Nuns Gone Fishing

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

August 31, 2005


            It was something you don’t see every day; eight nuns in full habits on three little boats, fishing.

            People in other boats went past and then circled around to get another look.      The security guards at the nearby power plant, seeing people in long flowing robes and fearing terrorism, came rushing down to the river bank in pick up trucks with binoculars. The looked, then paused and looked again.

            One speed boat, pulling several girls on an inner tube, went past us and then circled around to pass again. A little girl on the inner tube called out “Hi Sisters!” and raised her hands in a wave. She shot right off the back of the inner tube into the water. The nuns screeched with laughter.

            These nuns get only one day per year off. They are Missionaries of Charity, members of the religious order started by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

             The sisters work at various houses in Washington DC, including a homeless shelter, a home for single mothers, and an after school drop in center in poorer neighborhoods of our nations capital. One of the families in our parish had adopted two children through their order and got to know the sisters.

            Although they all looked similar in their white saris with blue trimmed veils, they were a diverse group. They came from all over the world; Kenya, India, Venezuela, Argentina and the United States.

            They had been raised in various faiths. Some had been raised as Catholics, others Hindu, or Protestant Christians.

            One sister had been raised AME in Baltimore and became a Catholic under the influence of the Josephite Fathers. She was probably the only African American in her neighborhood ever to enter the convent. Her mother never left her AME church and Mother Theresa became her friend.

            Once a year these nuns get a day off to do what they want. They decided to do what people in our part of the world love to do on their days off, go fishing.

            They had a few conditions. They wanted live bait. They wanted to do the fishing themselves.

            My secretary organized the event. She got three men of our parish with boats to take them out. They are frequent volunteers and fishing buddies. One of them, Richard "Dickie" Hayes, went out and got a huge bucket of squirmy land shrimp for bait.

            The bait worked. The sisters caught more than two hundred fish, but we made them through back the little ones.

            In the end, we kept 153 fish because that is the number the disciples caught when they followed the instructions of the Lord on where to fish after the resurrection.

            The sisters didn’t just fish. They went riding up and own the river in the three boats. A couple of the power boats were pretty fast. The nuns seemed to like to push them up to full throttle, veils flapping in the wind.

            Back at the parish center the sisters proved themselves adept at cleaning the fish. They wasted nothing, even leaving the heads on the fish, which, in India, they evidently like to eat.

            At the end of the day the sisters spent an hour in prayer in our parish chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I stayed with them for adoration and benediction. Our chapel had a strange smell of fish the next day.

            It was only one day out on the water, but it seemed like a long vacation. It was the combination of natural beauty, human goodness and grace filled laughter that made the day truly “re-creating”.

            We can’t wait for the nuns to have another day off, next year. Like the disciples, we're going fishing.