It’s one thing to try to “act” like a nun, it’s another to know the history behind a religious order and talk with the sisters to learn more about them.
Five Pius XI High School students had an opportunity to practice method acting by visiting the Sisters of St.Francis of Assisi Convent in St. Francis, Thursday, Sept. 25, to help them understand what religious life is like.
The visit was in preparation for the school’s staging of the musical comedy “Nunsense,” Oct. 23-26.
The play is about a group of nuns, the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who are attempting to raise money to bury sisters accidently poisoned by the convent cook, Sister Julia (Child of God).
The Pius students entered the convent and began soaking in their surroundings.
Franciscan Sr. Rose Sevenich passed out prayer books and explained to the girls about each prayer the sisters say when getting dressed in the morning.
While flipping through the prayer book, Hailey Kertscher, a junior, found something connected to their show — the first few lines of the opening song.
It took some convincing, but the girls sang the lines, all in Latin, impressing Sr. Rose.
“You got it,” the nun said, adding they used to sing their prayers in the morning. “If you would’ve come to our chapel, any of our chapels, you would’ve heard the same thing. The same key; the same everything. Your pronunciation is perfect.”
Sr. Rose, a former music teacher, said she could tell the girls have been working hard to get it right.
Along with Sr. Rose, School Sister of St. Francis Jane Marie Bradish, an actress in the play who plays Sr. Julia Child of God, shared stories of life as a young nun.
“It’s cool to see the behind the scenes,” Isabella Klotz, a junior, said. “We have certain lines that work with (the play) and we just never thought of the background of it.”
As they toured the facility, Sr. Rose explained the purpose of each room.
While on the tour, Michelle Klotz, assistant music director and Isabella’s mother, located her great aunt, Franciscan Sr. Rose Pielvogel, in a directory of past sisters.
“I think it’s amazing to understand how nuns and sisters live and fulfill their mission,” Isabella said. “Not only to be here praying but also to serve the community.”
The group was in awe of the beauty of the chapel tucked inside the facility.
“It’s hidden here,” Michelle Klotz said. “The treasure that is this place, the years of service and dedication. You think of the thousands of prayers, billions of prayers that have been spoken, unspoken, felt, offered, it’s mind blowing … you can almost feel it.”
Gabriella Klotz, a senior, was amazed at how rigid the structure under which the sisters lived was, particularly because she’s playing the role of Sr. Mary Amnesia.
“My character is somebody who doesn’t remember stuff,” Gabriella said. “How did she actually function in this? What did she struggle with daily? How was she kept in line by everyone else, because she is such an odd ball and couldn’t even keep herself together enough to know her own name.”
Although her character gets into all sorts of funny trouble, the idea of dementia is something ever present in the community. Sr. Rose told the group about various initiatives they use to help fight memory loss.
“Sisters who weren’t talking at all are now reading to other sisters,” Sr. Rose said, adding they have 22 sisters with some sort of dementia.
Sr. Rose took the group to the upper levels of the convent where the dormitory was located and watched as the girls marveled at the incredibly tiny space.
She also told the girls that the sisters, at one point, weren’t allowed to look at themselves while getting dressed, and if they accidentally caught a glimpse of themselves in a window reflection, they had to say a prayer of penitence.
Gabriella remembered a song lyric that contained the phrase “look no mirror,” and made the connection to their show.
“Good to know the writers were so accurate,” she said.
Kevin Schwartz, director of the show, appreciated the chance for cast members to get a hands-on approach to religious life.
“There’s lots of great opportunities to go out there and have the kids experience what life in (the) convent would be like,” he said, adding this gives the actors a “feel for what has motivated their individual characters to join the order.”