California Nuns: how they stood up to the Catholic Church


  • During the 1960s, California was the center for spiritual seekers from Indian gurus to New Age prophets and Scientologists.
  • But the Immaculate Heart Sisters, a small community of Roman Catholic nuns was the unlikely place for personal and social transformation.
  • These group of California nuns stood up to the  Vatican Church climaxing in a showdown with the Catholic hierarchy.

The California nuns were members of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Founded in Spain in 1848, ten nuns came to the U.S. in 1871 at the invitation of the bishop of California.

They began working with the poor at first, then focused on education later on. The California nuns began teaching in Los Angeles in 1886 and founded a high school and a college. Prince Harry’s fiancée, Meghan Markle graduated from high school there.

In the 60s, the sisters encouraged individual experimentation, rather than follow the norm that they all needed to pray, study or meditate in the same way or at the same time. They wanted the freedom to decide when, where and how to worship together.

The California nuns requested respite from the Catholic Church mandates that controlled their daily activities, ranging from what they wore, which books to read, and what time they sleep.

The nuns celebrated a Promulgation Day on October 14, 1967.  A new vision for their lives and their work.

Los Angeles’ Cardinal McIntyre however, was not too happy about this “renewal”. His first concern was the street clothes the nuns said they might wear while teaching. He did not agree to the order’s plan for renewal. The cardinal even doubted their commitment to the Church. In June 1968, he forbade the nuns to teach in the city’s Catholic schools.

Formal cases to the Vatican were presented by both the sisters and the cardinal. The Vatican sided with the cardinal.

But the sisters didn’t give up their vision for religious renewal. 350 of the 400 nuns began planning a new lay community outside the Church. Many of the Immaculate Heart sisters had decided to renounce their vows and reorganize as a lay community. They called their new group, the Immaculate Heart Community by the start of 1970.

The Immaculate Heart Sisters created a new vision of religious community. Their sources include reforms of the Second Vatican Council, writings of California’s humanist psychologists, women’s liberation, the anti-war movement and the countercultural wave that rolled outside their convent door.

True to its promise of new possibilities, the California nuns continue to inspire a new generation of seekers in and out of the Catholic Church.

Source:  Business Insider

4 thoughts on “California Nuns: how they stood up to the Catholic Church

  1. Nina Serrano didn’t do a very good job in reporting this story. She could have told us how these nuns are living, like where, how they are
    paying their bills, and what schools or colleges they are teaching at. Her article could have been much more personal on these wonderful
    nuns and why some nutcase Archbishop or any other so-called authority of the Church should interfer with the message of love and
    kindness which is Jesus’s most important message to His Church. It has become all to apparent that many of the present Church Hierarchy
    are more interested in SELF rather than the true message and purpose of Christ. The True Lay Catholic Church needs to get rid of these pompous, self grandisement, pridefull and selfish and sinful clergy, regardless of their positions. Christ knows what is truly in Their Hearts, all the while they are leading the innocent multitudes down the road to perdition. Cudos to these wonderful nuns who truly know who their Shepard is and not being blindly led down the ruinous path to hell. Come on Nina, if you are a true Believer, do the job correctly and not be afraid of speaking out to the Luke Warm Catholics who need to really know the truth of what is truly happening in Jesus’s True Church.

  2. I whole heartedly admire and respect these courageous nuns. They do not much like the old boys’ network – and why should they?

  3. These people are free to form their own group, but if they are true Catholics, they need to submit to Church doctrine. I am not a Catholic but do not like heresy in any form. They like the covering of the Catholic Church to give them credence, but they are not practicing Catholicism and are being deceitful to the people they “serve.”

    1. Great article but need an update after 50 yrs. as another person stated, are they still a group? Where are they living, are they getting new members? Thanks for this article. Mary L. Dwyer

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