The nuns of the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Central Harlem celebrated their 100th anniversary over the weekend.
And Gertrude Ihenacho, who for the past 10 years has been the congregation minister at the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, says she’s still commonly mistaken for Whoopi Goldberg, because of her “sister act”.
“A lot of people we talk to today, they didn’t know there are black nuns here in Harlem,” Ihenacho said. “They say, ‘Black nuns? We never knew they existed.’”
But not everyone is rushing to become a nun nowadays, so they’ve battled with the possibility of having to close.
“We didn’t have new people joining us. Age was against us. We were at the threshold of deciding what to do,” she said.
But they didn’t close and because of words from Pope Francis, they stepped into the 21st century and started a website dedicated to social justice.
“In 2014, we said, ‘We just have to close.’ We were deciding what process we were going to follow,” Ihenacho said.
“When we heard the Pope say, ‘Get out of your comfort zone, go out to the communities and serve,’ we decided to make things new,” she said.
The Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary started a website dedicated to their passion — social justice.
On Tuesday, at a gala celebrating the 100 anniversary, the sisters look forward to their future.
“The gala represents the closing of the last 100 years and the beginning of a new 100 years. We are thinking differently, recruiting new members to move forward into the future,” she said.