Notes from WATERtea:

“Rebel Hearts”

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Watch the video recording.

WATER thanks Karol Schulkin, Rosa Manriquez, and Lenore Dowling of the Immaculate Heart Community for offering their insights into the Community’s history, current activities, and future.

These notes are not meant to be verbatim but to give a flavor for the conversation. Note that the discussion continued after the formal close at one hour, but we have preserved it because the content was so rich and inspiriting.

Karol Schulkin is the current President of the Immaculate Heart Community, which she joined shortly after the Immaculate Heart of Mary group split into a canonical community and a lay community.

  1. The Immaculate Heart Community currently has 110 members: 96 women, 14 men. It is an ecumenical community, with both Catholic and Protestant members. Karol herself is Protestant. She visited the IHC not knowing that they were in the news, just feeling very called to serve in community. The IHC is currently blessed with 4 people, women and men, in various stages of discernment.
  2. The IHC recently developed a new logo for the community: a red heart, open, containing the words “the door to the world.” Our heart is the door to the world, which needs to be open, sometimes broken open, sometimes opened by our choosing. They have recently written a Spirit Document to replace earlier decisions. They have continued to learn better how to lead together, learn together, let go and stand up and be public. They often do these things through artistic expression, a lasting influence of renowned artist Sr. Corita Kent who was part of the original community.

Rosa Manriquez is a member of the Immaculate Heart Community as well as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.

  1. Rosa was educated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart from the time she was a child through college. One of her daughters got a tattoo of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on her forearm as a Mother’s Day gift, because the Immaculate Heart is so important to Rosa.
  2. The Sisters taught Rosa about the primacy of conscience and following the Holy Spirit – walking your talk, despite the challenges. The Sisters illustrated this during their conflict with Cardinal James Francis Aloysius McIntyre of Los Angeles. They taught her to speak her truth with love and with the hope that as a community “we will go where God wants us to go.”
  3. She learned that an institution has a very dark shadow when Queen of Angels School, her school in Los Angeles was closed. The school was in a low-income area and was racially integrated. The girls were very spirited and appreciative of each other. They got a good education that could lead them to college and to greater hope and freedom. Silencing the women who ran the school sent a very strong message, demonstrating what the idolization of power can do. Nevertheless, she has continued to follow the Spirit, and has become an ordained Roman Catholic woman priest.

Lenore Dowling:

  1. At 19, she wanted to be a nun like the Immaculate Heart Sisters who had educated her. She first taught at Queen of Angels School for 5 years, and was missioned to teach before she was fully credentialed. This was later a sticking point with the Cardinal when the Immaculate Heart Community wanted to withdraw nuns to complete their education before teaching. Eventually, in 1958, she began teaching at Immaculate Heart High School where she lived in the Motherhouse with other nuns. They studied documents of Vatican II, studied theology, and decided together in community how to meet the challenge to become part of the modern world. Hence, they ran afoul of the institutional church. She left the canonical group and became part of the Immaculate Heart Community.
  2. Currently, the IHC has 4 commissions: women’s rights, racism/antiracism, environment, and immigration and refugees. These concerns are intersectional. She has remained in touch with the Immaculate Heart Sisters who remained canonical; there are only three of them still living.

Questions and Answers/Discussion:

  1. One participant was in ministry in Southern California at that time, and the teaching duties of the Immaculate Heart Community were foisted on her community when the Cardinal fired them. She refused to take on those teaching duties, but other sisters did. She felt ashamed of the disparaging comments that some made about the Immaculate Hearts. Thank you to Lenore and all the Immaculate Hearts for their witness.
  2. Were there other religious sisters later who were in similar situations with the hierarchy and left and formed their own noncanonical groups?
    a. Karol: Not aware of any other community though there may be some. Individual people have sought this out, some have joined with IHC.
    b. Mary: The Vatican changed policy to limit the autonomy of canonical groups and prevent them from leaving and taking their assets with them.
  3. One colleague was not aware of this chapter of Catholic history. This is a great example of nonviolent struggle, being nimble in the face of oppressive institutions.
  4. Rosa was shell-shocked when Queen of Angels was closed (“incorporated” with Bishop Conaty High School). She didn’t want to go to Bishop Conaty High School, but she kept getting denied admission to other schools despite being a great student. She nearly got admitted to one school, until they found out she was coming from Queen of Angels. She ultimately went to St. Matthias for two years, which was a strict, abusive environment. It is important to speak up to question authority. A religion is not true if it cannot be questioned – it’s a cult.
  5. How was the IHC able to keep their property?
    a. Lenore: We had “sister institutions” which became separately incorporated with separate boards. This protected our assets.
  6. One colleague celebrated the foresight to document in film the women of Immaculate Heart at this time. When other communities made changes mandated by Vatican II, they did not get the same blowback from the Cardinal allegedly because he had a grudge against the Immaculate Heart Community.
  7. Did some women leave the church as well as the canonical order?
  8. Lenore: Yes. Some left the order but remained Catholic.
  9. What does it take for us to join together in safeguarding the truth and justice of the faith?a. Rosa: Being on the outside looking in on canonical groups, one thing is changing one’s perception with humility. Humility means that no one is greater than me; no one is lesser than me. The people in the hierarchy are our siblings in Christ, baptized in the same baptism, so we ought to talk to each other as siblings. For example, Rosa’s grandmother and her family were abused by the Catholic church. As a result, most of the family became Protestant. Rosa asked her grandmother why she stayed in the church after all the harm it had done to her. Her grandmother said that that was not the church, it was just some men.
  10. How would you summarize the Immaculate Heart story?a. Mary E. Hunt’s summary: “A triumph of autonomy over authority, a triumph of spirit over law, an example of what can be done when the roots of justice work are deep and shared, and when the spirituality is both joyful and serious, and the people are committed and fulfilled.”

    b. “The prophetic over the profitable,” said one participant.

    c. Karol: “Joy is essential.”

    d. The root of the word “immaculate” means “untarnished by fear.” “We are called to be untarnished by fear.”

    e. Lenore: “The persistence of grace in a community that is rooted in justice and spirituality, bound by love and their mission to work for the common good.”

    f. Jean: “Something about beauty and art. The symbolic.”

  11. Kirkridge has the “Power Up” serigraph and WATER has “Who Came Out of the Water” by Corita Kent, proof that her inspiration continues!
  12. IHC has been involved in a number of collaborative ministries including Housing Works in LA.
  13. Immaculate Heart pioneers include Pat Reif, Helen Kelley, and, of course, Anita Caspary.


            In addition to the film “Rebel Hearts,” there are several important books.

  1. Caspary, Anita M. Witness to Integrity: The Crisis of the Immaculate Heart Community of California. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003.
  2. Kent, Corita. Footnotes and Headlines: A Play-Pray Book. Herder and Herder, 1967.
  3. Kent, Corita and Jan Steward. Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit. NY: Skyhorse Publishing Co, 2008 (earlier publication, Bantam Books, 1992).
  4. Huckaby, Gerald and Corita Kent. City, Uncity (Poems by Gerald Huckaby and Pages by Corita Kent). Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1969.
  5. Pacatte, Rose. Corita Kent: Gentle Revolutionary of the Heart (People of God). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2017.