This leaves me deeply conflicted.

I suspect that nearly every one of these sisters either left their order or now run the Catholic Health Association.



To atone for this, right now go buy some Mystic Monk Coffee!

The Wyoming Carmelites wear habits, but they will never sing Kumbaya.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. MarkH says:

    And yet they were still in traditional habits!

  2. Pachomius says:

    Toe-curling! I only managed about 10 seconds.

    On the habits, I expect the studio insisted on it.

  3. irishgirl says:

    Was this on the Ed Sullivan Show? Looks like it!

  4. Michaelus says:

    Nope. Can’t watch it. Sending email to Youtube to have it removed as “obscene content” and replaced with clips of Hilaire Belloc drinking beer and singing French folk songs….

  5. Mike says:

    Many years ago I met a former nun on a Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools acreditation visit, and we were in the rectory associated the Catholic school we were assessing. She found a album of the orders nuns, with many pictures having the letters RTW under them. I asked about it; she said it meant “returned to world.”

    Whoa. How terribly sad.

    I only made it to .46 on the video. Too painful. These kinds of nuns taught me in grade school, some with great love, but when I reverted at age 20, I literally could not remember the whole Hail Mary on my own.

  6. hugonis says:

    They would sound so lovely singing Tantum Ergo.

  7. Pachomius says:

    Sorry, hugonis, got to disagree. The singing is awful independently of the dreary ditty, IMO.

  8. FrCharles says:

    RTW. Love it. Will use it.

  9. Chairman says:

    I hate to deepen your conflict, Father, but I believe these nuns are of the same community as Sister Joan Chittister. Despite the lovely habits perhaps this is a sign that something was in the water even back then!

  10. William says:

    Difficult! So much has been lost. In mufti, these exceedingly beautiful women would be unremarkable.

  11. Gabrielle says:

    Someone’s crying Lord….

  12. APX says:

    I recall seeing this on YouTube a couple years ago when I was looking for a decent rendition of Kumbaya for a school project. I felt kinda embarrassed for them.

  13. TrueLiturgy says:

    Did a google search and found them online. I can’t comment on them running CHA, but they are no longer in habits, that is for sure. :-(

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    She found a album of the orders nuns, with many pictures having the letters RTW under them. I asked about it; she said it meant “returned to world.”

    I wonder whether one of them is the nun I heard about around 1970, who ran off with a priest, and the last anyone heard of them, they were selling portable toilets door-to-door in sweltering rural East Texas. This deepened my understanding of the Christian concept of “justice”.

  15. digdigby says:

    My ex ‘wife’s’ aunt, Sister Rose, from youth seriously cloistered and then plunged for twenty years into harrowing social services in the worst slums of East St. Louis, worked to exhaustion, burnt out and then sent on a giddy round of ‘workshops’ and ‘retreats’ to be ‘re-trained’ by very young very modern and rather effeminate priests whom every sister despised and mocked. Shorn of their habits and respect and totally disillusioned she descended into channeling, paganism, Earth Mother gatherings and very extended ‘sabbaticals’, yet still clung to her order for the stipend and health benefits and died there of cancer, tended to by the last of the elderly sister nurses. It was all sham, betrayal and heartbreaking, may God remember her decades of service. Kumbayah!

  16. Vince K says:

    Father, did you mean conflicted or afflicted?

  17. Dr. Chipotle says:

    The Erie Benedictines are still around (no habits anymore):

  18. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I think I saw Sr. Joan Chittister in this video, or someone who looked like her. These are the Benedictine Sisters of Erie or, as I like to call them, the Sinsinawas of the Benedictine world! ;-)

    From what I understand, not long after this broadcast, the habits started coming off. Judging from Sr. Joan’s scrapbook of old photos, it looks like they had changed to a “modified” habit, then to a necklace with a dress, then to the pantsuits of today.

  19. David Homoney says:

    Foul, vile stuff. Thankfully, orders such as this are dying off and faithful, Catholic, God fearing orders are growing. Viva la Benedictine Reform!!!!

  20. moon1234 says:

    Where was whoopie? I didn’t see her.

  21. jmhj5 says:

    I remember seeing this as a child-and weeping-not knowing why until now!
    God Bless….Mother Mary pray for us.

  22. TMKent says:

    These were the sister who taught me. It took me years to discover there errors they spread. I cringe when I think of what went on in our school. Of my siblings, I am the only remaining Catholic. Sadly, the Diocese of Erie is little changed.

  23. Tina in Ashburn says:

    What significance this has – the old orders of well-trained and habited nuns who gave up their lives to pray for the world. Here we see the beginning of the end, the loss of all that formation and training, turned into superficial staging and worthless singing.

    Who among us could have resisted the re-training, bullying, and insanity that these women endured and which eventually broke them?

    Today some of us are trying to put the Church back together, cobbling together forgotten practices and a brick or two from destroyed churches. Oh the lost knowledge that these women represent…

  24. amenamen says:

    This show aired on January 15, 1967
    Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, was 20 years old (born April 26, 1936). She could very well be one of the young sisters in this video.

  25. amenamen says:

    Sr. Joan was upstaged by Mick Jagger and Kermit the Frog?

    The Sisters of St. Benedict (“Sisters ’67”) sang “It’s A Lovely Day,” “Consider Yourself” & “Kumbaya.”

    Also on stage on the Ed Sullivan show that night were the Rolling Stones (“Let’s Spend The Night Together” – amid threats of censorship, Jagger mumbled the title lines of the song), Petula Clark, comedians Allan Sherman and Alan King, The Muppets; the Michael Bennett Dancers; and the Monroes (a balancing act from Madrid, Spain). There was also some film footage of a 14-year-old waterskiier, Ricky McCormick, doing stunts at Cypress Gardens, Fla. There was a cameo appearance (an “audience bow”) by Miriam Colon.

  26. Cathomommy says:

    Well… it *was* the best rendition of Kumbyah I’ve ever heard…. not difficult, that….

  27. RichR says:

    I don’t know what the big deal is here. You weren’t expecting them to come on stage and sing the Magnificat in Latin chant, were you? As much as this folk tune has gotten a bad wrap throughout the recent decades, I think this is the most dignified I’ve heard Kumbaya sung. That having been said, I do think there were many beautiful hymns I would have chosen before this one.

    Lighten up a little. It’s not like this is a liturgical setting.

  28. bbmoe says:

    @Cathomommy: like pumpkin pie, the best version of ‘Kumbaya’ just isn’t that much better than the worst version you’ve ever heard.

    To borrow from Dorothy Parker, Kumbaya makes me want to fwo up.

  29. brassplayer says:

    RichR wrote:
    Lighten up a little. It’s not like this is a liturgical setting.

    Agreed. This is a clip from a TV show that was originally broadcast to a mainstream American audience in the 1960s. While it is definitely dated today, back then, it was nice PR for the Catholic faith.

  30. EXCHIEF says:

    Lighten up a little. It’s not like this is a liturgical setting.

    Except for the last 4 decades it is precisely this type of thing that the KumByYa lovers of the ’60’s have been trying to inflict on liturgical settings. Fortunately “nuns” of the secularization of Catholicism pursuasion are dying out. The growing orders don’t sing KumByYa but they do an outstanding job with Gregorian Chant.

  31. amenamen says:

    @ (Lighten up a little. It’s not like this is a liturgical setting.)

    There is the source of the “conflicted” feelings.
    It actually might be rather entertaining, and even a little fun,
    to see a big group of Catholic nuns singing popular songs on a popular tv show …

    If only the barrier between the Ed Sullivan show and the choir loft had held firm.
    If only we could believe that those dear, young sisters would never sing Kumbaya in a liturgical setting.
    If only mainstream Americans in 1967 had not already heard Kumbaya sung at Mass in their parishes.
    If only we could presume that all of those sisters are still practicing Catholics, loyal to the Magisterium.
    If only the Benedictine Sisters of Erie could still put together 44 young sisters for choir practice.
    If only they could still chant the Magnificat in Latin, or even in English, without changing the words.

  32. Daniel Latinus says:

    I wonder whether one of them is the nun I heard about around 1970, who ran off with a priest, and the last anyone heard of them, they were selling portable toilets door-to-door in sweltering rural East Texas. This deepened my understanding of the Christian concept of “justice”.

    Better selling toilets than bad theology…

    Also on stage on the Ed Sullivan show that night were the Rolling Stones (“Let’s Spend The Night Together” – amid threats of censorship, Jagger mumbled the title lines of the song), …

    This puts this in a whole different light. Perhaps the nuns were invited to appear to offset audience complaints about the Rolling Stones?

  33. amenamen says:

    It would be a little like listening to a lovely recording of “Nearer My God To Thee”, only to see that it was recorded on April 15, 1912, aboard ship.

  34. AnAmericanMother says:

    That is just the definition of wasted effort. And the knowledge that was lost . . . it’s enough to make you weep.

    I disagree about the quality of the singing — they have good pitch and can sing close harmony. Allowing for nerves causing a few little ‘splats’ here and there, I’ve got no problem with the singing itself.

    It’s really too bad that – since they were singing two secular numbers – they didn’t put in something more appropriate. If chant would be nixed by Sullivan, then a SSAA setting of something choral — either go Renaissance with Byrd or Palestrina, or be daring and do some Poulenc . . . .

  35. Jacob says:

    This video reminded me of this passage that I read a day or so ago when I saw Geraldine Ferraro had died. The author is describing a Ferarro campaign stop from the early 80s when she was running for Congress.

    Ferraro knew how to work a crowd, and showed it when she came to visit our parish, Immaculate Conception. The church hall filled up, mostly with nice old ladies from the Rosary Society. On the dais, the youthful priest beamed like an Irish wardheeler at this Very Important Person. She was flanked by the pant-suited nuns who’d terrorized my childhood—not with anything so wholesome as corporal punishment, but through psy-ops such as folk Mass, “Godspell,” and sinister little buttons we had to wear that read “God Don’t Make Junk: I’m Lovable!”

  36. ipadre says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. I just lost my lunch! Those were the days, that we long to be long gone.

  37. TNCath says:

    I wonder if Sister Joan Chittister is among the singers? Yes, it is awful; yes, it is ridiculous. BUT!

    Yes, do consider the time this was done. At that time, it was a harmless novelty. It was what happened after this that was a lot worse.

    I can handle nuns in full habit singing “Kumbayah” better than nuns in pantsuits singing “All are Welcome.”

  38. Random Friar says:

    Do not wish “justice” on those who left their orders and the priesthood. Let God take care of that, and pray for them.

  39. Fr Martin Fox says:

    The way I see it, at the time, no one knew what was coming, and even some of those helping things along in the direction they went, never imagined or intended what came. When everything seems so solid, a little slippage doesn’t arouse concern.

    To say it another way, let me apply my personal motto:

    “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

    (Hmmm…I wonder what that sounds like in Latin? Per Google translate: “Ut visum notitia bona id temporis.” Maybe I’ll put that on my crest someday?)

  40. annieoakley says:

    If we’re going down memory lane:

  41. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    O Lord…

  42. Mark Pavlak says:

    Good Lord that was difficult to watch!

    Oh, pardon me. Where are my manners?!

    Good Mother Nature that was difficult to watch!

  43. CarpeNoctem says:

    While we’re going down memory lane,

    Hugonis, here’s a famous period-piece try at Tantum Ergo (well, OK, actually, Pange Linga) that seems to make the rounds every year about this time. Just enjoy it. You’ll thank me.

  44. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Wait. I learned quite a bit of French listening to this album!

  45. mndad says:

    In my view this consistent disrespect and ridicule pointed at fellow catholics – folks who happen to have different taste and sentiments will slowly eat this community up.
    Personally I very much liked/like Kumbaya my Lord – nothing wrong with it really in my view.
    As we tell our kids:
    If you can’t say anything nice…

  46. Sorry but actually but these religious sisters (they really aren’t nun- nuns are cloistered) would have greatly displeased St Benedict who founded the Benedictines. He would have never approved of this being done. Christ said it would be better for a man to have a mill stone put around one’s neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend one of the “little ones.’ Sadly many of these type of religious sisters have offended thousands of little ones- generations of them. They have scandalized the faithful and betrayed their spouse Christ. No they should not be mocked (rather pitied) and yes their example and conduct is rightly deplored. Sadly some may have been deceived and coerced into sins aganst the Faith. They are one of the reasons millions of Catholics are so poorly catechized.

    Some one mentioned they were probably on to “balance” the Rolling Stones. That is probably true as the Ed Sullivan Show would then have the gall to claim that the show was appropriate for the entire family and wholesome. Apparently the rot begin a long time ago in the TV. Our bishops made numerous pronouncements against the increasing immorality in in the movies during the 30s and 40s (11/15/1934 and 11/13/1940 by NCWC- precursor to the USCCB). Sadly now on the USCCB site they praise movies that are really filth. For example “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is not deemed morally offensive- though it is admitted to be “soft porn.” They have got to be joking- it is so obvious. Since when does “artistic merit” take precendence over morality? Sadly the bishops slipped up years ago. We need our bishops and priests to get a backbone and once again call a spade a spade. Thankfully some already do but there are not enough of them and the media culture has desensitized many- including large numbers of the clergy to the immorality that is so prevalent in movies these days. If this was fixed we wouldn’t have to deal with religious sisters singing Kum bay ya- they would know better.

  47. Gary Page says:

    I’m probably as much of a crabby traditionalist as anyone, but I do not see any harm in religious sisters or brothers singing any spiritual song (that’s not heretical) in a non-liturgical setting. I did not view the entire video but what I saw impressed me; I saw joy in the eyes and faces of the sisters singing and the music was relatively well-performed. Certainly a good Catholic witness for most who saw the original broadcast. Also we should be careful about judging those in the video based on the subsequent history; I believe many lay Catholics left the Church amidst all the liturgical (and other) shenanigans after Vatican II and not all left out of disobedience or dissent. It is likely many lay people and religious left out of bewilderment and a sense of abandonment – the Church was no longer recognizable to many and in a sense, the Church “left them”. Now, of course, we know that theologically that is not true: the Church is the same and has “left” no one. But amid all the fine theological phrases (and I mean fine in the most glorious sense), the actions speak all the louder. The Church is the same; everything in the Church has changed. The Church is a family and in the field of family therapy such a state of affairs is known as a “crazy-making” family system. And for those who tried to cling to their sanity and who understood that for us frail humans, “the medium is the message”, and sought to retain the one thing that both Catholics and non-Catholics viewed as the unchangeable purveyor of the message, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – well, they were pretty much stomped on. For many lay Catholics it was devastating; for religious trying to be faithful to an order whose leadership were turning it upside down, it must have been hell. The tsunami of modernism destroyed so much in a few short years; brick by brick it will take generations to rebuild. So let’s go easy on the singing sisters. Many of those joyful and even humble faces probably had no idea of the ravagement the onrushing tsunami would soon inflict upon them.

  48. James Joseph says:

    This garbage started in Germany and France the 1920’s. Spreading throughout the Benedictine world in the 1940’s.

    The monks at Gethesemeni Abbey were raked over the coals for not being modern (circa 1947) by several abbots from Europe. It’s plain as day if one reads the old journals.

  49. Sister Joan Chichester, OSB, is one of the Erie Benedictine Nuns in this clip from the Ed Sullivan Show. NONE of these nuns wear the habit anymore and some even left the monastery completely.

  50. Centristian says:

    I didn’t initially watch the video because I’ve never been a fan of “Kumbaya” (the song was already being mocked and derided when I was a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s), but I have to say this version was actually quite charming. I enjoyed it. The sisters in full habit look magnificent, all together like that.

    This is the sort of show my grandparents would have had on TV anytime we visited them. She often had records, too (yes, vinyl records…remember those?), of singing nuns and that kind of thing playing. And hey, at least these sisters aren’t singing “Dominique” for a change.

    Nobody wants to hear “Kumbaya” in church (anymore, I hope). But on the Ed Sullivan Show…fine.

  51. Blog Goliard says:

    @Gary Page: What a beautiful and enlightening contribution to the discussion. Thank you.

Comments are closed.