You may not think that convents of older Catholic women and ardent millennial activists would have very much in common, but these two demographics have merged in a surprising way through this ingenious program.
Nuns and Nones is a nationwide organization that brings young people together with Catholic nuns to participate together in social causes.
The “Nones” are millennials who check “none of the above” when asked for religious preference, because they do not identify with a specific religious ethos. According to the Nones and Nuns website, this accounts for 40% of millennials in the United States, counted in the nationwide census.
Regardless of their chosen spiritual label, the Nones who have participated in the program have gleaned a life-changing amount of guidance and wisdom from the sisters. In return, the sisters have been inspired by the fresh ideas, creativity, and insight offered to them by their younger counterparts.
Together, the program participants say that they have been working together to address environmental and social issues in order to mutually create a “more just, equitable, and loving world”.
“It’s so easy to get siloed into talking with people your own age and then it’s sort of exhausting because we all have the same questions because we’re all on the same stage of life and we’re all struggling,” said one of the program’s young participants. “And the second that you bring in someone from another stage of life, the room just opens up and it’s a different conversation and there are different ways to learn.”
Since its inception, more and more Nuns and Nones meetings have been organized across the country. In fact, the program recently piloted its first communal housing project between the Nones and the Sisters of Mercy from Burlingame, California. (Nuns prefer to be called “sisters” since they do not technically lead the cloistered lifestyle of nuns).
Five young millennial activists moved into the Mercy Center back in November as a means of testing a new Nuns and Nones residency program. Organizers reasoned that both parties could benefit from the living arrangements; the sisters would have additional income to help pay the steadily increasing rent while millennials could benefit from low-income housing in exchange for helping to take care of the elderly residents.
That being said, several of the residents told The New York Times that they were not in it for the money. Over the course of their 6-month stay, the millennials and sisters expressed their delight over experiencing a very unique form of communal living and friendship with each other.
“I’m finding myself co-hosting conversations about the vow of chastity, on gender and sexuality, charism, etc.—with sisters and my peers,” said one of the millennial residents. “The mutual learning and growth continues to inspire and surprise, and the potential in these dialogues feels vast. For me, they are a source of deep healing.”
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Since the pilot residency project came to an end in May, Nuns and Nones has been searching for a new group of millennial volunteers to participate in additional communal housing projects with various convents across the US.
One of the organization’s sisters described the program’s mission: “One of the critical common calls of this moment, the unmet need, is community itself. Just as foundresses responded to unmet needs in their time, so might we be called, together, to form and support new communities of belonging, working to weave our social fabric and combat the crisis of isolation and ‘othering.’”
If you would like to apply for the Nuns and Nones next residency program, you can visit the organization’s website.
(LISTEN to the enchanting interviews below) – Feature photo by Rhino Media
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