Why CHM order no longer wears habits


To the Editor:
In response to the letter to the editor from the Davenport man printed in the Oct. 17 Catholic Messenger regarding Sisters’ habits, I’d like to clarify why my religious order changed its mode of dress in 1966.
Vatican II issued “Perfectae Caritatis,” the decree regarding adaptation and renewal of religious life. For this reason, my religous community restudied our original rule, written in France in the 1850s, which stated: “the  Sisters shall dress like the common, ordinary, modest women of their day.” Also, Pope John XXIII asked the Sisters of the world to modify their habits for reasons of health and hygiene.
More than a few Sisters suffered ear and sinus trouble due to heads being tightly enclosed while others experienced skin problems from lack of air and sunlight. Doctors told us we wore too many clothes in summer and not enough in winter. For example, once while working in the kitchen in July, I counted seven layers of fabric around my waist while on the playground in January, I wore only a sweater and shawl over my habit.
The first time I appeared in my junior high classroom without my habit, I didn’t experience any difference at all in the respect afforded me by my students (I taught 190 each day in science classes). People will only respect any uniform if the person wearing it commands respect.
In summary, we simplified our religious habits in order to comply with the original intent of our founders and the request of the Holy Father. In consicence, how could we not honor that?
Sister Donna Donovan, CHM

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