Where’s the Sisterhood?

Evicted Nuns Granted Temporary Housing

Chapel at St. Mary's Retreat House
On the Beat

Where’s the Sisterhood?: Does anyone find it odd that not a single Catholic parish or convent has made a public offer to give the Sisters of Bethany temporary refuge? It took an offer from Episcopal St. Mary’s Retreat House, near the Santa Barbara Mission, to give the three nuns a place to stay. The three nuns moved to the retreat house last weekend after twisting in the winds of uncertainty for months after being ordered to move by December 31, due to the sins of the fathers. The L.A. Archdiocese, which owns the convent on Nopal Street, has evicted the nuns on grounds that the place must be sold to help pay settlements to victims of priesthood abuse. (The archdiocese landlord made no offer of help in relocating the women.) And rumors persist that the house the Bethany order has used since the 1950s to work for the community will not be sold after all, and that the parish will find other uses for it.

Despite a very public campaign to raise funds for the nuns and a need to ease their plight, at least temporarily, the response from the local Catholic churches and convents has been one of deafening silence. One Santa Barbara Catholic pastor even attacked the nuns, falsely claiming that they were refusing to move. Not so. They are following their vows of obedience.

When Rebecca Trounson of the L.A. Times asked Sister Abigail of St. Mary’s Retreat House why she offered the nuns a place to stay, she replied: “They are my sisters.” What a beautiful sentiment, and why wasn’t it shared by others? The Retreat House, however, is only a temporary refuge. After that, what? Credit must also be given to Ernie Salomon, a Jewish man who has worked relentlessly and almost single-handedly, with humanitarian caring and brotherhood, to help the Sisters. And no, at press time Denise D’Sant Angelo still had not turned over the donations meant for the Sisters. Isn’t it time for law and order to step in?

Chowder on a Misty Day: Down at the harbor, the feeble sun was sinking into the chill late afternoon mists. A crew was unloading nets of sea urchins at Navy Pier. Above us, voices floated down from the warm retreat of Brophy Bros. My usual watering hole on the breakwater is The Endless Summer Bar-Cafe, but instead we headed upstairs claim stools at Brophy’s and order cold Anchor Steam Beer and steaming bowls of clam chowder. “Penny Lane” lilted from the stereo and we gazed out on the forest of masts in the harbor. It was exactly the right place to be.

Tons of Snow: The Santa Barbara Zoo plans to tote in 40 tons of snow for kids to romp in on Sunday, December 9 as part of its Snow Leopard Festival. Sleds will be provided for kids 4 to 12-years-old only. (Don’t bring your own.) The zoo’s endangered snow leopard pair, Beau and Napamar, will also have mounds of cold stuff to play in, as will other inhabitants, including the elephants. (This I gotta see.) The exhibition opens to members only at 9 a.m., and to the public at 10 a.m. While there, visitors can learn how to help the endangered Asian species and donate to the Zoo’s Conservation Fund.

Barney’s Books: Remember books? Reading is something that seems to be dying out as fast as the glaciers. Nevertheless, I still plan to have weekly items about books I’m reading and want to tell you about.

I just recently got back from Botswana, Africa, where I happened to read an in-flight magazine article about Alexander McCall Smith’s series. He writes about a woman detective who operates The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana, which is located just north of South Africa. Smith, a Scot by birth, writes about a delightful, pleasingly plump woman named Precious Ramotswe. Back home, I prowled the lower floor at Borders downtown, helped by a clerk who, as coincidence would have it, lived in Maun, Botswana, for a few years. Maun is a tiny town in the middle of the wilderness, which safari-bound folks fly into from Johannesburg, South Africa, then out again on single-engine planes.

Then, an old friend I ran into said he and his wife were heading for the safari country there next year. Friends who hang around Vices & Spices coffee shop say they’ve happily read Smith’s series about Ramotswe and her No. 1 Detective Agency. My sister read the book in one evening.

So I bought the soft cover version of Smith’s first book of the series and couldn’t put it down. Ramotswe has had difficulty and sadness in her life, including an unfortunate marriage to a rogue and the loss of her unborn child. But this woman has spirit and savvy and I badly wanted to meet and know her – the sad part being that she only exists on pages. I recommend that you start with the first book, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. You’ll also learn something about life in Botswana. I’m passing my copy on to my mother-in-law, Vivian De Lapa. She’s a great reader. I hope she enjoys it and that you do too.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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