They are buried in one line under “Vowed Religious” on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Even the deacons get a whole paragraph before the sisters. (Because they are men?)
In these times, when nuns are under unfathomable attack, let’s remind ourselves just how far and wide the sisters have gone in this country alone to deliver service to the community through a variety of ministries. The work they do ranges from the menial to the most intellectual. The more intellectual, the more threatening apparently to the “supreme authority” of the “authentic teachers of faith and morals” that the Vatican tells us the Bishops are.
There are nearly 60,000 nuns–well,OK, 57,113 nuns –in the United States. And they are at the heart of the story in these numbers:
Total Catholic elementary and high school enrollment: 2,065,872
Elementary Schools: 5,774 schools educating 1,467,694 students
High Schools: 1,206 schools educating 598,178 students
Colleges and Universities: 235 institutions educating 804,826 students
Non-residential Schools for Handicapped Persons: 61 schools educating 59,160 students
Public School Students Receiving Religious Education: 11
Elementary School students: 3,012,495
High School students: 675,686
Catholic Health Care
Hospitals: 554 Catholic hospitals treated 89,501,723 patients
Other Health Care Centers: 357 centers treated 5,535,260 patients
Specialized Homes: 1,541 assisted 1,031,215 residents
Residential Care of Children: 418 locations assisted 28,941 residents
In 2009, more than 2,391 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions provided services to 9,164,981 unduplicated individuals in need of help.
- Provided Services that Build Strong Communities to 3,956,234 people
Social support services 1,999,189
Education and enrichment 730,645
Socialization and neighborhood services 490,850
Health-related services 305,287
Services to at-risk populations 430,263
- Provided Food Services to 7,216,379 people
Food banks and food pantries 3,281,135
Soup kitchens 1,1,484,735
Congregate dining 1,609,935
Home delivered meals 264,731
Other food services 575,843
- Provided Services that Strengthen Families to 1,064,913 people
Counseling and mental health services 419,222
Immigration services 319,952
Addiction services 87,315
Refugee services 100,465
Pregnancy services 93,977
Adoption services 43,982
- Provided Housing Related Services to 497,271 people
Counseling and Assistance 205,262
Temporary shelter 144,210
Supervised living 64,789
Permanent housing 60,196
Transitional housing 22,814
- Provided Other Basic Needs Services to 1,933,799 people
Financial Assistance (not rent, mortgage, etc.) 234,292
Clothing Assistance 604,873
Utilities Assistance 332,815
Assistance with Purchase of Prescriptions 50,566
Additional Other Basic Needs Assistance 711,253
- Provided Disaster Services to 99,665 people
- Programs for Special Populations 207,465
Thank you, sisters, for the vital role you play in making these services possible.
And thank you for recognizing that President Obama, through the “religious freedom” he has fostered, is doing more for these ministries than Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan and his “marvelous” budget ever will. Ryan ties himself in knots every time he presumes to wrap himself in Catholic social justice teaching.
President Obama’s policies give us all a much better chance at communal solidarity than the so-called policies of “individual self-reliance” (and self-enrichment) touted by the two “Rs.” (Amazingly, Obama wants even the people who do not work, especially the children, to eat.)
Unfortunately Romney and Ryan have little room for that third “R”—responsibility for those pushed to the margins that is the bedrock of Catholicism –and should be part of any democratic vision.
Come November, Catholics, whether fallen away or fervent, won’t have any trouble recognizing that it is Obama, the community organizer, who understands the importance of what the sisters do – and do so well.
‘Cos the sisters really are marvelous.