Hey, I am Jo Piazza. I was inspired to write the book "If Nuns Ruled the World" while writing my masters thesis at NYU about how nuns use social media.

I was utterly charmed by how bad-ass nuns could be. The women I chronicle in my book are brave, inspiring and completely shatter the stereotypes most of us have about nuns.

Sister Megan Rice is currently serving time in prison for breaking into a nuclear arms facility; Sister Simone Campbell rallied against Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget plan and income inequality; Sister Nora Nash confronted Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein over excessive executive pay during the recession; Sister Joan Dawber provides housing and rehabilitation for modern day sex and labor slaves.

Sister Jeannine Gramick fights for gay and lesbian rights. Sister Madonna Buder has competed in more than 40 Iron Man races (she's in her eighties). Sister Donna Quinn is adamant about a woman's right to autonomy over her own body in the fight over whether a woman can have an abortion.

I wrote this book because these women deserve to have their stories told. I think you will find them as incredible as I do.

You can check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/If-Nuns-Ruled-World-Sisters/dp/1497601908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409672131&sr=8-1&keywords=If+Nuns+Ruled+the+World

And here is proof I am me. I'm in Macedonia where I just bought honey from some amazing Orthodox nuns who live high up in the mountains.


Hey guys:

That was an incredible AMA. I had such a blast. Please stay in touch and ask me anything else on Twitter @jopiazza. I am always happy to chat nuns, pizza and super heroes. It's getting late in the Balkans and if I don't get in a run Sister Madonna will be incredibly disappointed in me.

Have a wonderful day and hug a nun if you come across one. They deserve it.

Comments: 78 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

dragonfly19939 karma

why nuns?

JoPiazza128 karma

I went to Catholic high school. I have always been fascinated by Catholic sisters. I wanted to understand what makes them tick. I feel like nuns are such an enigma to most of us.

I didn't know what I was getting into when I started reporting this book. I certainly didn't know I was going to find these ten brave and inspiring women who shattered every single stereotype I had about nuns. I didn't think that I would come out of this calling these women my friends.

I also think these are women who deserve to have their stories told. The good they do often gets overshadowed by the negative news about the Church.

Frajer7 karma

why did these women decide to become nuns?

JoPiazza1211 karma

That was one of my first questions. The answer is that they believe they didn't decide, that it was decided for them.

I try to explain what each of their callings felt like in each of their chapters.

The other answer is that these are women who truly wanted to dedicate their lives to service and this was one way for them to do it, especially back in the fifties and sixties.

skarface66 karma

Why not pick nuns that are in good standing with the Catholic Church? Why not look up some Orthodox nuns? Why pick nuns that are so different from their confreres?

JoPiazza126 karma

I want to stress that I just kept following the reporting with this book. One nun led to another nun. I took recommendations from all of the nuns I met. I reached out to more conservative orders so many times and they did not get back to me. I knew that I wanted to focus on Catholic nuns and nuns in the United States so that narrowed the scale. I am working to create a space on my web site to tell more nun stories and I hope to include nuns of all stripes.

JoPiazza122 karma

One more thing. I don't think a lot of them are different from mainstream Catholics. The nuns I profiled do reflect the values of a lot of American Catholics today.

skarface62 karma

Thanks for the reply!

Have you tried Imagine Sisters? They're not nuns, but they sure know a lot of them and are interested in promoting vocations.

JoPiazza123 karma

I want to work on something with them. I just got their contact info today and I am going to reach out shortly.

What is amazing is that I received a lot of hate on Twitter earlier today, but I don't think anyone reached out to actually talk to me (I invited them to). I think that is cowardly. I am open to hearing different points of view and reporting on them.

JoyfulStingray3 karma

Did these ladies have these strong beliefs for their causes before they became nuns or did they develop sometime after?

JoPiazza127 karma

It varies. Sister Megan always felt very strongly about fighting against nuclear weapons. I was with her during her trial for breaking into the nuclear weapons facility. She is in prison right now (also in her eighties). But it grew stronger when she was a sister. A lot of the women grew into their cause and their activism as sisters.

I really believe that a contemplative life, like the ones they lead, helps a person discover their true passions. That was one of the lessons I learned from them.

beernerd3 karma

When they make your book into a movie, which actresses would you want to portray the nuns?

JoPiazza123 karma

Mariska Hargitay for sure. Helen Mirren, Dame Judy Dench, Meryl Streep and maybe Betty White, because who doesn't want Betty White to be in everything.

cornponious3 karma

How many Rush albums do you own?

JoPiazza128 karma

Grace Under Pressure and Caress of Steel

BeWithMe2 karma

I noticed you highlight a few nuns whose act of bravery or inspiration is gravely opposed to the Church. So I take it you're not Catholic anymore? If not, why nuns? If so, why celebrate heresy?

JoPiazza120 karma

Why do you think what they are doing is heresy?

BeWithMe2 karma

To oppose Church doctrine as a Catholic is to commit heresy. Or were these nuns not Catholic?

JoPiazza120 karma

They're Catholic. Not all of them oppose Church doctrine. And it is a gray area to say they are heretics. None of them have been excommunicated.

anomalylemony2 karma

Any unknown facts about nuns that is worth sharing? 3 books for you! /u/changetip

JoPiazza123 karma

So many. I think what is the most surprising is how much like everyone else these nuns are. They do yoga. They have ridden on motorcycles. They love swimming in the ocean. They love a glass of red wine sometimes.

They are also so incredibly brave. In the face of persecution from the Vatican none of these women have backed down. They are truly heroes. I think all of that is surprising.

bblasnalus2 karma

Are you a practicing Catholic? Were you ever? Not all Catholic School students are or do practice.

If you rejected the faith is this Progresive effort of yours to get others to leave it as you have? What you call brave others call heresy and/or dangerous to the souls of those you influence negatively.

JoPiazza121 karma

My dad was Catholic and my mom was Lutheran. I was raised as a holiday Catholic and various members of my family were religious in different ways. I didn't leave the Church with any anger. I would call myself a very spiritual person. I didn't go into writing this book with any kind of agenda against the Church. I genuinely reported exactly what I learned.

Personally I do find issue with the Catholic Church's official stance on women becoming priests, birth control and gay rights.

But, I understand that people call these things heresy and I am always happy to hear their point of view. I want to be challenged on what I have written. I welcome an open discussion about it.

JessicaPlautz1 karma

What is the one fact you learned about nuns (or about any one of the nuns you interviewed) that most surprised you?

JoPiazza1210 karma

They tell really amazing cheesy jokes and they love puns as much as I do.

I was also shocked to meet Sister Jeannine who fights for gay rights and Sister Donna Quinn who volunteered as an escort at an abortion clinic.

I was also blown away by their bravery.

2-46011 karma

Why does your flair read "Yahoo travel"?

(I could ask an author any question and I ask this? What's wrong with me?)

JoPiazza122 karma

What is wrong with you? Kidding. I am the managing editor of Yahoo Travel. So I am actually in Macedonia right now. The last AMA I did was for that. Reddit is fixing now.

iNickMidget1 karma

If you were to create a nun based super hero, what would her name be, what powers would she have, and who would her arch nemesis be?

JoPiazza124 karma

Her name would be Black Frock and she would be able to cure people with her touch, turn one loaf of bread into a feast and fly...obviously fly.

Qjell1 karma

I haven't had much experience with nuns throughout my life so i have those common stereotypes when i see them i suppose. Could you tell us a story about these nuns that touched you, or changed the way you think about them?

JoPiazza122 karma

What are your stereotypes?

Qjell1 karma

They always seemed very strict to me, but maybe its the nun outfit.

JoPiazza121 karma

The habit doesn't exactly promote the warm and fuzzies does it? The nuns I met were so warm and caring. They actually give great hugs. Seriously great. They weren't strict at all. I really can't say enough how funny they were. They were also constantly fussing over me. One of them tried to set me up on a date.

two_off1 karma

What's your next writing project going to focus on?

JoPiazza124 karma

I actually have a novel coming out next May that focuses on the Tech World. I am working on a longer non-fiction project that could turn into a book about Muslim women. I am also working on a project about the nineteenth century lady explorer Jane Digby.

Jon-Osterman1 karma

Mr. Piazza, if I were to keep cracking puns on the subject of your book, would you say you'd have nun of it?

JoPiazza121 karma

I would say it was becoming a bad habit.

Jon-Osterman1 karma

Touché. I'm afraid I really had a black and white perspective on it.

JoPiazza121 karma

Well that's just nunsense.

officialjmichael1 karma

Hi there. This is a very interesting idea for a book. I would like to ask how the Catholic community and church has treated these various woman? Have they been kicked out of the church but still call themselves nuns? I imagine these things have been covered in the book, but wanted to ask anyways. This is my first question and first time to use Reddit!

JoPiazza122 karma

Welcome to Reddit! The response varies. These nuns are incredibly progressive. There are nuns out there who are still very conservative and they also do incredible work. I just didn't get the chance to work with those women, even though I would have liked to.

The Vatican has begun an investigation of American nuns because of their progressive actions. They have sent warning letters to the orders of some of the nuns. The women profiled in my book have not been excommunicated.

shortcrazy1 karma

Have you read The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens and, if so, what did you think of it? If not, what are you're thoughts on "Mother" Teresa?

JoPiazza121 karma

I did and I am a huge Hitchens fan. That said, I think Missionary Position was unfair to Mother Teresa. I am actually in the Balkans right now where she was born and it is fitting that I am surrounded by icons of her.

She did incredible work and I really think that Hitchens minimized that. What I do agree with is that the Church used Mother Teresa as a prop for public relations purposes...but let's be honest all religions are the best at propaganda. I don't necessarily think that she was complicit in it. I genuinely believe that she just wanted to be of service to people.

But it is a beautifully written essay.

iamwolf7771 karma

Was it anything like sister act II?

JoPiazza123 karma

There is a lot of singing. One of the nuns in my book knows all of the words to Walk Like an Egyptian.

ProbablyNotAGoodSign1 karma

Is Sister Madonna Buder still competing in her 80s? 40 Iron Mans is pretty impressive over any lifespan.

JoPiazza123 karma

She sure is. I think she might have had a race this past weekend..but don't quote me on that. She was seriously injured about six months ago, but I know that she is back up and running now. She only started running at all in her late 40ties. She actually inspired me to run a half marathon (very slowly).

ProbablyNotAGoodSign2 karma

That's awesome!

JoPiazza123 karma

I know, right! I actually don't enjoy running but she taught me all kinds of tricks. She makes up haikus in her head while she runs. So I do that too...I make really bad haikus.

ProbablyNotAGoodSign1 karma

I'm a former semi-professional runner (ran the half-marathon for the U.S. T&F team at the World University Games in '99), and I don't really enjoy running much anymore. Maybe, I'll give the haiku trick a try.

JoPiazza122 karma

Try it!

LaserCrystalWolf1 karma

What's your favorite pizza?

JoPiazza123 karma

thin crust pepperoni

TheRealMi1 karma

How did people react when you said you wanted to document these women's stories? Any negative remarks regarding these women breaking stereotypes and boundaries?

JoPiazza122 karma

There has been a surprising amount of negative feedback, a lot of it on Twitter so far. Some people think that I am attacking more conservative sisters when that isn't the case at all. I am just celebrating these stories. I am also more than happy to celebrate the work of all Catholic nuns. They all deserve it. These just happen to be the women that I worked with.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding nuns who fight for gay rights and women's rights. I find that incredibly upsetting in this day and age. My number one goal is to tell the stories of these women who I believe are incredibly brave.

But, any time you talk about a religious topic you are bound to make a few enemies.

Skika1 karma

Have you seen the movie "Nude Nuns With Big Guns?"

If so, how do these nuns compare?

JoPiazza123 karma

You know that showed up in my NetFlix queue once...but I was really deep into Breaking Bad at the time so I didn't get a chance to watch it.