Behind the Habit

Lisa Martin

Sister Marie Tabouret joined
the Humility Sisters in 1855 in
Dommartin, France. She is not
wearing a habit but rather the
traditional clothing of the day.

When the Congregation of the Sisters of Humility (CHM) first formed over 160 years ago in France, they didn't decide to wear a unique uniform that would make them stand out. No, they dressed like common women in order to be able to work among the people; serving the poor without drawing attention. This common dress evolved into the habit as we remember.

While in the habit, most CHM Sisters didn't carry a purse so they improvised with big pockets. There was a slit in the long skirt of the habit in which a sister could reach through to find a pocket sewn in to her slip. The pocket was very deepextending from waistband to hem. Sisters would surprise their students when they might  pull their lunch, a pair of boots, a book or maybe a hammer out of a pocket!

Sister Cecelia Vandeberg
in CHM habit prior to Vatican II.

After Vatican II (1962-1965), many orders of nuns returned to their roots, adopting the dress of the day, as their founders did, and focused on their mission and doing the work of the gospel. Habit or no, their spiritual pockets only grew deeper. They were and always will be the epitome of the well known acronym WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?).

For more on life before and after the habit, with quotes from CHMs, check out this article "Sisters Make Their Presence Known in Many Ways."

Just like their founders, CHM sisters now wear traditional
clothing of the day. l-r: Sisters Greta Fitzgerald, Roberta Brich,
me, Lisa Martin ( not a nun),  and Sister Johanna Rickl.