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June 15, 2021 44 mins

PART SIX - Siblings Joan and Sue both join the Missionaries of Charity, and they steal secret moments on the third floor — the only time they can be alone to talk. Like all MC sisters, they live by the vow of obedience. Their story shows how power works in the order: who has power, and what happens when you push back on it. Sue grapples with this from above, as a superior; Joan from below. 


Content warning: This episode includes a mention of suicide. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

More support (via text) can be found at: https://www.crisistextline.org/


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This series was inspired by Mary Johnson’s memoir, “An Unquenchable Thirst.” Find it HERE - https://amzn.to/3whsTeO


TRANSCRIPT - https://www.rococopunch.com/transcripts

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Hey, everyone, I want to let you know that we
talk about suicide in this episode. There are some links
to resources in the episode description if you need them.
I loved everything about my life, and then I joined

(00:25):
this convent to follow God, thinking in my mind that
everyone was going to love everyone and it was going
to be double what I had at home, and it
was completely different. I said, meet me up on the
third floor, and then she came up and I just
was crying and saying, I just I can't do this anymore.

(00:47):
So I said her, can you? I don't know how
to get out, like how do I get out from
a cocoa punch? And I heard radio this is the Turning.
I'm Aerica Lance, Part six, the third floor. I'm Sue Webber.

(01:12):
Do you want like that little brief bio blah blah
or just the whole bio? So I'm Sue Webber? And
who are you? I'm Joan Worcester And how do you
two know each other? We're sisters? So let me clarify.
Joan and Sue are former sisters with the Missionaries of Charity,
but they're also sisters like actual real life sisters, and

(01:36):
we're the same age. For thirteen days. Joan and Sue
live in Pennsylvania. They huddle over a computer at jones
house to video chat with me, squeezing together so they
can both fit in the frame. I'm I'm far more
stubborn than you are. What don't you say? Are you
pretty startled? We're all stubborn. It's a family trade. I

(02:00):
don't take a lot of things personally at all. I'm
more sensitive. She's much more sensitive. You're super protective too,
for people who get hurt. I seek for justice a lot.
That's a commonality, and I think that has to do
with the convent. But I've come to seek justice and
truth and everything that I do and say. Joan, the

(02:23):
younger sister, has a certain gentleness. Sometimes she goes for
a while without saying anything. She just listens. Jones says
her intimate relationship with God drives everything she does. I
was the type of person that was always trying to
please God, and then I realized that that he loves
us unconditionally, and he loves us no matter where we
are in life. Sue, the older sister, is bold and open,

(02:47):
short haircut, big personality. Says it like it is. I'm
out there I'm like up for anything. Joan and Sue
both joined the MCS. Unlike every sister, they followed the
vow of obedience. The vow commits sisters to the power
structure in the m c S. You vowed to obey God.
By obeying your superior promptly and without question, you become

(03:08):
a pencil in God's hand, as Mother Teresa said, or
as a former sister put it, a tool without will
or opinion of your own. That didn't work for Sue
and Joan. Their story shows how power works in the
order who has power, what happens as a result, and
what happens when you push back on it. Sue would
grapple with this from above as a superior, Joan from below.

(03:39):
Joan and Sue grew up in the nineteen seventies in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,
a small city in the middle of Amish Country. They
went to Catholic school. At the time, Joan, the younger sister,
toyed with the idea of going to college on a
track scholarship, but she told me, in my soul until
I die, I know I was meant to be a nun.
So in nineteen eighties she going to Franciscan Order of Nuns.

(04:01):
She was nineteen years old, but something was missing. The
Franciscans she was with took a vow of poverty, but
she didn't feel they took it far enough. Life was
too comfortable. And then she learned more about Mother Teresa.
I started reading some books about her and I'm like, oh,
my word, she has it. While Joan was thinking about
switching to the Missionaries of Charity, Sue beat her to it.

(04:22):
She joined the m c's herself. Sue was twenty and
she says the life suitor, especially helping the poor. When
I asked her to tell me about some of the
moments she found beautiful, she didn't know where to start. Thousands, literally,
there are thousands of incredible, incredible beauty working among the poor,
potentially making a difference in their lives. Six months in,

(04:44):
Sue got some news. Her mistress told her that Joan
was joining the MCS. She was leaving the Franciscans and
coming to the same convent as Sue. The mistress cautioned Sue,
remember no preferential love, even for family. When Joan joined,
she learned the MCS had a different approach for starters.
No psychological test. The Franciscans required aspiring nuns to take one.

(05:06):
I actually think it's super important because I think what
happens is you're getting women who have mental issues, right.
And mother would just say, just love the sisters no
matter what. But we had to live with them daily
life was different to the MCS. Were much more regimented,
and she noticed that the MCS didn't hug each other. Well,
the Franciscan she'd been with hugged all the time. Nobody

(05:27):
looks at anybody, nobody talks to anybody. It's grand silence.
And Joan felt the m c s did poverty right.
The poverty was, in my estimation, sensational, like everything we
owned fit in a bucket. I love the simplicity. Since

(05:47):
Joan was new, it was nice to see a familiar face.
But my sister was rooted into the Missionaries of Charity
way of life, right, So when there was complete silence,
you know, I'd walk by here and kind of wink
and do the things that I would do because I
was just beginning. I'd nod or smile, and you know,
she did do that when it was just her and I,

(06:08):
but when she was in the group, she would pass
me and not look at me, and I'd be like, oh,
because I was following the rules. She was a good nun.
I don't know just in the beginning. A year later though,
when they'd both be in a convent in San Francisco,
they'd be more flexible, and then the vision we did

(06:29):
sneak off a lot of times on the really third floor.
On the third floor, well, my mom would send care packages,
like of cookies, and especially around the holidays, they had
to turn any packages over to the superior. From there
it was usually given to the poor or shared with
the whole convent. But sometimes Sue would say to herself,

(06:53):
these are my favorites, these are jones favorite. So then
I would like hide them, and then I would see
Joan and I'd be like, meet me up on the
third floor. And then we would sit up on these
stacks of mattresses and eat the cookies and enjoyed every moment.
Be worth any penance that we never got caught. No,

(07:13):
we didn't. We're good. You guys have both preferred to pendence.
And I was just wondering, when you say penance, are
you thinking of the discipline change that kind of thing
you can go first. Good, okay, so um, I only
share with very intimate people, which is like my fellow

(07:37):
sisters who left. I don't know if Mom even knows
that she I think she does. Okay, well she saw
your change. It's a question, so questions. So I didn't bracelet.
But here's the thing, and I will make my full
confession right here, right now, that I was not faithful

(07:57):
to my penances because I thought they were crazy. Joan's
group of Aspirans learned about the discipline a few months in.
So then they said, you can go to the bathroom.
But I go into the stall and I just I
couldn't do it. And I heard the sister next to me,
who was totally independences, and she was beating herself. I
could hear her. I'm thinking, dear God, i'd be yelling,

(08:20):
oh you know. And I thought, okay, I gotta do
something because they're probably listening to me as I'm listening
to them. So I hit the sides of the walls
of the toilet, and I was just going, you know,
hitting the sides instead of hitting myself because I couldn't
do it. And then gradually I began to do it,
and I then didn't have problems with it because I
do believe that if you do sacrifice yourself, I can

(08:44):
gain grace with myself and I can also help someone
else's soul. I believe that to this day. I believe that.
Soon Joan took the discipline every day. Then she got
the spiked arm chain, which she wore during mass. I
put it on, and you're supposed to fold your hands
because then it digs into your arm, and I felt Christ.
I felt him as i've never I mean, I felt him.

(09:12):
I think the injustice came when rules were different for
different people. So for example, one of the rules was
you can't go home because we have to live a
life of poverty. But then a regional superior who really
liked another sister, she got to go home for her
parents funeral. It's it's everybody's at the mercy of whoever

(09:33):
has power. They become the voice of God for you.
That's all they keep saying. I'm the voice of God
for you at this moment, under your valuve obedience right,
no matter what it is, And they use God as
the weapon. M hmm. Joan felt that weapon, and this
is where her story diverged from SEUs in New York.

(09:55):
I got something in my stomach where I was really,
really sick. She was in so much pain she had
to crawl down the stairs. Her mistress didn't offer support.
I would go to her and said, I'm really sick,
and she would say, just you know, give it to Jesus,
offer it up, you'll be fine. One day a volunteer
saw Joan and the condition she was in and she said,

(10:16):
this little child needs to go to the doctor, but
Jones mistress said no, it was the superior's decision to
make and the superior was away. So I just continued
on every day crawling down the stairs. She maybe come
down to church no matter what, whether I was sick
or not, I had to come into try to work,
which I couldn't. When the volunteer came back, she decided

(10:38):
to take charge. She said, sister, go get your shoes.
You're going to die. You have to go. Joan found
out she had pancreatitis. Left untreated, it can be really serious.
So that's how it started. Jones stayed in the hospital
for a week. When she returned to the convent, she

(10:59):
says something she aged with her mistress. She targeted Joan
and she was relentless. First she accused Joan of being
too friendly with a man, a seminarian who had prayed
with her while she was in the hospital, then of
trying to seduce the men coming into the soup kitchen
for meals. I was like shocked. I was shocked that
she was saying it. I never even thought it. I'm

(11:19):
not going after anyone. So she accused me of that
and so much more. Jones says it was impossible to
please her, Like the time her mistress told her to
teach English to some sisters from South America. Joan didn't
know any Spanish. She says. She did her best to
teach them, but every time one of the sisters made
a mistake in English, the mistress made Joan do penance.

(11:43):
So I used to tell them to not speak. I said,
can you please not just speak and save me from
my penances. Sometimes her mistress made her kneel in silence
beside the refectory table. Well, everyone else ate and talked.
These humiliations, the accusations, the little dig they all piled up.
She would tell me I wasn't holy, Tell me I

(12:04):
was prideful, Tell me that Jesus knows You're a fake
and a phony, and all these kinds of things. She
would say to me. Right, So, um, I must have
been really hard to hear. It was very hard. Joan
began to question her vocation. Is this really what God
wanted for her? After six months, she was sent to
a convent in Chicago for postulancy with a new mistress.

(12:27):
I've thought I died and went to heaven. She was wonderful, beautiful,
free from the belittling mistress in New York, john could
focus on the parts of religious life that fueled her
visiting shed In's, working at the soup kitchens and shelters.
But then words spread that the mistress in New York
might be transferred to Chicago. Panic said in one sister
in my group she took an iron and burnt her

(12:49):
leg as penance penance so the mistress wouldn't be assigned
to Chicago. That's how much people did not like her.
But the penance was in vain. The mistress transferred to Chicago,
and Jones says she started right in again. She would
call me in and she would scream at me and
tell me that I'm very irresponsible, and she would yell

(13:11):
at me and say you're stupid. There were times when
Joan had no idea what she had done wrong. She
cried in the chapel and prayed, why is this happening?
Why are you allowing this to happen to me? I
only wanted to come and serve you. I was angry
and hurt and sad, and I was all of those. Finally,
Jane spoke with her superior, the nune above her mistress.

(13:33):
She tried to explain it all, but the superior told
Joan to forgive her mistress. She said, can you try
and love her? I said, okay, I'll try. But there
was only so much Joan could take. She was at
a breaking point, so she turned to the one person
she thought could change things, Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa visited,

(13:54):
Joan had a one on one meeting with her. She says.
She told Mother Teresa everything that happened with her miss
us and I was crying and sobbing, and I said,
I don't know. I don't think Jesus wants me here. Mother,
I don't know what to do. And she said, Sister
Maria Fatima, be only all for Jesus. And of course,
in my head, I'm thinking, really that's all you got.
That's what you're gonna tell me. You're not going to

(14:16):
take this evil woman away from me. You're not going
to stop this abuse. You're not going to do anything
about it. You're just gonna let me continue to suffer.
That's how I say that. No, I was thinking I'd
say a words, mother, Teresa, you know what I mean,
say a word. That's the difference between me and my sister.
My sister would have told her. I would not have
to skip quiet. I just accepted it. By now, Joan

(14:40):
had been in the order for a year. It was
time to become a novice, which for her meant to
transfer to San Francisco, the same convent as Sue. Before
she left, she had a meeting with her mistress and
she said, I know that I've been very very hard
on you. I wanted to break your spirit. I wanted
you to become humble because I know you're going to
be something great in this community. And I said to her,

(15:04):
and I'm going to tell you something. You as a
mistress have the power to make or break a vocation,
and you have broken mind and you live with that
in California. Sue had no idea what her younger sister
was going through. Even now that they were in the

(15:26):
same convent, they couldn't really talk about it. Joan hung on,
but she was fragile. And then she got a package
from her mom. It was full of family photos, pictures
of our family reunion. And I think because I was
struggling so much there at that moment, that when she
sent those pictures, it was a trigger for me. So
that day, Joan found her big sister and told her

(15:46):
to go to their spot. I said, meet me up
on the third floor. And then she came up and
I just was crying and saying, I just I can't
do this anymore. Um I know me too, because we're
both going to be crying right here. And so I
said to her, can you I don't know how to

(16:09):
get out, Like, how do I get out? You could
tell that she was suffering, like you could just physically
tell she was suffering, and I was super clear if
she stayed, it would have been so massively unhealthy. And
she said, the only way you can get out is
if you say that you can't live the celibate life,

(16:29):
because every other way they would talk you into staying.
So I went down to the sister, and I said, um,
I can't live the celibate life, like every time I
go in a tram car, look at guys. It was
all lies. It wasn't true. But I told her that,
and she said, if you would have said anything else,
I would have asked you to stay. But because you
said you can't live the celibate life, I understand that

(16:52):
that's a gift from God. And from there that it
was kind of quick, like call your parents and I
said to meet me, and that I was getting all
this flight. And then it was all like kind of
quietly done, like hush, hush, go down and get clothing.
At this time, I'm super skinny and kind of sickly looking,
but I put clothing on, and I still felt that
I was called. She truly felt called. And then there

(17:18):
was no healthy soil for that call to grow. The
saddest part for me was that my soul didn't want
to leave because I love the work and I loved
the prayer, I loved the whole life. But mentally I
was losing Joan. And then I went into the chapel

(17:45):
and my name was Sister Maria Fatima, and everybody there
was singing this our Lady of Fatima song and I
was kneeling and I was crying. It was like I
was having an out of body experience. When I walked
out the door, I left my soul in the chapel.
The very depth of my soul was still there because

(18:07):
I didn't really want to go, but my body was
taking me out and it was so painful to watch.
And then for me the fear of like is that
going to happen to me? Like? Am I going to
lose myself? Even though Joan left, Sue stayed. She progressed

(18:44):
through the ranks of the order, took her first vows,
took her final vows, she became a superior, and she
stayed in the m CS for over a decade, working
all over the country in women's shelters and soup kitchens.
Sue says her outspoken nature helped and she knew how
to navigate the system, like the time Mother Teresa visited
the empty house in Baton Rouge where Sue was running

(19:04):
a summer camp. She'd be like, how's it going it?
And I basically lied. I basically said, oh, it's just
really hard, because I knew she wouldn't transfer me. Wow.
But if I would have went in and said, oh,
I love it here, and I probably would have got transfer.
You kind of learned the code to continue doing what
you wanted, because I've definitely heard from other people, you know,

(19:25):
expressing a lot of enthusiasm for something and then getting
pulled off of that job, like, Oh, she's enjoying that
too much. Yes, I think that happened a lot. And
I'm super intuitive in that way, so as soon as
I know the code, I'm in. Sue had been an
EMC for about ten years. When she became a superior,
she was transferred to the m C Eight's Hospice in

(19:46):
San Francisco. It was a three story wooden house. The
sisters lived on the first floor. So when I first
got there, there were six of us total, and there
were three that I would say could function and carry
out duties well, and there were three that were really struggling. First,

(20:10):
she had to learn to manage the house with no training.
So you kind of go in blind. You don't kind
of go in blind. You go in blind, just pray
and you'll get the grace to do what needs to
be done. So she relied on her intuition in the hospice.
It was rewarding to care for these men with aids
who were dying. Most of these men were rejected from

(20:31):
their families. Like when we tried to reach their families,
they didn't want anything to do with it. I mean
that was the early nineties. The stigma was still there.
This one young man, Lamont, and he was young, beautiful, funny.
We contacted his family. I mean at this time, he

(20:52):
couldn't get up, he couldn't sit up. I mean, he
was completely bedridden. And so I said to him, Hey,
I have a surprise for you, and then he's said
what First, I just brought his mother, and he just
burst into tears, and she burst into tears, and then
she came over and held him almost like a child again.
I got underneath him and held him and just kept

(21:13):
kissing him and telling him how much she loved him.
And oh, he sobbed, sobbed, sobbed, sobbed, and and then
the siblings came in, and they were a very exuberant family,
and so you would just hear him laughing and they
would sing. And then for like three days it was
just like party time. It was so sweet. The mom

(21:36):
had put an eight track tape. We had a little
tape recorder thing, and she put the eight track tape
in and hit the button. This voice and song was.
It gave me chills and I said to her, that
is so beautiful, and she goes, that's Lamont. He had
an exquisite voice, and then he passed away like like

(22:04):
a day after that. As a superior, Sue was now
technically the direct voice of God, because she never thought
of it that way. Now she could make her own rules,
she could eat what she wanted, even form relationships outside

(22:24):
the convent. Having power for the first time in years
led her to act in ways she didn't expect. When
you are in an organization that suppresses the human spirit
in the ways that it had done, you always think,
you know, if I was superior, I would never act
like that. I would be kind, I would listen. And

(22:45):
what you realized is the second you became superior, you
had a lot of freedom and power that was suppressed
for many, many years. One time a nun underseas supervision
told her she was sick. She would say, I can't
do X whatever. But I remember going, yes, you can,
You're not that sick. And I had the power to

(23:07):
make her do those things. One night, while the sister
has slept, Sue snuck out to the chapel, just sat
alone in the quiet, and all of a sudden, there
was this moment of my God, you are being exactly
you're doing and being exactly the things you said you
weren't going to be or do. What is wrong with you?

(23:28):
You know you're wielding power, the whole infamous absolute power
corrupts absolutely that you had absolute power in that microcosmo absolutely,
and then I shifted completely. Sue decided to change her
whole approach. She listened, not reprimand not humiliate. She'd start

(23:49):
with kindness, but she was about to learn that her
absolute power wasn't really absolute. One day, so you got
a call from Mother Teresa about a answer. A new
nun was coming to work at the hospice, and she said,
I'm sending you sister so and so. She's a gift
from Jesus and you just need to love her. I

(24:11):
mean the standing joke as superior. Here's where if you
get a phone call from Mother or a regional superior
and they say, oh, we have a gift for you.
We're going to send a sister to your house. That
was a big red flag because that was like, Oh,
we're getting somebody who's they're struggling somewhere else and they're
moving them. So it was a standing joke. We're like,

(24:34):
you can just keep the gift. So this sister comes in.
Now we're in a wooden building with non ambliatory patients
on the second floor. No elevators, no nothing, like if
there's a fire, you have to carry them down the
stairs and out the door. Okay. I think it was

(24:57):
like day three and everybody's in bed and we all
sleep in a common dormitory and Sue wakes up. She
smells something, maybe smoke, so she hops off her cot
I'm like throwing on my storry and I fly past
the chapel and out of the corner of my eye
I catch flames. She rushes into the chapel. The new

(25:20):
sister's inside. The sister had taken all the trash and
put it under the altar and lit it on fire
and was just kneeling there, staring into the fire. And
I don't know why I didn't panic, but I didn't,
And so I went next to her and I was like, sister,

(25:41):
do you know that there's there's a fire under the altar.
And she turned to me and shook me right in here,
and she goes, do you know I am possessed? And
I said, I don't know about that, but I know
I have to put that fire out. And next morning,
the sister tells Sue she has no memory of the fire,

(26:03):
but then she does it again. Soon, Sue says, this
sister is setting fires every few days. Of course, susarec
she's losing sleep. She doesn't know what to do. She
calls her regional superior, who says, just talk to her,
but that doesn't help, so she calls mother, Teresa. Sue
suggests sending the sister to a psychotherapist. And I said,

(26:25):
I'm really struggling. And Mother said, just give her time, sister,
and just keep loving her. And and when I hung up,
I had great clarity, There's no way that I'm going
to be able to manage this. While all of this
was happening with Sue, Joan had to make a new life.
When she left the m c S. Joane did the

(26:47):
only thing she could do. With no money and no
practical work experience, and really no sense of what was possible.
She went home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But her mistress's words
followed her. She says they were like tapes, these memories
of every terrible thing her mrs said, playing over and over.
Jesus knows you're a fake and a phony. You're stupid,

(27:07):
serves you right. Joanes still felt called to be a nun.
She went to church, but now she felt like an imposter.
And then people would come to me and say, you're
so holy. I would leave that church and go to
another church so that no one would know me, and
so I could not be noticed. And that's the worst
thing that to this day, I don't want to be noticed.

(27:32):
There is another tape that played in her head, the
words of one of her confessors. That's a priest you
confess your sins to, or who serves as a spiritual guide.
Father Donald McGuire was a Jesuit priest. He was convicted
of sexually abusing boys and eventually sentenced in two thousand
nine to twenty five years in prison, but before that
he was often assigned as a confessor for mc sisters,

(27:54):
including Sue and Joan. Years before he was sentenced, Donald
McGuire told Joan sa thing that would haunt her, and
he said to us, if you make it to the
novitiate and you leave, you'll have handicapped children, You'll get divorced,
and bad things will happen to you because God wants
you here. This stuck with Joan because she had made

(28:19):
it to the novicia and left. Once she did, she
felt like Father McGuire's warning started to come true. I
went home in January. Now, mind you, for the last
two years, no love, no nothing. I met this man.
He said he loved me, went to church with me,
the whole nine yards. Eventually they got married. I had

(28:42):
this huge wedding. Nuns were singing in my wedding. I
mean it was huge. But Joan wasn't happy for long.
She says, the relationship en did horribly after three months. Okay,
so now here I am an x nun and a
man leaves me and he said to us, if you leave,
you'll get the worst. You'll have handicapped children and bad

(29:03):
things will happen to you. So I thought, okay, I
can't be a none, I can't be married. So I
went up to this place we have called Pequi Pinnacle.
She hiked through the woods up to an overlook on
a tall hill near home. She could see water and
trees stretched out below. This place was special to Joan.

(29:26):
She used to talk to God here. It was where
she felt her call to religious life. This time was different.
And I was going to jump right kill myself, because um,
God must hate me. So I went up there, I

(29:46):
went to jump, and a snake slithered up in front
of me, and um, I hate snakes. So I was
scared to death. So I ran back to my car
and got in my car and then went back home. Hi, bey, Carol,

(30:12):
do you want to meet Erica. Let's gonna meet Erica.
Look here, look, look there's Erica. Now. Joan is a
mother and a grandmother. Her daughter, Hannah, has a toddler
and they live next door. I try to live in
God's will and let God unfold the will. So right now,
the will for me is to be a great mom
and a grandmother, and I lead a company. She remarried

(30:35):
to a man she calls kind and patient named Tom.
Before we got married, I said, don't marry me because
I can never love you the way you deserve to
be loved. Because I love God ultimately to the nth degree.
God is what I love the most, and that's where
I spend most of my time. But that didn't get
her Tom, and he just said, no, I you know

(30:57):
I love you. Joan made a life outside the convent.
She built a small chapel for prayer in her backyard.
She lived her faith in a different way. And then
one day someone showed up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a woman
in a white sarry with blue stripes. It was her sister, Sue.

(31:48):
In the years before Sue Webber returned to Pennsylvania, her
time as a superior had brought her a step deeper
into the organization. It also gave her a new vantage point.
When I became superior and I had more time to think,
that opened the door to really question a lot of things.
She already had a growing list of concerns about the

(32:10):
missionaries of charity, like how sisters were treated and how
sisters and leadership roles used their authority. So you have
sisters who were amazing and in my opinion, didn't even
wield power, and then you had sisters who wheeled it
to the youngth degree. You know, everybody's at the mercy

(32:30):
of whoever has power. There's something else that bothered her.
She thinks Mother Teresa founded this order based on what
worked for Mother Teresa. She got to follow her calling,
she founded her own order, she established the rules. The
Missionaries of Charity was an extension of her personality and drive.

(32:52):
But the way so you saw it, the sisters inside
this order couldn't follow their own calling, just obey, just
follow assignments, regardless of feelings. So he says, this one
size fits all doesn't work, especially for a group of
women from around the world. One former sister told me
a convent she was in had something like twenty seven
nationalities all living together. It sometimes lads to language and

(33:12):
cultural issues. So you tried to explain that to Mother Teresa,
trying to get her to understand that everybody is not
the same, Like everybody's coming in, all of us with
our baggage, and in her mind, the second you crossed

(33:33):
over the threshold to the order, all of that disappears,
or it should disappear. And in the utopia of life,
that would be lovely winded, like everybody just goes in
and then we all just love each other. Instead, SUSA

(33:56):
sisters struggle. They were tired and stressed and grapple the
language barriers, some needed psychological care, and no one seemed
to fix the problems. I realized that the order was
wired that you had very little time to think, so

(34:18):
you had your morning prayer and your adoration. I can't
speak for anybody else, but all I ever did was
worked really hard not to fall asleep during that time.
I've heard that from a number of people, which should
have been the time where you can think and have
your thought process. If you're in a bad relationship, if
you're all your energy is in the bad relationship, you

(34:41):
don't have the capacity to look at it through another lens.
I could no longer live what I felt I was
being called to. At one point, Sue learned about a
letter Mother Teresa wrote. She was struggling with do I
serve this sisters or do I serve the poor? And

(35:03):
I will never forget this. She wrote a letter to
the pope, and the Pope wrote back, and this is
what he said, give necessary care to your sisters and
loving care to the poor. And I was like, w
T F. Seriously, that is insane, like give nesting, like

(35:24):
the very people who are carrying out your work. The
reality is without her sisters, the order doesn't exist women
who were willing to dedicate their life to the service
of the poor. You're going to give them necessary care only,
and you're giving loving care to the point, yeah, I
went I went off the deep end on that one,

(35:45):
because you wanted loving care for the sisters. Yes, because
anybody understands humanity. You can't give what you don't have.
So if you have an order of sisters who are
not being filled with love, how are they going to
be loving? And you see that in houses where we've

(36:07):
been accused, and rightly so, of mistreating people. And for me,
it wasn't about these sisters are bad people. They were empty.
They were empty, and you can't live that kind of
a life if you're empty. Sue felt like she was

(36:28):
on the verge of a breakdown, so she asked for
a temporary leave. She went back to her parents house
in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, still wearing the sorry, She kept her
MC rituals. She rose early, she prayed. But something had changed.
Maybe she wasn't called to life in the convent anymore.
But someone else did feel the call. Joan, I still

(36:50):
felt that I was called no matter what, and I
don't think it ever changes. For me, it never has changed,
and I fight that constantly. So it was hard for
her to see Sue back in their parents house dressed
in the blue and white sorry a superior. When I
left the Missionaries of Charity, I kept a lot to myself. Again,
I don't share a lot with people. I mean, I'm

(37:11):
surprised I'm sharing what I'm sharing with you. I think
at one point I felt weak that I couldn't do
it um and so I was probably a little jealous
of her that she got to stay in and she
was doing it. And then also and then also I
was a little hurt because I guess I wanted her

(37:34):
to sway me to stay when I told her I
was going to leave. So for a couple of years,
I probably blamed her that she didn't think I had
a vocation, but I knew in my soul I did,
And so I was kind of hurt by her. But
it was me. It wasn't her. She wasn't intentionally hurting me,
But I felt hurt by that because I felt like

(37:57):
she didn't defend my vocation. That must have been really hard.
Have you talked about this before. What is it like
to hear that too? I'm not surprised, and it makes
sense that she would feel that way. For me. It
wasn't about saying somebody had a vocation or not. For me,
it was more of a protective and you're not going

(38:19):
to be who you are if you stay here. After
nine months in Lancaster, the reasons for Sue to leave
began to outweigh her desire to stay. She stopped wearing
this sharry. She wasn't going back. I was recognizing that
I was no longer true to myself, and I that

(38:40):
I couldn't be true to myself if I stayed in there.
Mother Teresa asked her for a meeting in Harlem, one
last attempt to change Sue's mind. Joan drove her there
and the two of them walked into the convent together.
There was a woman who made sure nobody saw me,
snuck me into a parlor, and then when all the

(39:04):
sisters had gone to the chapel, she snucked me from
the parlor to where mother's room was. Mother had her
head down. I knelt down to get her blessing, and
she blessed me, and then I sat on the chair
and then she immediately was like, you need to come back.
This is where God's calling you, Mother Mary. Once you

(39:24):
hear Mother Teresa, she had all her little axioms, She
had all her little snippets that were exactly the same
every single time you went to the table. So I
felt like I was not being heard. I wanted to
be heard. And finally I said, Mother, I don't know
if I want to come back. I said, things would
have to really change for me. She said, you need

(39:47):
to come back. Sister Kiara is in Russia. She converted
this many people to Catholicism, and that just made me
like rear up. And I looked her right in the
eye and I said, yeah, us, and you have over
three thousand women religious dying in your community. At this point,

(40:07):
Sue was yelling John could hear it from the next room.
And then she kind of sat back, pulled up, And
then I really felt like I was being heard. But
by then it didn't matter. Nothing Mother Teresa could say
would change Sue's mind. She left. Not long after she

(40:32):
left the convent, she went on a spiritual retreat to
reflect and figure out what to do. I was doing
a three month retreat, silent retreat. I was in this tiny,
little like square foot cabin in this vast forest and
incredible beauty of nature and wood burning stoves. So all

(40:54):
the wood was stacked outside and it's winter, and I
just took a lot of books and all written by
priests and stuff, and I started reading this book. There
was a section that said there are I forget how
many ten, I think ten signs that you are in
a cult. And I'm reading this book and I'm just like,

(41:14):
oh my god, this is the Missionaries of Charity, this
mission and I felt like it was the first time
I was reading something that was like validating my experience.
And all of a sudden, I get to the end
of the book and this priest says, a perfect example
of a non cult is the Missionaries of Charity. I

(41:38):
literally get up off so fun. I opened the door.
It's snowing like crazy. I fling the book out across
the lawn. I end up taking all the wood and
pitching it. I was I was livid, like livid. M

(42:01):
I was like, this is ridiculous. So I go back
out in the snow looking for the book that I
threw out. I find it. I bring the book back
in and I sit down and proceed to write this
man a letter and basically say for you to have
made a statement like that, never having lived in that
order is not only dangerous, it is untruthful. Thanks so

(43:00):
much for listening, and stick with us because there's a
lot more in the coming weeks. This is the first
time that I have ever encountered any form of sexual
violation or abuse in the missionaries of charity. That doesn't
mean it doesn't exist. The Turning is written by Allen

(43:22):
lance Lesser and Me. Our producers are Allen lance Lesser
and Emily Foreman. Our editor is Rob Rosenthal. Andrea A
Suage is our digital producer. Fact checking by Andrea Lopez Crusado.
Special thanks to Amy Gains, Sarah oh Lender, Catherine Joyce,
Beth and Macaluso, Travis Dunlap, and consulting producer Mary Johnson.
Her memoir and Unquenchable Thirst provided inspiration for this series.

(43:46):
Our executive producers are Jessica Alfert and John Parratti from
Acco 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
Rocca punch dot com. I'm Erica Lands.
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