Naïve? Naughty? Filmmaker examines cultural images of nuns

Filmmaker Bren Ortega Murphy will introduce and discuss her documentary, “A Question of Habit,” at Saint Xavier University (SXU) at 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., Nov. 15 in McGuire Hall.

“A Question of Habit” contrasts the images of Catholic sisters in popular culture with the realities of sisters’ lives and ministries. The film not only presents many of these images, some of them quite disturbing, but also offers the commentary of cultural critics, historians, and sisters themselves on the reasons behind such images – their persistence, impact, and significance.

Joining Ortega Murphy to discuss the film after the screening will be two local women religious – Mercy Sister Mary Ann Bergfeld, who taught humanities and film at SXU before her retirement, and St. Joseph Sister Jean McGrath, principal of St. John Fisher School.  Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.

Premiered at the Queens World Film Festival in New York in 2010, “A Question of Habit” aired on WTTW-Channel 11 and been screened at universities, theaters, and other venues throughout the Midwest.

Writer, director, and co-producer of the film, Ortega Murphy is a professor at Loyola University Chicago where she holds a joint appointment in the School of Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences.  Her areas of teaching and research include gender representation in popular culture and communication ethics.

The Nov. 15 screening and discussion of “A Question of Habit” is the second of three November presentations at SXU focused on contemporary Catholic sisters.  The third and final presentation in this series will come on Tues., Nov. 27, also at 6:30 p.m., when filmmaker Mary Fishman will screen and comment on “Band of Sisters,” her documentary on Catholic sisters involved in justice work. She will be joined by three sisters featured in her documentary.  The first program of the series, which focused on Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval nun recently named a Doctor of the Church, featured SXU faculty members Dr. Avis Clendenen and Dr. Jan Bickel as well as the SXU Women’s Ensemble.

These November programs, sponsored by the Office for University Mission and Heritage, are free and open to the public.