"Sound of Music" is nostalgic for local nuns

Posted at 3:48 PM, Mar 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 18:37:17-04

"The Sound of Music" is one of the most beloved musicals and tonight the touring version opens at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo.

For local Catholic nuns, it also brings some nostalgic memories of what it use to be like to be a nun.

Sr. Mary Johnice, Director of Buffalo's "Response to Love Center," had just joined the Felician Sisters when the movie came out.  She said her farther doubted she would make it because Sr. Johnice was too much like the free-spirited Maria Von Trapp played by Julie Andrews in the classic movie.

Ironically, Sr. Johnice would meet the real Maria Von Trapp many years later in the United States.

Sr. Johnice has been a Felician nun for 52 years.

In the attached video clip, Sr. Johnice describes what is was like to become a nun in 1964 and the challenges that were involved for a young woman.

The number of Catholic nuns has drastically shrunk through the years.  According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, the total number of religious sisters has fallen 72% in the period 1965 to 2014.  When the "The Sound of Music" came out, there were 180,000 nuns in the U.S.  As of 2014, that number has dropped to 50,000.

Here in the Diocese of Buffalo, there were 3,000 nuns during the peak years of the 1960's.  There are now only 692 Sisters in the 8 counties of WNY as part of 19 Religious Communities of Women.

In spite of the decline, there is an effort underway in Buffalo to create a new religious community called the Marian Franciscan Sisters.  Bishop Mallone from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is giving guidance to the woman who are leading the effort. 

In order to be formally recognized as a religious community, the Marian Franciscans need to have 40 members and it could take several years to get all the needed approvals.  However, reporter Ed Reilly talked with two members who said they are very optimistic that it will happen.

The Marian Franciscans plan to focus on ministering to individuals who have a "crisis of faith."

More information about the Marian Franciscans can be found here: http://marianfranciscans.org/about/

Ed Reilly will have more tonight at 6 p.m.