Secret life of nuns: a look behind convent walls – a photo essay

1653Source: The Guardian

In 2015, I began what was to become a long-term project exploring the lives of nuns in the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary convent in Rome. My interest was focused on stories of people who live “radical” lives, those who decide to exist outside standard modes of living and make choices that influence their entire way of being. I would often walk around Rome, my hometown, and see nuns going about their daily lives. Though they are a common sight in the city, their existence within the walls of the convent had remained relatively obscured from public view. What exactly does a nun’s life entail? And what is life like inside their community? With more than 750 female religious institutes based in the city, Rome was the ideal location to find answers to these questions.

The community I visited for more than three years is also known as Sisters Ravasco House in honour of its founder, Eugenia Ravasco, and it is famous for its commitment toward pedagogy. Sister Ravasco convents can be found all over the world, though its main headquarters is in Rome, near the Vatican. The community is composed of approximately 20 women of various nationalities. Some have spent the majority of their lives in the community, as in the case of Sister Odilla, who is in her 80s and started her process to become a nun when she was 13. The community becomes the principal family of these women because once they join they are permitted to visit their relatives only once a year if they are Italian. If a nun is from a foreign country they can visit family once every three years.

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