shopped around before making a decision The Ursulines won her allegiance because, unlike the nearby Benedictines, they had somewhat less stringent rules They allowed sisters to go home if a parent died, for example the Benedictines did not.The majestic stone 1920s convent where she had moved as an excited young postulant had evolved into a three story hub and spoke structure At the ground floor center stood a hand carved solid walnut statue of Angela Merici bringing a basket of bread to peasants in a field.Over the decades, the Ursulines had become a fixture in the Archdiocese of Kansas City and, like so many orders, an absolute necessity Sister Grosdidier stepped into line to do her duty she taught the children, instilling in them as best she could the Catholic faith The Archdiocese of Kansas City had relied upon the Ursulines to do this work with special competence the sisters were renowned for their energetic and spirited teaching Even now with the order in steady decline, half a dozen sisters served as principals of archdiocesan schools and several others were teaching in them.From the beginning, the community had been, in practice, under the authority of the archdiocese rather than under the direct rule of the Vatican whether an order was diocesan or pontifical has many complex implications in terms of Church politics Most orders prefer to be overseen by the Vatican so as to avoid meddling from local bishops closer to the scene The Ursulines had therefore always allied themselves closely to the archdiocese.Twenty years after taking final vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the aftermath of World War II Sister Grosdidier was happily teaching typing and other commercial skills to high school students The community had swollen to nearly one hundred Like those in every order, the Ursulines were women living on their own, having to raise their own funds to pay their own bills The diocese paid sisters a token amount to teach far below prevailing teacher salaries but otherwise bore no responsibility for the sisters financial welfare The combined stipends from many nuns working as teachers made subsistence possible, although when the number of teachers declined there was a serious shortfall In addition, in the early decades of the twentieth century the sisters owned two hundred acres on which they planted corn and vegetables and herded cattle to supply the convent kitchen On another section of the spread, oil wells pumped a shallow pool of low grade petroleum Since then, the unprofitable wells have been capped and large chunks of the property sold off to a Wal Mart and to the developers of a strip mall to pay the bills for retired sisters such as Sister Grosdidier Thirty four acres were donated for a special education center for mentally disabled children.The nerve center for the Paola Ursulines industry and creativity, the mother house convent, is medieval and monastic, hollow and ghostly The halls, prongs radiating from the center, are mysteriously dark, spare, and tomblike A cozy chapel, where the sisters gather each day for Mass celebrated by a priest who serves as their official chaplain, features a marble altar, Austrian stained glass windows, and a 1974 modernist mural titled St Ursula and the Ursulines of Paola, which had stirred some debate.By contrast, the public rooms, where family and guests are received and social events staged, are filled with light and creature comforts Two parlors serve as elegant galleries for outsized paintings of bishops who were counted among the founders of the community Two busts symbolize the sisters commitments one of Pope Benedict XV, representing the Church the other, William Shakespeare, who stands for their dedication to learning.The most stunning contrast to the convent s darkness is the mellow pastel wicker room It is chockablock with the kind of furniture that gives the room its name, high back chairs, sofas, footrests, and rockers, some bearing a blue embroidered U on the seat pad, not unlike the sitting room of a Titanic like ocean liner from the early decades of the century It is a space where girls from the adjoining Ursuline Academy, which closed a quarter century ago, had danced with and romanced their male guests at receptions and proms Scattered throughout the social rooms, glass cases display collectors items One shows bells of porcelain, glass, brass, and silver another features crosses from all over the world, many of them encrusted with gems The most unusual case contains five hundred toy mice.Such displays were, of course, for the benefit of the stream of outsiders who gained limited access to the convent during the years when the community flourished Paola was a healthy branch of the Ursuline tree for many decades, though it never grew to the size of some branches in populated areas.In its centennial year, 1995, a total of forty five nuns belonged to the community Nobody, young or otherwise, was preparing to join Three years later, the number had dropped to thirty six, all but two of the departures through death The average age was in the sixties The last to enter, in 1980, was Sister Karen Klaffenbach, at age thirty six, but she died tragically in her forties five years after my visit A young woman who entered at the same time soon left.In the dining room, Sister Grosdidier and the remaining nuns took their simple meals cafeteria style Some wore pantsuits, others dresses with or without a veil, still others tops and pants two very old nuns appeared in full, modified habit Their numbers included an authority on American ballet who had recently retired from the faculty of Loyola University of New Orleans, a massage therapist who still practiced in Paola, and a former high school principal Meals were among the remaining rituals The noontime meal, for example, began promptly at twelve o clock and food was collected and consumed with hushed dispatch Dirty dishes were unloaded from the trays to the stainless steel counters to bring matters to a close.The customs of the dining room conveyed the values of mutual respect, simplicity, routine, and devotion to community that continue to characterize Ursuline tradition The sisters remained powerfully drawn to the example of St Angela More than a wooden statue of one who has receded into the mists of history, the saint is a constant reference point, a continuing source of inspiration, very much among them still.The order to which St Angela had given rise was anchored in the mainstream of American sister communities, neither as liberal as some nor as conservative as others While there was littBalanced, well researched exploration of the vanishing world of nuns in America Kirkus Reviews From the Trade Paperback edition. 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