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.



Tales by Chapter

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