From The New York Times:
Before she entered the Community of St. John Baptist in 2012, Claudette Monica Powell performed in an acoustic rock duo and an improv comedy troupe in Los Angeles. Now she goes by Sister Monica Clare, sings in a church choir in Mendham Township, N.J., and posts matter-of-fact videos about convent life on TikTok.
“Most people have no idea that there are Episcopal nuns,” she said. On @nunsenseforthepeople, she answers questions about religious rituals (“What’s up with the ashes?”), posts animal videos and teaches her sizable audience about Episcopalian values like gender equality and inclusion. (Offline, she has marched in Black Lives Matter protests and showed her support for women’s rights.)
“I keep telling the other sisters, ‘Get on TikTok!’” said Sister Monica Clare, who at 56 is the youngest in her community. “‘If we’re hidden, we’re going to die out.’”
Her approach isn’t altogether novel: Nuns have appeared on screens nearly since the dawn of television. Mother Mary Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sister Helen Prejean and Corita Kent have all leveraged mass media to spread messages about their spiritual and political beliefs. In 2014, an Italian Ursuline nun named Cristina Scuccia won “The Voice” in Italy and got a record deal.
And, of course, there have been plenty of fictional nuns who have captured the public’s imagination. Sister Monica Clare said her first exposure to nuns came in the form of Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story.”
But so far, visibility has done little to draw in new members. In 2019, 87 percent of Christian women and men committed to a religious life were 60 and older, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. TikTok, which last year announced it had an active global user base of one billion, could be a new frontier for outreach.
On the platform, nuns capture special holiday meals (boiled prunes, fish baked with milk), pranks (jumping out from a box to surprise a sister, shouting “Hail Mary!”) and dances (with Jesus, with walkers). They ride lawn mowers and play basketball. They participate in viral trends (lip syncing, skin care routines, day in-the-life montages) and reinterpret popular songs to make them about Christianity.
In one video, a single-file line of sisters declare their preferences — morning or evening prayer? Advent or Lent? Saint Peter or Saint Paul? — to the beat of “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C. The video has been viewed more than 3.4 million times.