Virtual spirituality


Blogs may be fairly commonplace now, but blogging nuns are still rare. “There are only about 30 nuns with blogs, and about ten are young ones,” said Sister Julie Vieira—one of those young blogging nuns—at Wednesday’s Divinity School lunch. A member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), a Roman Catholic community based in Monroe, MI, Vieira is the voice behind A Nun’s Life: A Blog about Being a Catholic Nun in Today’s World. She writes almost daily on what it’s like to be a nun; people she finds inspirational; her job at Catholic publishing company Loyola Press, where she manages the theological content of religious educational programs and resources; biking; and her favorite beer, Harp.

“Eleven years ago,” Vieira admitted, “I wanted nothing to do with religious life.” After earning a degree in philosophy and religious studies from the University of Toronto, she began contemplating her life and her role in the world. Returning to her Catholic upbringing, she found the IHM sisters and “fell in love” with this community of women who were funny, educated, religious, and liked sports. The sisters have supported her blog, saying that “ministry is not so much what you do, but who you are in it.”

A Nun’s Life evolved from a “post here, post there” every once in awhile, Vieira said, to an ongoing dialogue, “a place of hospitality, where people can come from any tradition or non-tradition, wear whatever they want, and feel what they want to feel.” A fellow blogger—a dying man who writes “one of the most uplifting, positive, life-affirming blogs,” Vieira said—made her realize the potential for virtual religious communities. After this man, who found Vieira’s blog and asked her to comment on a question about God on his Dying Man’s Daily Journal, she realized that, as a nun, she “might have spiritual insight, know a thing or two about God,” and be able to provide comfort through her own blog.

Recently the media, including the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and NPR, have picked up on Vieira’s blog, “not because they find it interesting,” she explained, “but because of the novelty of a nun who’s on the Internet.” Stereotypes, Vieira said, are one of her biggest pet peeves; because she fits neither the “docile servant” nor the “man-hating, radical nun” category, Vieira hopes to challenge these images by showing that there’s “no one way to be a nun.”

Ruthie Kott

Photos: Guests eat and chat at Wednesday's Divinity School lunch (top); Sister Julie Vieira speaks about A Nun's Life (bottom).

April 20, 2007