NUN: A Memoir by Mary Gilligan Wong

NUN: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wong left the Order of the Sisters of Blessing after seven years, in 1968--and is now a wife, mother, and clinical psychologist; but her memoir, less of a spiritual shriving than some other ex-nun's tales, concludes that the good of convent experience ""far outweighed the bad."" Mary Gilligan of Peoria was her loving family's ""good little girl."" Yet, by eighth grade in parochial school, she was in danger of becoming just ""one of many""--no athlete, no belle of the school, ""a failure at worldliness.' So, when an Order representative pointed to the contribution a mere female could make to the world and spoke of God's will, Mary was ""drawn,"" announced her vocation (""my specialness was again secured""), and attended the Orders Prep School: a beautiful campus; ordered simplicity; and freedom (no worries about offending boys by being over-bright) to be a good student. But, stumbling along in the ""topsy-turvy world of the convent"" toward postulate and then novitiate vows, there were also painfully wrenching moments: the literal ""vanishing"" of friends (no goodbyes were allowed, with secret packing and departures); the search for the chimeric ""perfection""; fears about ""abnormal"" feelings about forbidden Special Friends; the loss of family; censoring of mail; the discomfort of the habit (""a thick blanketing dullness now hangs between me and the riotous stimuli of the outside world""); and that severe Canonical year of the novitiate when ""alive, happy girls have been transformed into sexless, emotionless robots. . . ."" And, despite the warm sense of security in spiritual community (a glorious Christmas eve, radiant or courageous older nuns), the mid-Sixties brought the effects of Vatican II: Sister Mary, moving into the world with training missions of teaching and social work, started questioning; she befriended young priests and other nuns wrestling to keep a footing in the ""fresh air"" of Church revolution (the wry amusement of ex-nuns adjusting to earthly pleasures with over-kill); and eventually Mary left the Order to begin a new life, knowing she ""would never again love the world uncritically."" An attractive, compassionate account, incorporating testimony from other ex-nuns--less powerful than some nun-memoirs but more warmly accessible than most.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich