Author Jo Piazza’s latest, “If Nuns Ruled the World,” is about vows of poverty, chastity and obedience ? well, sort of.
It tells the stories of 10 nuns, each immensely dedicated to various causes.
“Nuns are some of the happiest people I know,” says the not-so-religious journalist. “If you want a guide to living an authentic life, spend some time with the nuns.”
What made you decide to write about nuns?
Working on my Masters in Religious Studies at NYU, I heard stories that shattered every stereotype I ever held about nuns. They were breaking into nuclear weapons facilities and going to prison for it. They were running safe houses for victims of human trafficking.
Why not another group of impactful individuals?
Nuns are an endangered species and they are not being replaced. In 2014 there were 49,883 religious Catholic sisters in the U.S., down 72% from what the population was in the 1970s. These stories needed to be told because nuns are simply too humble to brag about themselves.
There are 10 individuals that you profile. Is there one that surprised you most?
All of them are fiercely committed to social justice and being of service to the world. I was most surprised by Sister Jeannine Gramick who runs the organization New Ways, which advocates for gay and lesbian Catholics. She’s traveled the country to convince her fellow Catholics to back marriage equality laws, facing a lot of scrutiny from the Vatican and from the men in the Church. Despite that, she has never once backed down or wavered in her support for equality for gays and lesbians.
How might this book change readers’ perceptions of nuns?
People think about nuns as very reserved and very prim and proper, strict and mean. Not only are the nuns in my book kind, but funny and witty [too]. They are super heroes who do incredible things every single day. Sister Madonna Buder is 84 years old and competing in Iron Man races. She is an Iron Man! She inspired me to run my very first half-marathon.
If you go: Jo Piazza is signing copies of her book “If Nuns Ruled the World” Monday night at 7 p.m. at Two E. Lounge at The Pierre, 2 E. 61st St., FREE