It Ain’t Nun-thing: Life After Service

By Brandon Chalkin

What is the biggest difference between life in the convent and life outside the convent for a retired servant of God?

“Paying taxes,” Dr. Ann Grow jokes.

Grow is a professor at Mercy College who used to be one of the Sisters of Mercy, an order of nuns. She joined up immediately after graduating high school in 1951. At the time, it was thought wise to join a convent because it provided women with safety, security, food, shelter, education, and employment opportunities.

“Those opportunities were not as readily available for women as they are today,” she said.

Through the convent, Grow was collegiately educated and obtained her PhD in philosophy and a minor in chemistry, and then started to pursue what she had always known she wanted to do, teach. She became a high school science teacher for the first seven years of her teaching career while still a member of the Sisters. She then started to teach philosophy at Mercy College and later became the dean of students.

The money that she had made while still in the convent went straight into the Sisters of Mercy bank account, as did all the money made by the members. That money bought food, shelter and electricity for all the nuns, pastors, and members of the convent. After a few years of being the dean, she decided that she had missed being a teacher and stepped down to continue to teach.

In 1970, Grow and seven other nuns left the convent to live life without its support. The Sisters of Mercy allowed its members to exit the convent whenever they felt, yet encouraged them to stay longer, but would bless the nun’s wishes in accepting the progressions of women in the outside world. Grow believes that if she had graduated high school today, she would not have joined a convent.

“It is not necessary for women today to seek security in programs like the Sisters of Mercy because women’s rights have dramatically risen since I was a young adult,” she said.

Grow has been a standard at Mercy College for decades and shows no signs of slowing down.

“Teaching is in my blood. It’s what I love to do.”