ABERDEEN, Scotland — A bishop has likened the arrival of American nuns in his Scottish diocese to a Western, with the cavalry coming over the hill at the moment Catholics thought they were going to be scalped.
In a homily during an Aug. 24 Mass to welcome the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia into the Diocese of Aberdeen, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said the nuns were rescuing the local church in the same way that the U.S. Cavalry saved cowboys from Indians in the movies.
"I'm old enough to remember Westerns," said Bishop Gilbert. "And here we are, wagons drawn close, feeling our last days have come and our scalps about to be removed, when -- lo and behold -- the U.S. 7th Cavalry appears over the hill.
"Here they are, armed not with carbines but rosaries," the bishop said. "And we can breathe again."
The four nuns were sent to the diocese to help improve Catholic education and faith formation, in keeping with the charism of their order. The new community, based in a former convent in Elgin left vacant by the departure of the Sisters of Mercy in 2010, will be the second European convent of the 300-strong Tennessee-based order known as the Nashville Dominicans.
In his homily at the convent, Bishop Gilbert paid tribute to Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice of St. Louis, who helped to pay for the community to be established.
He said he met Bishop Rice in Rome last September and told him he had asked the Nashville Dominicans to found a community in his diocese.
Bishop Gilbert said: "Then he astonished me, 'Do you know, ever since I heard that convent was empty, I've been praying the Nashville Dominicans would fill it' (said Bishop Rice). And he went on, 'If you want to re-evangelize Scotland, they're the people who'll do it. I'll write to the prioress general, tell her she must accept your invitation, and I'll pay the fare over for one of the sisters.' All of which he did."
Bishop Gilbert said that after two visits by the nuns with their prioress general, Mother Anne Marie Karlovic, finally "our U.S. cavalry galloped over the hill, or more precisely descended from airplanes" on the Aug. 20 feast of St Bernard.
Writing in "Light of the North," the magazine of the Diocese of Aberdeen, the Nashville Dominicans sent a message to local Catholics announcing their arrival.
"We are very mindful of the fact that our four sisters join other wonderful religious women already serving in the Diocese of Aberdeen, as well as countless religious communities who have worked and sacrificed in centuries past for the church in Scotland," the sisters wrote.
"This is truly moving for us to realize, and we thank Bishop Hugh for allowing us this opportunity to serve," they added.
The Nashville Dominicans were founded in 1860; it is one of the youngest and fastest-growing communities of religious sisters in the U.S.
The sisters operate more than 30 schools in 19 U.S. dioceses and archdioceses and have communities in Italy, Canada and Australia.