Convent Life

Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun)

April, 2002


A friend of mine has a brother who is a member of a cult. I did some research for her. In the process, I learned about mind control. As I studied mind control, I was shocked to realize that I had been subjected to it when I was in the convent. (But my superiors probably didn't see it as mind control. They were just following tradition.)

My personal identity was taken away. My name was changed. It was a constant reminder that my identity and my life were no longer my own. In theory, it was supposed to mean that I belonged to Jesus. In reality, it meant that I belonged to the Catholic Church.

I wore a habit (like everybody else). I was called "Sister" (like everybody else). I was not allowed to express my own opinions. I was told what to do and what to think. My time was not my own. We lived by a schedule determined by other people. Personal discretionary time was rare.

We were largely cut off from our families and friends. Unless there was an emergency, we could only phone our family (very briefly) on special occasions such as Christmas. Our outgoing mail was read by our superiors, and so was our incoming mail. When we wrote letters, we never knew whether or not people would actually receive them. We never knew if mail had been sent to us but not given to us.

Talking was restricted. We were not allowed to have personal friendships. We weren't even allowed to have affection for animals

The Bible tells us to put on the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5) However, my studies were intended to make me put on the mind of the Catholic Church and to put on the mind of the founder of our religious order. To some extent I even put on the mind of our mother superior.

We were not supposed to question orders which were given to us by our superiors. One time my work assignment involved something that was physically dangerous, but it could have been made much safer. I had been so trained not to question orders that I never said a word about it. But I prayed for God to protect me. He did. I got sick and a senior sister had to do my job. She saw the danger and immediately took steps to make things safer. God was faithful. But I should not have been put in that position.

We were told that we should be emotionally detached, that we should only express love in a detached way. We were taught that human attachments interfere with closeness to God.

This is contrary to Scripture. Adam was very close to God. He walked and talked with God every evening. But God said that wasn't enough. God said that Adam needed human companionship. ("It is not good that man should be alone." Genesis 2:18)

The Bible says that God spoke to Moses "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend". (Exodus 33:11; also see Numbers 12:6-8) That is an unusual level of intimacy with God. Moses was a married man with children. And he was an emotional man. When the people murmured against him, Moses "cried unto the Lord". (Exodus 17:3-4) When God became angry with the people of Israel, Moses pleaded with God to have mercy on them. (Exodus 32:9-14) When his sister Miriam had leprosy, "Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee." (Numbers 12:10-13)

Emotional detachment is a pagan ideal. It is praised by stoic philosophy and Buddhism. But it is contrary to Scripture. The Bible encourages fervent prayer.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)

You can't do that without feelings. According to "Webster's Dictionary," the word "fervor" means "intensity of feeling or expression," and synonyms for "fervent" are "fiery, vehement, impassioned, passionate, eager, keen". If you are emotionally detached, then how can you pray fervently for someone?

Jesus wasn't emotionally detached, and nobody has ever been closer to God the Father than Jesus was. When Jesus saw that Lazarus was dead, and Mary and Martha were grieving for him, Jesus "groaned in the spirit, and was troubled," and he wept. The people saw this as showing the intensity of Jesus' love for Lazarus. (John 11:33-36)

The Apostle Paul wasn't emotionally detached. He had a father's affection for Timothy, whom he called his "dearly beloved son". (2 Timothy 1:2; also see 1 Timothy 1:2 and 1:18)

Jesus told us that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we need to become like little children. (Mark 10:15). Children are emotional. They have strong feelings and they express them. Their love is personal, emotional, and affectionate.

God designed us for fellowship, not for isolation and detachment. Isolation is spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. That is why prisoners in solitary confinement sometimes go insane.

What does emotional isolation and detachment do to nuns? I'd like you to meet Jacqueline. She's a godly woman. I've corresponded with her. (Her testimony is on-line. The address is at the end of this paper.)

Jacqueline was a nun in a cloistered convent for twenty-two years. (A cloister is an enclosed convent where the nuns are kept secluded from the world.) Following is a quotation from her testimony. This shows what isolation and emotional detachment can do to people.

"I was so hungry to know that god loved me, and so wanting to know Him, that I started reading mystical writings which taught that you could attain mystical union with God, thereby achieving supernatural knowledge of Him, which led to total holiness. This path directed me to supernaturalize not only the Bible and Jesus, but anything to do with my religious life. Step by step, I lost my ability to reason and deal with reality, for reality was too painful for me to face."

I was in the convent for a little over two years. After I left, it was difficult to adjust to the normal world. I was so used to being told what to do and how to think.

I got a job as a temporary secretary, and I couldn't assert myself enough to ask a caller to give me his name. I had to ask my boss how to do it, and even then, it was difficult.

At first I wore scarves all the time. It was months before I was able to go anywhere with my head uncovered. The first time I put on lipstick, I felt ashamed and afraid. It took me a long time to be able to wear jewelry.

It was a slow, gradual process learning to think my own thoughts and to recognize my own feelings. It took me a long time to feel that it was alright to communicate my own thoughts and feelings to other people.

I realize that I have only dealt with a few aspects of convent life. Therefore I have given links to the on-line testimonies of three other former nuns.


Mary Hertel

Mary Ann Pakiz

If you want to understand convent life, you can read "The Truth Set Us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories," compiled by Richard Bennett. The testimonies are down-to-earth, intensely personal, "inside stories". You can buy the book at regular book stores or at (Do a search at for "The Truth Set Us Free".)

I joined the Roman Catholic Church because I was looking for God. I entered the convent because I wanted to be close to God and to serve Him with radical devotion. But it wasn't until after I left Catholicism that I found the kind of relationship with God that I had been looking for all along. You can read about it in my poems.

Through my web site I have met other ex-Catholics including an ex-nun who befriended me and shared her testimony with me. I've also met two ex-priests who gave me wise counsel. These former Catholics have shared their hearts, their wisdom, and valuable information. I am deeply grateful for these people. May the Lord bless them for their kindness.


The God who made the earth has always loved us.
Before we drew a breath, our heart was known.
God created us to live with Him forever,
To sing and dance with joy before His throne.

Our time on earth is hard, but it is fleeting.
No matter how things seem, God's always there.
He'll guide us and protect us and watch over us,
And take away each tear and fear and care.

And when the toil and pain and fear have ended,
When sorrow's gone, and all we know is love,
Then we and God will celebrate forever,
Rejoicing with the saints in Heaven above.




I was in religious life for a little over two years. I was a novice but I never made vows. A novice is someone who has entered a religious order and has been given a habit. He or she undergoes training and religious exercises in preparation for taking vows. (There are novice monks as well as novice nuns.)

Some people have asked me why I call myself a former nun when I never made vows.

According to the "Catholic Encyclopedia," a novice in a religious order is a "regular" in the broad sense of the term. A "regular" is a technical term for a monk or a nun. So a novice is a monk or a nun in the broad sense of the term. [Note 1]

If I called myself "a former sister," it would sound like the other children in my family had died (perhaps in some terrible family tragedy). If I called myself "a former ecclesiastic" or "a former religious," most people wouldn't know what I was talking about.

I was a member of a religious order. I wore a religious habit with a veil. I lived in a convent. I was given a new name. I lived the strictly disciplined life of a nun. I looked like a nun, I acted like a nun, I was called "sister" like a nun, and I was treated like a nun. And the "Catholic Encyclopedia" says that I was a nun in the broad sense of the word.

If you were in my shoes, what would you call yourself?


1. "Novice" in the 1913 edition of "The Catholic Encyclopedia," Volume XI. This article is available on-line. The term "novice" refers to both monks and nuns who go through a period of training and preparation. In Section II, "Juridical Condition," the article states that a novice in a religious order is a "regular" in the widest sense of the word. (A "regular" is a technical term for a monk or a nun.)

NOTE: The article often speaks of "he" when modern usage would be to say "he or she". Section I, "Definition and Requirements,"specifically mentions nuns. And it gives instructions regarding married women who want to become nuns. So the article is about both novice monks and novice nuns.


I encourage you to link to this article. You have permission to quote from this article, as long as you do it fairly and accurately. You have permission to make copies of this article for friends and for use in classes.