A wheelchair in the Agnes Retirement home sits beside a pew taken from the old Grey Nuns Mother House. This photograph is a powerful one to me as it speaks to the new relationship between the secular and religious world of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal (Grey Nuns). The nuns relocated in 2013 to a public retirement home after 144 years inside their Mother House beside Concordia University. Virginia Noel, Andrea Aarssen and I were the first people allowed to interview the nuns after their transition. I believe this move brings up significant questions about religious identity, place and space within a secular world and the role those religious adherents play with a modern world. The pew that I photographed in the midst of their secular retirement home is a reminder of the nun’s past as much as it is a reminder, in the words of the nuns themselves, that faith can be practiced in any context. Daily life for the nuns in the retirement home, with television screens, limited mobility and shared space with non-religious seniors has resulted in a difficult transition for some. However the nuns in our interviews were quick to point out that their devotion to God and their faith resides in their individual relationships to the divine regardless of what material structure surrounds them.
Contributor Biography: Jeremy Cohen
I am a Graduate student in the Religious Studies Department at Concordia University. My research lies at the intersections between religion, new media and death, with an emphasis on identity. I am also an amateur photographer and a tree planter in the summer.