Local nun offers thoughts on TV counterparts
EDITOR’S NOTE: When we asked Sister Joyce Gadoua at St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham for her opinion of the PBS show “Call the Midwife,” she also emailed us this thoughtful commentary about the four Anglican nun characters.
BY SISTER JOYCE GADOUA
For The Daily Gazette
-- Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter)
What an example of a servant sister she is! She is quietly religious to the bone, sensitive to others. Her own needs are simple, while ever having to deal, in a tactful way, with the more complex needs of the sisters and women at Nonnatus House. She’s a wise counselor, someone who keeps confidences.
What I loved best is that her authority never gets in the way of her person. She wears the mantle of responsibility well, as if she had no mantle at all, quietly managing all her responsibilities to say nothing of her own heartbreak over, and acceptance of, the loss of Sister Bernadette, in whom she held great hope.
Sister Julienne appears to prefer the background rather than the limelight. She’s wise, self-effacing, and loving of all whom she serves. Her care for and defense of Sister Monica Joan, who suffers from dementia, is beautiful, even if Sister Monica fails, in her illness, to appreciate Sister Julienne. That’s not unreal in a situation like this.
I loved that Sister Julienne told the women what Sister Monica Joan was like in her youth. That scene alone was an Oscar performance to me.
-- Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt)
A retired 90-year-old sister who was the first to be a midwife for the poor. What is so amazing is that she came from a well-to-do family and could have done anything with her life.
I find her particularly interesting when, in a reflective moment, Sister Monica speaks impressive thoughts that are full of wisdom. On the other hand, she gets into trouble at times, and lets out a few bloopers that cause a different kind of surprise. In each case, she is kept up front and center stage.
Given sister’s Alzheimer’s disease, she doesn’t want to be shelved, overlooked, put on the back burner. She wants to remain vital to her community.
Sisters who care for the elderly know that issue quite well, and the ones I know try to walk that delicate balance of keeping seriously ailing sisters in the spotlight everyday, while knowing not all is possible anymore.
Sister Monica Joan is infinitely lovable to me. I do identify with Sister Monica because I’m in the winter of my life, that is, way past my prime and my former productive life.
-- Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris)
Of all the sisters, Sister Evangelina represents our humanity best.
Sister Evangelina, who is a kind of “every person,” is at once weak and strong, and she knows it well. Because she appears so perfect in what she does and has no fear of any task no matter where she goes (except on a ship), she shows a tendency to be initially impatient of human failure.
That may be due in part to the fact that she was raised in East London herself, and wants only the best for the women. What is remarkable is that in spite of her sometimes harsh manner, she speaks truth, no matter the reaction toward her. That in itself is a quality, to speak the truth directly, often not found in women. Also, her bark is bigger than her bite, and her heart rivals her girth. In time, like most of us, she does overcome her initial weaknesses, and even encourages her weak counterparts when they do a good job. She is an excellent midwife capable of just about anything.
-- Sister Bernadette (Laura Main)
Her courage is remarkable in facing the truth of her life, but not without stress, tension and difficulties in making her decision, which, in the 1950s, I believe, was more traumatic than it is today. I hope there will be more story lines about her in her marriage, whether the story is true or not.