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June 8, 2021 45 mins

PART FIVE - MC sisters are forbidden from having “particular friendships.” They’re not supposed to get close to anyone. They’re supposed to detach from their human relationships so that they can focus on God. They live a vow of chastity to the extreme. But even in the convent, secret love emerges, and two sisters begin a forbidden relationship.


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Before we start, I want to let you know that
in this episode we discussed the topic of sexual abuse. Listener,
discretion is advised. I really wanted that life that Jesus

(00:23):
had of really living poverty, chastity, obedience, service. You val
for lot vows of poverty, chest in your obedience, obedience,
and the missionaries of charity have have a fourth foul,
wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.

(00:47):
Mother Teresa was very concerned about the vow of chastity,
almost to the point of paranoia. You're never supposed to
get too close to one sister. You were married to
the crucified Christ. There was so much fear around anything
connected with human connection. How Mistress of Earth, hal heavenly Queen,

(01:11):
how virgin of virgins or chasten Serene. You know, there
are some very decent sisters here, and you are the best.
There were regulations against what was termed particular friendship, and
I didn't really catch the subtext at the time. She says,
you want to get to know me better, and she's

(01:32):
asking about my family. You're going to give up intimate
relationships by a vow of chastity, Yesterdy, you must not
have any particular friendships Rococo Punch and I Heart Radio.

(01:55):
This is the Turning I America Lands, Part five, particular friendship.
M hm, So I've just gotten into camp and I'm

(02:21):
heading to I'm not really sure where, because I've spoken
to a couple of the sisters on the phone, and
the ridiculously vague about where I could learn. The Chevy
such day as a reporter in western India. We hired
her to find a woman who used to be a
missionary of charity and is still a sister, but with

(02:42):
a different organization. This woman we're trying to find. I
called the house where she lives several times before I
got her on the phone, but once I started to
explain why I was calling, she quickly ended the conversation.
Now the other sisters in her group don't want to
tell us anything, even where they're located. They won't tell
me where I can reach out. They won't tell me
where I can find her open, they won't give me

(03:04):
the address of their residents. And whether the order works
out of the woman Chabby is trying to find is Naobe.
The Bold Nun transferred to Mary Johnson's convent in Rome.
The Nun who told Mary I love you. I've got
two envelopes with me. There are two versions of the letter.

(03:26):
She has two drafts of a letter for Niobe in
case Chabby can't actually talk to her. One of them
is intentionally vague if we have to hand it to
someone other than Niobe who might read it. The second
letter is more explicit in the allegations, and that what
in an envelope that's a strictly confidential This woman we're

(03:57):
trying to reach Niobe. She first entered Mary Johnson's life.
She walked in with his presence that was so unlike
what most of the missionaries of charity had, and so
she caught my attention. Mary was twenty nine years old,
Naobie was thirty nine. Naobe's not her real name, by
the way. At this point Mary had been with the

(04:19):
MCS for a decade, and for all those years, she'd
been doing everything she could descend to her life on love.
Love was the point. It's why she joined the m
CS in the first place. It's what she believed people
needed most. And I think maybe because I had felt
excluded in many of the different places I was and
while my family was a very loving family, when I

(04:40):
was growing up, But there wasn't a lot of like
I love you. There was doing things together, there was
doing things for each other. I had that kind of
like whole, a little bit like many many people do.
I think, you know, we all longed to be loved,
to be appreciated, to be seen um and not just
for the things that we can do, but for who

(05:00):
we are. Then one day, while Mary hung her close
to dry now you'll be whispered in her ear, Sister, Donata,
I love you. The clothespin fell for Mary's hand. Does
she mean like I love you the way I'm supposed
to love all the sisters Jesus said, love one another

(05:22):
as I have loved you. No, I don't think that's
what she means. She's looking at me with this big
smile in her eyes. I am she's waiting for an answer.
She's what she do I And she picks up the
clothespin that I dropped, and her arm brushes my arm,
and I feel like this electric shock kind of thing
going through me. And she goes away, And I'm looking

(05:47):
all day long at the big blue sky and listening
to the sounds of the birds, and everything feels like
new so you were happy. I was happy. I was confused.
I was happy. I was But you know, what do
you do the first time somebody says I love you
in a way that sounds romantic and meaningful and personal. Um,

(06:16):
I felt good. One afternoon, the sisters were drinking tea
and I will Be slightly leaned over and told a
joke in Mary's ear. When they all stood up to pray,
the Superior gave Mary a weird look. Now the Superior
wasn't just any mc. Her name was Sister Joseph Michael.

(06:37):
She was highly ranked in the order and pretty tight
with Mother Teresa. In fact, Mother Teresa reportedly saw Sister
Joseph Michael as a possible replacement for her one day. Now,
Mary started to worry. Had the Superior seen something between
her and Iobe. Later that afternoon, Sister Joseph Michael called
Mary to her office. She told her to close the

(06:59):
do or started pacing. Finally, Sister Joseph Michael spoke slowly
and tentatively. She said she had a special job for Mary.
Revised the constitutions, the mission and guidelines of the Missionaries
of Charity, Mother Teresa's path to Holiness, and I was

(07:20):
so totally floored, because we are always told that the
constitutions are the voice of God. Mother Teresa had written
the constitutions. The story goes on her knees by candle light,
after all the other sisters had gone to sleep. Mary's
job was to update the constitutions to reflect current canon law.

(07:40):
Cannon law is basically the Catholic Church's internal legal system.
When a new code of Cannon law is issued, Catholic
orders review and update their own sets of guidelines. Mary
was updating the MC guidelines after Pope John Paul the
Second made revisions in the nineteen eighties. These Cannon law
updates don't happen very often. Pope Francis just released new
Cannon law revision and those were the first in nearly

(08:02):
four decades. Every day Mary wheeled a portable typewriter out
into the garden and worked her way through the constitutions.
A new word here, a new paragraph there. She couldn't
make big changes, but editing changed her. Maybe this rule
book was as human as it was divine. If Mary
could change the wording of the rules, maybe she could
tweak them in her own life too. This was the

(08:25):
backdrop of Mary's relationship with Niobe. While Mary typed, Niobie
would peek her head into the garden and say, have
a good day. Sometimes she winked. And when I was
with Naobe, I finally felt myself as lovable and loved.

(08:46):
This kind of thing I was trying to do for
everybody else all the time, to make them feel seen.
This was the center of what I was supposed to
be doing, and for the first time I was feeling
it for myself. In the weeks followed, Mary talked to
God about her predicament. She also thanked God because Niobe
felt like a gift. How can this not be from God?

(09:10):
If it's making me feel how God wants us to feel.
God wants us to feel loved, How could that not
be from God. As time passed, Niobe got older, she
dropped the sister and just started calling Mary Donata. She's
not saying sister, or not to the way we were
always supposed to do. So just dropping that sister was
so intimate. She'd rushed past Mary in the hall, touch

(09:33):
her foot under the table. This made Mary nervous, really nervous.
There was no privacy in the convent. Everyone knew everyone's business,
but Niobe didn't stop, and Mary didn't stop her. We
would bow down and touch our heads to the floor
of the chapel. It was a tradition that was adopted
from India, and it was really bad because sometimes she

(09:58):
would get right behind me and as she would grab
hold of my feet when she'd bow down and again,
it felt kind of delicious, and at the same time,
if anybody saw that that, that would be a horrible
It could be awful because I had been having this
crisis of conscience because even though her love felt so

(10:19):
good and it felt so much like God, and part
of me believed it was a gift from God, another
part of me knew it was wrong and that I
shouldn't be having any sort of special relationship with her sister.
What we were sharing was dangerous and against my vows.
And I had actually determined that I was going to
tell her that, but she didn't have the chance. Sister

(10:45):
Naobe came with her own news. Naobe had been instructed
not to tell anyone, but she was being transferred that
same day. She had a new assignment in Napoli. I
was so relieved because I had been It kind of
like solved my problem, even though I knew I was
going to miss her, and all of these different things

(11:08):
whirling through my head at once. And she comes close
to me and she says, never forget our secret, never
forget that I love you, And I told her I
love you too, the last words I said to her
before she left. Mary finished updating the constitutions, but now

(11:32):
she creeped something. Those rules didn't allow something small, even
just a hand on her arm, you know, even like
the sign of peace at mass, where people would normally
shake hands, we do that kind of namastay sort of
thing where you join your hands in front of your
chest and bow to each other. So really nothing, nothing
as far as touch goes. One day, a van from

(11:54):
Napoli showed up that the convent with supplies, and when
Mary went to greet it, Naobe was there and packing
the boxes. Mary was thrilled. She asked Naobe to come
inside with her and I said, you know, I've been
thinking about something and I want to ask you something.
And she says, sure, ask so well, you hold me,
she says, hold you. I said, yeah, just just put

(12:15):
your arms around me for a minute. And she kind
of looks at the windows and I maneuver us into
a place where nobody will see us and close a
couple of blinds. And then she puts her arms around me,
and it feels so good. And she leans over and
she kisses the top of my sorry covered head. I

(12:40):
could hear her heart beating, I could feel her arms
around me. I just like like everything inside me is melting.
She held me just a second more and then she
went away. Niobe got back in the van and left.

(13:04):
It would be three years before Mary saw her again. So,

(13:27):
like most of you, I used to be a nun.
Uh very relatable. That's very relatable. Instand up comedy, to
get up and starts to talk about how you used
to be a nun and I used to been on
with the outfit and everything. Kelly Dunham followed her calling
all the way from the missionaries of charity to the stage.
So the first question is um oh like the sound

(13:47):
of music. Uh No, there were less children and matching
outfits and less Nazis in my story. Kelly lives in Brooklyn.
She lasted about two years as a sister with the MCS.
To you her words, she flunked out. She had the
hardest time with the vow of chastity. Not the sex
part that wasn't it. It was the way the MCS
took the vow so far, avoiding all friendship. Initially, the

(14:12):
Order sounded like a fantasy women working together towards a
common goal of caring for others. Instead, Kelly says she
would be asked to leave her humanity behind, but it
definitely makes for good material. One time, we got up
in the morning and Sister Malagro told us that if
we really loved Jesus, we would mortify ourselves by going

(14:34):
to the bathroom only once a day. Now, I thought
she was kidding, so I laughed and said, okay, just
call me Sister Mary bladder infection. She didn't think that
was funny. Kelly joined the Order for idealistic reasons, but

(14:56):
when she looks back, she knows she was a little
different from the stereotypical MC. First off, she didn't grow
up Catholic. She was raised as an evangelical Christian. I'm also,
you know, like a very queer person. Even though I
did not know it then, I just knew I didn't
fit in very well. She first got involved with the
Missionaries of Charity as a volunteer in Haiti. Most aid
organizations and Haiti frustrated her. They didn't seem to give

(15:19):
Haitian people a voice. But as she saw the MCS
listened to what locals had to say. She loved how
the sisters looked in their sories, how they worked so hard,
how strong they were. By that spring, I was in
love not with like one sister, but like with all
of them. Before she could join the MCS, she had
to convert to Catholicism. As it turns out, they kind

(15:41):
of insist on that thing. While Kelly was becoming a Catholic,
she volunteered with the Sisters in Miami, and eventually she
got word the MCS had accepted her. She would start
her training in New York. So the Sisters in Miami
had her over for Tea to say goodbye, and they
made me this card. You know. I opened it up
and was like, welcome to your beautiful vocation. And it

(16:03):
said something like you know, your love of Christ must
destroy you completely. And then I had like a little
pictures a little like red drops off the words and
they're like, oh, it's the blood of Jesus. I'm like, wow,
this is so gruesome. Your love of Christ must destroy
you completely. One of the professed sisters pulled Kelly aside.
She said, if at some point you feel like they're

(16:25):
really breaking your head, then you just leave, just run
and just go. There's one story from the convent that
really sticks out to Kelly. It's when her mistress told
over and over again as this inspirational tale. A superior
walks into a chapel of praying sisters and instead of
saying anything, she writes a message on a chalkboard, please

(16:46):
pray for the father of Sister Mary whoever he's very ill.
And then that's how she found out that her father
was sick. And then fifteen minutes later the superior came
in um wipe that off the black board and wrote,
please pray for the father of sister whoever r I P.
So that's how she found out how her father died,

(17:08):
and the superior didn't say anything else the end. That's
the story that just seems needlessly cruel. And she said
that sister has really trusted Jesus and really trusted her superior.
That much like those are the stories you hear when
somebody wants to like tell you an inspirational story. You know,
that's whacko for inspirational story. In another story from her mistress,

(17:34):
as sister finds out her entire family was killed in
the Rwandan Civil War, after a few tears, she never
mentions it again, and that has held out this kind
of the gold standard, that she trusted Jesus so much
that she never had an emotional expression about it after that.
But I think the mission is a charity, like your feelings.
We're just supposed to be irrelevant and we're not giving

(17:54):
you information. There were just things that you pray to
get rid of them. But people have feelings and the
things actually are information, and it's just so not compatible
with the way humans are. I'm really good with kids.
It's one of my strengths. This is Mary Anderson, not
to be confused with Mary Johnson. There are a lot

(18:16):
of Mary's in this story, Like the other Mary, this
one worked with kids as part of her service work.
And I love them, and I connected with them, and
I would play with them. And she skipped with them,
and I was told that that was wrong. I wasn't
conducting myself as a proper nun. And surely Mary the
Mother of God never skipped. And I remember thinking that's rubbish,

(18:40):
like skipping is joyful, and why should I be, you know,
having to do penance like kidding ourselves or kneeling on
hard floors or you know, because I was skipping, and
I was just so torn up by those things, and
yet to be constantly told that, well, you have to

(19:01):
not trust what you think and shield you have to
think the way we do, and what you think is
wrong and you're you know, and and so I was
getting the message over and over you cannot trust what
you think. Your thoughts are not very good because they're
not right, you know. Not every former MC sister sees

(19:24):
detachment as a bad thing. Joan Worcester says, it's incredibly valuable.
I think I got a great relationship with God through
all of this. Even though there was some suffering involved,
I feel like it was the best experience of my life.
The main thing was not having anything. That was tremendous
for me because I have no attachment to anything at

(19:47):
this point in my life. It taught me so much
for detachment, even from objects, from objects, from people. I
always say this to people, and I think it's hard
for people to understand this. Or I say, I love people.
I love my husband, I love my children, but I'm
not attached. My life journey is my attachment to God totally.

(20:11):
So while I appreciate and love, I'm just not attached,
if that makes sense, I think. So that's such an
interesting concept for me, and I think I'm probably pretty attached,
but I can love. The thing about love for me
is I can love so much more because I'm not attached.

(20:33):
If I have my husband for as long as I
have him, if he were to die, my life would
not change. It would change in what I would have
to deal with, you know, depression or sadness, but it
wouldn't change my love for him, you know what I'm saying.
So so that way, it's kind of like a for me,
it's a release of life, but I get to live

(20:54):
the life. It sounds peaceful it is. But any former
sisters we spoke to think this forced detachment is crippling.
They say it's a contradiction to be asked to love
and help others and also remain emotionally distant. They struggled
with this rule against friendship, or what's called particular friendship,

(21:16):
which is like kind of the euphemism for like non
non action, But even when people had kind of platonic friendships,
they'd often send people away because they just didn't want
people to be connected to each other. Kelly says, mcs
weren't just worried about particular friendships. Appearance and demeanor were
also scrutinized. They have a lot of talk about like
how our lady was very feminine, you know, they say, like, oh,

(21:38):
our lady, she was a real lady, you know whatever.
As sisters in Kelly's training class progressed to the next level,
Kelly says she was held back. The specific problem that
they said that I had was that I had too
much self esteem and insufficient facility. Even when I managed
to say the right things, they would say that my
body language was like I walked like my shoulders were angry,

(22:00):
is how they said it, which, you know, I think
that could mean a lot of things too, What do
you mean by that? Like I remember one time she
lent me her prayer book and it had a little
list of the things she was praying about, and one
of them was me, And she said that I was scary,
and I was like, nobody in my life has ever
called me scary, But I think that there was something
about me that was maybe threatening to her. Maybe it

(22:22):
was about sexuality, I don't know. All Kelly knew for
sure was that she was stressed, so stressed that she
says she got her period for four months straight, which
I think was my body's way of being like get out,
get out, you know. And we used like non disposable,
um menstreal stuff, right like really, they just handed us diapers,

(22:43):
you know, like the cloth diapers that we folded up
and then we had to wash them by hand. And
so one day we were cleaning the women's shelter in
Harlem and there was a tampon sitting on top of
one of the dressers and I was like, I'm gonna
borrow that, and then I put it in my pocket
and then I was walking away. I was like, I'm
not gonna borrow it. I'm not giving it back. And

(23:04):
that was kind of the moment where I was like,
you know, this is not making me a better person,
Like I don't know who who I am. Maybe you know,
but I know who I don't want to be, and
that's a person who steals a tampon from a homeless woman.
And I don't think i've ever been as stressed as
I was in that situation. She had to walk away.

(23:24):
Kelly turned in her Sorry, it's sad because I did
see sisters, even sisters who seem like they were pretty happy.
And with the life just being destroyed by this constant
need of mistresses and superiors to destroy the bonds between people,

(23:53):
the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause
of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can
make that would be unmistakable. In the late nineteen eighties,
big changes were underway. The world was spinning, the Soviet
Union was reforming. President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in
front of the Berlin Wall. Mr Grabschof teared down this wall. Meanwhile,

(24:22):
the Missionaries of Charity expanded into the Eastern Bloc. They
opened a mission in Moscow, something unthinkable a few years before.
Mary Johnson wanted to explore places she'd never been to
be part of the mission out in the world. I
wanted adventures. I wanted to go places and see things.
And the constraints that had been placed on me had

(24:44):
perhaps been done so in a loving manner, but they
were constraints. Nonetheless. She lived mostly in Rome. She studied theology.
She did some clerical work. She sometimes visited a prison
or helped at a home for expecting mothers. By ninet ninety,
she moved up the ladder again. Mary became a mistress
for nuns nearing their final vows, the vows for life.

(25:07):
But when she saw who was on the list of
sisters she'd be responsible for, her heart stopped. Niobe. Never
forget our secret, Never forget that I love you. Mary
hadn't seen Niobe for three years. Now they'd be living
under the same roof again, only this time Mary would
be her mistress. That was something I had never envisioned,

(25:29):
never imagined that Niobe would be someone I would be
responsible for. And I knew that I was just going
to have to really make it very very clear to
her that our relationship could not continue as it had. Okay,
this is getting a little intense. ERCA. I'm gonna just
gonna go and come back in like a minute. Sounds good, okay.

(25:56):
M Mary had told me before that our interviews affected
her more than she expected. Old nightmares returned, nightmares about
her time as an MC, the kind of nightmares where
you feel trapped. We actually took a break from interviews
for a few months, and I thought, maybe we need
to end this interview early. Okay, here we go. I see,

(26:27):
I did sleep much last night. How are you doing? Oh?
It it comes in waves, it's it's it's kind of intense.
It's okay, okay. So when Naobe actually arrived at Chersian Ship,

(26:53):
she was pretty good in the beginning. You know, she
kind of sat near me at the table a few times,
but when a new sister came, that was kind of normal,
so not a big deal. But then one day we
were having rural class and she always looked very intently
at me when I was teaching about the rules, especially,
and she followed me into the office and she shut

(27:15):
the door behind herself, and she says, what a great
rural class. And I tell her, it's good to know
that you're getting something out of the class, and thanks
for the encouragement. And she says, well, yes, you're a natural,
and I just want to give you a big hug,
and she wrapped her arms around me, which had been

(27:37):
exactly what I wanted a few years before that, but
not then, because now I was in charge of her
preparation for her vows, and so I said no, no,
I don't think we should be doing this. I appreciate
the gesture, but you know, no, hug and she held

(27:58):
me and I just had my arms down at my sides,
trying to give her the message this is not all right.
And then I told her with words, you know, we
just really we can't do this anymore. I am your
Tertian mistress, you are a tersen. We are going to
keep all the rules. We can't do this anymore. I
told her, sister Niobe, we can't do this, and she says,

(28:22):
all right, all right, I can bear anything, but I
can't bear you calling me sister, and she left and
I thought, well, she's going to have to get used
to it, because I'm calling her sister Niobe from here
on out. We have to make this boundary. That night,

(28:43):
Mary hid herself harder with the discipline, and in the
morning she pulled the spike chains extra tight around her waist.

(29:13):
Mary had never been in a relationship before, and navigating
boundaries is never easy, especially the first time, especially for
a nun. Her firm response to Iobe seemed to work
for a few days. Sister and I will Bee gave
her space, but not for long. She says. One time,
now you will be shoved her into the office and
held her against the wall, pressing on her chest. Another time,

(29:35):
she followed Mary into the dormitory and tried to untie
her bodice. Mary kicked her in the shin to make
her stop. But it started to feel very manipulative. It
started to feel very abusive. Even though I didn't have
the word for it at the time, I just knew
it wasn't right. I just knew it wasn't love, and

(29:56):
I knew that she wasn't stopping. It just became totally
out of control. By now, Mary felt like she was
pouring all her energy into keeping sister Niobe at bay,
and she had twenty seven other sisters to manage. She
needed to take care of all of them. And at
the same time, this part of me that wanted to

(30:17):
be loved, but this didn't feel like love, and it was.
It was awful. It was so confusing, it was horrible.
How would you characterize it now? He said, abusive? Do
you feel like she was assaulting you? I do feel
it's abusive. I do feel it's an assault, But clearly
I was not giving consent. I made that really clear.
Over and over and over and over again, and she

(30:40):
just wasn't hearing any of it, finally to the point
where she kind of wore me down. Fantasy, all right,
according to the up which my destination. At first, Chobby

(31:07):
thinks she's found the soup kitchen where Naobe works. Turns
out she hasn't. She's in a residential neighborhood, clearly not
the right spot, so she starts asking around. I'm looking
for the soup kitchen. Oh, the soup kitchen. I was
told that this is the address. Here's why we're going

(31:28):
to such links to deliver this letter. These are Mary's
memories as she expressed them to us. With intimate personal
experiences like this, especially in an insular religious community, it's
hard to substantiate all the details. I'm also aware of
the power dynamic between Mary and Niobe. Mary became Niobe's mistress.
Mary was in charge, and right now we only have

(31:50):
her version of events. So I want to reach Niobe.
When I spoke with her on the phone, she ended
the conversation before I could explain everything about the story.
I want to get her as much information as possible
to give her a chance to share her experience. The
municipal office is on my right or yes please thankfully.
Chevy randomly meets someone in the wrong neighborhood who knows

(32:12):
where to go, and she's got to ask anybody, where
are the mothers giving free food? And they'll tell you.
So off I go. How are evening? So you're here
every day the only Sunday holiday now. Eventually Chavy finds

(32:33):
the sup kitchen. So I have a letter for thank you.
We will give it, but you know they've asked me
to make sure she gets it. Sure will give sure, No,
I don't. It's not that I don't trust you, of course,
but I mean they've asked me to make sure that

(32:53):
her name is Erica and they are in America. Chevy
speaks with the sister for quite a while. She asks
if she can speak with Naobi directly. She said she
doesn't want to talk to anybody nobody to Finally, Chobby
hands over the letter. But nobody else would read this
because it's nobody nobody. Yeah, we just need confirmation she

(33:19):
has received it and whatever she chooses to do up
O thank you, bye, thank you bye. That's the last
we've heard. We don't know for sure whether Naobe was
given the letter, we haven't heard from her. As Mary

(33:42):
tells the story, she was worn down, exhausted by the
secret and the relentless back and forth now Be's pressure.
She wanted it to stop. And then Mary says, now
I would be approached her with a proposition, just one
night together. She was going on and on about how
she wanted just one night to make me feel really good,

(34:04):
and and she promised that she would stop after that night.
I wanted that more than anything. I wonder to stop.
I wonder to stop. Mm hmm. So what ended up happening.
I went to her one night and I said, okay,
this is the night. After the sisters went to bed,

(34:26):
Mary left her cot and crept to where Naobe slept.
She touched Naobie's shoulder and whispered, tonight. I wanted tonight.
She went upstairs and waited in a small room that
wasn't being used. Then sister Naobie arrived. They lay on
the bed, Niobe on top of Mary, face to face.
Her weight was comforting, so were Naobe's lips on Mary's forehead,

(34:50):
then her cheeks and her lips. I love you, Naobie,
whispered to Mary. I want you, I need you, and
she may me feel things I had never felt before.
She it was my first experience of that sort of

(35:10):
sexual relationship, and it did feel really good, of course
it did. It was like, if this is a human love,
how much bigger must God's love be? But the biggest
thought I was having was okay, so now it's going

(35:31):
to be over. But it wasn't over, Mary says, and
I will be ignored their agreement. She didn't staff, not
at all. She wanted more, and she's like, you must
want more to of course you want more. And of
course part of me did what more? But part of
me didn't. And just again this whole confusion, because what

(35:51):
happens when a human being who hasn't felt loved, who
has very little idea of her sexuality, suddenly starts to
discover those things. Of course you want to know more,
you want to understand what this is all about. But
at the same time, the same human being who's beginning
to discover these new facets of life has vows which

(36:14):
say those are sinful and you've given that up. And
that's okay for other people, but it's not okay for you.
You are a nun. Come on, now wake up. Mary
says she didn't know what to do. Niobe wouldn't leave
her alone. Now, she couldn't go to the Superior because
she'd have to admit she broke her vows. She didn't

(36:36):
see a way out. One day, her superior approached her.
She told Mary she needed to share a story in
confidence and had happened at a general chapter meeting. The
meeting for MC leadership, Mary Superior said that the sisters
were all discussing the matters of the day and at
one point one of them read an anonymous letter. Allowed
The sister who wrote this letter claimed that there was

(36:59):
another sister her who had forced herself on her, followed
her around, had touched her in way she didn't want
to be touched, wouldn't listen to know. Immediately, Mary thought
of her own experience. She said that this sister had

(37:19):
done this from the time she was a novice before
she took her first vows, that she found sisters in
the no Vision who were more senior than her, and
she was doing similar things. Finally, the superior revealed that
the letter was about Niobe. She thought since Mary was
Niobe's mistress, she should know. And after this letter was read.

(37:40):
Mother stood up and Mother Teresa was more angry than
the superior had ever seen her. Mary assumed she was
angry at Niobe. Oh no, no, Mother wasn't upset that
the sister was behaving this way. Mother was upset that
anyone had written it, and then even that it had
been read out loud at the chapter. What matter to

(38:01):
Mother was that someone's reputation had been destroyed, and that
was kind of devastating to me. Mary was angry, she thought,
no wonder Niobe keeps getting transferred. No wonder. Sister told
us not to ask about the trouble Niobe had at
her last convent. And when Mary learned who else Nao

(38:24):
be targeted, she realized the sisters resembled her, joined at
a young age, not likely to have had sexual experiences,
more senior in the congregation, so if they were found out,
Naobe wouldn't be blamed. And sure enough, Mother said, it
can't be this sister's fault, because the sister who is
more senior, she is the one who should have the responsibility.

(38:46):
She should know better, she should say no. And then
of course, if a senior sister says no, the junior
sister will always obey that, And of course the Bobbie
wasn't like that at all. And though Niobe was my
junior and at that point was even under me, she
was ten years older than I was, and far more
experienced in so many ways. The more Mary thought about it,

(39:07):
the more upset she got. Why had no one stopped her?
How could superiors look the other way? How could Naobi
have been allowed to take her first vows? Was there
anyone watching? I think there's was definitely a trend in
the missionaries of charity, and actually in the Catholic Church
as a whole, of not paying attention to problems, denying problems,

(39:28):
not wanting to see that they're They're wanting to blame
them on an individual's weakness, and therefore saying, well, we're
all weak, and so let's be forgiving, let's be merciful.
And of course mercy and love and forgiveness are the
things that can change people. Love is one of the
most powerful things. So yes, we should love. But at

(39:49):
the same time, there is a responsibility when you admit
someone into a community, and the responsibility is not just
do that person, but you have to look at how
that person is affecting the entire community. What Mary did

(40:11):
next was risky, but she says she had to stop
Naobe from harming anyone else. She wrote to Mother Teresa
and put her vocation on the line. She told her
they had broken the vow of chastity, that she firmly
believed Naobe shouldn't take her final vows. After Mary sent
the letter, a sister flew from Germany to Rome for

(40:34):
the sole purpose of talking to Mary. It was one
of the most influential sisters in the order, known for
being strict. She sat at Mother Teresa's desk and scolded
Mary for breaking her vows, for not setting a good example.
Mary agreed to every point. She said she was sorry, sister.
The other responded, I'm sure God forgives you. Jesus forgave

(40:55):
even Mary Magdalen. In the end, nothing changed. Mary kept
her position. Naobe took her vows. Mary never felt so powerless.
After a few months, Mary couldn't take the pressure of

(41:17):
the convent anymore. When a sister in her house needed
to go to the hospital, Mary volunteered to take her.
She realized this was her chance. This little plan was
forming in the back of my head. The two of
them got into a car with a driver and they

(41:38):
drove towards the coast where the hospital was, and there
were palm trees and there was the sky, and you
could see the water off in the distance, and it
was like a breath of freedom. It was like like
a way to breathe again. And I just wanted more
and more of that air, that freedom, that life, that light.

(42:04):
When the sister went in for her appointment, Mary sat
in the waiting room and reviewed her plan. She knew
the facility, She tried to remember where the Lost and
Found was. That's where she'd find normal clothes. She would
change out of her sorry then make her way to
one of the empty beach houses nearby. She would escape.
I thought, this, this is my chance. I just have

(42:25):
to take it. But just then the doctor and sister reappeared.
The check up was already over. Ye soon Mary was

(42:48):
in the car heading back to the convent. After that day,
she often gaze out the convent window. She stared at
the back corner of the garden. She imagined digging a hole,
crawling in and covering herself with dirt. She wrote in

(43:08):
her notebook, Trapped, Trapped, Trapped. The turning is written by

(43:51):
Allen lance Lester and me. Our producers are Allen lance
Lester and Emily Foreman. Our editor is Rob Rosenthal Andrea
Swahe is our digital producer. Fact checking by Andrea Lopez Crusado.
Special thanks to Chavy such Dave, Amy Gaines, Sarah oh Lander,
Murad Frishkoff, Katherine Joyce, Bethan Macaluso, Travis Dunlap, and consulting
producer Mary Johnson. Her memoir and Unquenchable Thirst provided inspiration

(44:15):
for this series. Our executive producers are Jessica Albert and
John Parotti from Rococo Punch and Katrina Norville from My
Heart Radio. Our theme music is by Matt Reid. For
photos and more details on the series, follow us on
Instagram at Rococo Punch. You can reach out via email
to the Turning at Rococo Punch dot com. I'm Erica Lance.

(44:36):
Thanks for listening.
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