The church hasn’t always looked kindly at Sister Judy, a 68-year-old feminist nun, whose activism has ruffled more than a few feathers, and on more than one occasion. But even if the rules of the Catholic Church sometimes restricted her, the Sister’s commitment to God remained true and she recently celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Catholic nun.
Sister Judy’s Catholic upbringing in Los Angeles left her with three career choices when she graduated high school: Become a nurse or a teacher, or join the convent. She chose the third, making her vows months after graduating from St. Mary’s Academy High in the early 60s, at the height of the civil rights marches, antiwar protests, and emerging second wave of feminism.
Sister Judy joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and graduated from Mount St. Mary’s college in 1968 with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology, before she earned her master’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University and doctorate in social ethics from the University of Chicago. Grasping the momentous social and political movements around her, Sister Judy began to challenge the church, declaring that abortion could be a moral choice. After she became the director of House of Ruth, a homeless shelter for women in East L.A., the L.A. Archdiocese was so upset by her defiance it forbid Catholic social workers from referring women to her and House of Ruth.
For the last 18 years, Sister Judy has been running Alexandria House in L.A., a transitional center for homeless women and children, which she considers her most important project.
She continues her work as a nun and as an activist and is raising her adopted daughter, now a teenager. Her commitment to her beliefs and her years of helping women make her the FOF Woman of the Week.