Sunday, November 08, 2009
Another former nun breaks her silence
By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo: Sr. Regina
A few days ago, Sr. Regina spoke in public for the first time about why she left the Franciscan Claris Congregation at Irinjalakuda ten years ago. This was at a symposium on the problems faced by nuns, organised by the Kerala Catholic Federation at Thrissur.
She says the primary reason was the vow of obedience that she had taken when she became a nun. “The superiors demanded blind loyalty,” she says. “They felt that they had been appointed by God and had to be obeyed all the time. I did not agree to that.”
Regina says that the superiors failed to respect a person’s individuality and feelings and did not encourage the development of a person’s God-given talents. “Everybody should be equal before God,” she says.
She says the lack of freedom was soul-sapping. “We are unable to take an individual initiative to help the people,” she says.
After 20 years as a nun, Sr. Regina could not take it any more. She got permission from the superiors and walked out in 1999. And, like in the case of Sr. Jesme, Regina’s family, the Valiyaveetils from Thrissur, tried to discourage her.
“They said that if I had any difficulty I should resolve it through discussion with my superiors,” she says. “But I tried that for so many years and it did not work.”
Thankfully, because she is a professor of history at St. Aloysius College, Thrissur, she had a good salary. With that she was able to rent a house near the college campus. Incidentally, Regina holds a doctorate on ‘the origin and development of Kerala Catholics’.
V.K. Joy, the secretary of the federation says that Regina was asked by the audience whether she faced any sexual harassment from priests and nuns, similar to those faced by Sr. Jesme. “I did not experience anything like that,” she says. “In fact, I did not come across anybody who was sexually harassed.”
However, Regina says, she admired the courage shown by Sr. Jesme. “It was good that Sr. Jesme spoke out,” she says. “I support what she has done. People have different experiences.”
Asked why she decided to speak out after so many years, Regina says, “People have asked me to talk about it only now. I want the church to reform itself. I don’t want the nuns to leave the convents. Instead, the conditions inside should improve.”
But there has already been a negative fall-out. “Less and less girls are opting to become a nun these days,” says Regina.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)