|In case you didn't know, this is Catholicism|
Vatican II, the 1960s-era council of bishops that catapulted the Catholic Church into the modern world, profoundly affected every aspect of the church, not the least of all its female religious.
Cloistered for centuries and relegated in recent decades to roles in education and health care, Catholic sisters took seriously the bishops' call to engage in the broader society. And they branched out into myriad ministries, often to serve the poor and marginalized.
Their work is highlighted in a new documentary by Chicagoan Mary Fishman that is featured this week as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival. "Band of Sisters" follows several women — including two with ties to Milwaukee — as they experience what it means to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"They talked about Vatican II opening the doors and windows of the church, and it really did," said Sister JoAnn Persch, who ministers to immigrants in the Chicago area, many of them undocumented, with fellow Sister of Mercy Pat Murphy.
"For the first time, we were able to follow the signs of the times to see what the needs were in the changing world," said Persch, 79. "I know for me and for many women, that was very exciting."
Sister Madeline Gianforte also ministers to immigrants and others, but in a much different way, as co-founder and co-executive director of CORE/El Centro, an alternative healing center on Milwaukee's south side.