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Removing the Habit of God: Sister Christine's Story 1959-1968

Removing the Habit of God: Sister Christine's Story 1959-1968 [Kindle Edition]

Susan Pickford

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Product Description

Product Description

A shy young girl who always tried to be good and please others, Susan could have chosen other careers such as teacher, nurse, or librarian. Instead, Susan turned to something whe knew would never disappoint her and in 1959, after high school graduation, her parents proudly but reluctantly escorted her to her new home as a Postulant in the Ursuline Sisters' Motherhouse in Long Island, NY. As she donned her heavy black dress with cape, stiff white collar and cuffs, and attached the unfamiliar veil on her head (sans mirror- first lesson, a postulant must not be vain) for the first time, she could not imagine how her life would evolve over the next nine years. She imagined herself as striving towards purity in thought, mind and deed, in her eventual fate as a saint. But it was really, really hard.

About the Author

Susan Bassler Pickford is a teacher and writer. She entered the convent at 17 and became an Ursuline of Tildonk. At 26 she returned home where she taught at Red Bank Catholic High School for four years and earned a MAT at Monmouth College. She married and moved to Chelmsford,MA where whe raised two boys while continuing to teach at Keith Catholic HS. She earned a MEd in English as a Second Language and a CAS from Harvard and taught in the Lowell Public Schools until she retired. The family moved to Portland,ME. Susan has tuaght at the University of New England as an adjunct faculty member since 2001. Her stories for children and plays for middle school students can be found on

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1136 KB
  • Print Length: 154 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (8 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #363,854 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Memoir! 13 July 2012
By L. Leonard - Published on
Susan Pickford's memoir is a well-written, intimate portrait of a young girl--17 years old--who decides to become a nun and devote her life to God. She is quite sure that this is the path He intends her life to take.
Six years later, after going through the stages of postulate and then novice, she is Sister Christine, teaching in a Catholic middle school, when her faith begins to waver. Not her faith in God and Jesus. That is strong. But she questions whether the headstrong teen-ager she was might have mistaken her adolescent desire for sainthood for a genuine calling.
Not only is the book interesting as it describes the resolution of Susan's--Sister Christine's--problem, but also in the insight into and descriptions of life in a convent, and the long process of becoming a nun.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling! 12 Oct 2012
By P. Mcclure - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was a heartfelt read. It is definitely better with some understanding of the Catholic church. I enjoyed how the author combined what was happening in her life with what was happening in the U.S and even the world.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! 8 Oct 2012
By reader for life - Published on
This is a wry, candid examination of what inspires a young woman to put on--and finally take off--the "habit of God." It's not a simple decision coming or going, nor entirely spiritual. Pickford does quite an admirable job of taking us through it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read 25 May 2013
By Val Magill - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Found this a very interesting account of how this sister journeyed from a conviction that she was destined to be a nun to her complete change of heart just a few years later. A very honest and soul searching story
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shaking Up of Sister Christine: A Coming of Age Story 3 Nov 2013
By Ginette Mayas - Published on
One of the more endearing details we learn about Susan Bassler Pickford is that she really liked Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On." She would have been about 15 years old when the song with the monster boogie beat was released. Against the backdrop of a United States during the Cold War as it faces domestic political assassinations, the Vietnam War, space missions, race riots, civil rights movements, the rise of feminism, sexual liberty, rock and roll and Vatican II, REMOVING THE HABIT OF GOD by Susan Bassler Pickford offers a candid personal narrative of how she decided to enter the Ursulines Convent at the age of 17, where she would be re-christened as Sister Christine and given the number 55 as her identification number. For nine years she would move through the ranks, renew her vows, and follow through on her apostolic mission to teach. All that changed when she renounced her vows and left the convent. This well-crafted memoir unfolds through a generous mix of letters, personal reflections and photographs that trace the author's life from childhood through her years in the convent.

While there was a lot praying and chanting in the convent, the author also depicts disturbing details about discipline. Imagine lying face down on the floor before an assembly and publicly accusing yourself for reading the snippet of newspaper used to line the garbage pail. But this is not a narrative about survival. Rather, this is a coming of age story about a woman's search to strike the balance between her religious fervor and her desire to be part of the world. It is a search for her humanity and her dignity as a woman.

In 1959, when the author entered the convent , Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" and Elvis Presley's "Hunk a Burning Love" were included among Billboard Magazine's top 100 pop tunes. Also in that same year Audrey Hepburn delivered an incandescent screen performance as a conflicted nun in THE NUN'S STORY directed by Fred Zinnemann. In the film Sister Luke is a beautiful and privileged young woman who enters the convent with a desire to practice tropical medicine in the Belgian Congo. She struggles to remain faithful to her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In the end it is her inability to submit completely and obey that causes her to leave the convent. There's a famous line in the film when the Mother Superior admonishes the young postulants eager to take up the religious life. She says: "You can cheat your sisters, but you cannot cheat God or yourself." The same line is repeated years later by Sister Luke when she explains to the Reverend Mother why she cannot reconsider her decision to leave her religious community. The author saw this film prior to entering the convent. One of her spiritual mentors, who was also a nun, confirmed for her that the details portrayed in the film about a nun's life were not exaggerated. But the author was undeterred and entered the convent anyway.

As easy as it might be to condemn the austerity of Sister's Christine's religious life, it was she, after all, who chose this particular life at a time when the Church itself was embracing change. There were other less rigid orders, but she chose one of the more "challenging" ones. "If I were going to sacrifice my life to God," she writes in her memoir, "then I would make the grand gesture." The memoir allows the reader to time travel and retrace the author's journey from grand gesture to self-knowledge.

The memoir ends at the moment Sister Christine leaves the convent in 1968. She stands in the subway in a regular dress. Her hair had grown long enough so that the good sisters were able to set it on rollers for her the night before her departure. It was their parting gift. The memoir does not discuss what becomes of the author's religious faith in the secular world. However, if there is any doubt about whether she made the right decision to both enter the convent and then to eventually leave, we need only look at the photograph included in the author's biography at the end of the book. In it Susan Bassler Pickford is pictured as she is today with a wonderful smile on her face, surrounded by her husband, her children and infant granddaughter. There is a look of serenity in her eyes, hinting at a life fully lived, that leaves the reader to conclude she found her way after all.

For a student of sociology or anyone who is curious about young women and the religious life in the United States, I highly recommend this narrative. It is well written, concise and provides good information as a primary source.
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