Visionaries Anita Caspary and Steve Jobs’ deaths on Oct 5, 2011

Technology Visionary Apple CEO Steve Jobs died Oct. 5th if you didn’t happen to catch the news.   On the same day Spiritual Visionary Anita M. Caspary passed away.  Forty years ago she was called Mother Humiliata by 400 nuns.

Anita M Caspary AKA Mother Humiliata. “I found peace and happiness in the convent.”

In 1995 I took a graduate class called an “Introduction to Feminist Spirituality”.  By far, I was the youngest student around that square table.  I listened as six grey haired women explained to me how spirituality meant more than participating in a religion, being religious or praying.  They described how Spirituality included a person’s whole experience including the body and the emotions which traditional theology tended to denigrate.  These women were versed in the “feminist praxis (putting a theory into practice) cycle of experience, analysis and reflection.”

I was amazed at how educated, articulate and passionate they were.  They did not shout at one another and everyone had a quiet, calm strength.   I kept asking myself,  who are these women?  I had never met anyone like them.  After numerous references to Jesus, I suddenly had to ask,

“Are you all nuns?”

“Yes,” said five of them, including our instructor, Dr. Susan Maloney.

“I’m sorry but why aren’t you wearing habits?” I asked coming from Protestant side of the divide. They all laughed at me.  “How was I supposed to know you were nuns?”  And they laughed harder.

“You need to get updated,” one former Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) told me.

Sister Susan SNJM (Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary) told me the story of how 315 rebellious brides of Jesus broke centuries of tradition, docility and obedience in the hills of Hollywood.  Unlike the 1968 bra-burning myth, in 1970 when these nuns threw off their habits, it was real news.

Time Feb 23 1970 featuring Anita Caspary IHM and James Shannon

The IHMs were a teaching order who worked in the well established Los Angeles archdiocese schools.  Educated woman they believed Pope Paul VI’s Second Vatican Council’s Perfectae Caritatis (1965) empowered and authorized them to take the necessary steps to adapt, renew and change the character of the Church in the modern world.  While the Vatican recognized the church needed to change from being an Institution to a community of believers and to move from a tradition of power over others to service in order to stay relevant, the Los Angeles cardinal archbishop did not.  His Eminence James Francis McIntyre wanted to retain his title over passive, obedient women and could not tolerate the idea of leading a community of mature adult Christians.

After five years of visioning a future, archdiocese visitations, Vatican inquiries, international meetings, a Carl Roger’s encounter group and of course prayer, 400 sisters had to make a choice between living under Sister Eileen MacDonald’s pre-renewal rule or in a new community led by Mother General Anita M. Caspary and live under the 1967 decrees.   The result cannot be counted as hundreds of millions of IPODs sold, but on October 1, 1970, 315 women signed a contract surrendering her vows and status within the Catholic Church and demonstrated her commitment to the newly visioned Immaculate Heart Community.

The table where I sat at the Immaculate Heart College Center, was their legacy, a graduate program unique in all the world, called Feminist Spirituality.

Today I regret not spending more time when I was at IHCC with Anita Caspary, whose soft tissue paper skin and fluffy grey hair reminded me of my grandmother.  She could have been my grandmother born in an age where women were not expected to be fighters.  Like other unexpected revolutionaries, they courageously changed with the times.    If Steve Jobs was a child of the 60s, then Anita Caspary was a Mother of the 60s.

“In a way that re-imagined business itself,” Jobs was described as merging his “innate understanding of technology with an almost supernatural sense of what customers would respond to. “

In a way that re-imagined religious life itself, Caspary merged her innate understanding of the worth of religious women with an enlightened view of the principle of aggiornamento, or updating, that gave millions of women and men the courage to become mature, spiritual beings.

The waves continue to ripple after both these single pebbles were dropped into the river of life.  May they both Rest in Peace.

Anita Caspary wrote a first hand account of her experience.  You can read about the IHCs in Witness to Ingrity.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debbie Al Asfoor
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 20:32:31

    How times have changed. When I started school at the ripe old age of 4 at the Convent of the Cross the nuns wore long floor length robes and wimples practically across their chins and low on the forehead with a massive rosary dangling from their thick black belts. When I left the school 14 years later they were in “midi” length dresses and a veil exposing hair at the forehead and tied behind the neck. The “habit” I became so accustomed to seeing as a child differed so very greatly when I left school. I suppose everything moves with the times…. except Islam. Despite being in the Middle East for 36 years I still do not understand some of the extremist views of Islam. I find so much of their beliefs quite “unholy” and intolerable. I will never understand justification to harm another human being or creature for that matter. I look around the Middle East and see chaos, killing, sectarianism and find it all extremely sad and pointless. Most of it driven by power, greed and mad clerics who in my eyes are far from religious!.
    I loved going to the convent and my French order of nuns were the kindest, sweetest teachers who were not distracted by any outside interference. They were on a mission to educate, spread the meaning of humility and love. I will always feel blessed and fortunate to have spent my short period of life in their hands.


    • Eva the Dragon
      Mar 13, 2012 @ 12:09:11

      Unfortunately mankind’s evolution seems to be quite slow. We keep repeating the past and waves of fundamental thought ebb and flow.

      It’s one step forward and two steps back.

      I think it is great you have a nice memory of the nuns. I know many people who attended Catholic schools appreciated the education. While so many Catholics I know call themselves “recovering” as they felt abused by the church and its teachings. So like Christianity, Islam goes through its waves of change. I think the fundamental push we see today is a reaction to the positive change and economic pressures. It is important to remember that from the void, from chaos, came light.

      THanks for writing Debbie and bringing some light.


  2. Anne Mccormack
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 20:48:59

    Perhaps if people read what exactly went on eith caspary & co they may change their minds. This woman and her cohorts were anything but saintly. Many of the IHM sisters were bullied and intimidated by caspary and her companions, many stayed out of fear but wept for their beautiful order this woman ruined. Attending mind altering courses, supporting anthing that was anti church was her thing. They knew exactly what being a religious entailed and yet in a heartbeat tney turned tneir backs on everything including their vows, which they freely proclaimed. I have no time for these radical feminist so called religious most catholics believe tne church had to modernise, but these women just went completely bonkers.


  3. Ingrid Newberry
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 05:51:08

    Bless you, Anne.Had you ever met Sister Humiliata, Anita Caspary, you would have no doubts about her deep faith and agony at the Archbishop’s refusal to honor Vatican II.


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