Overnight Suor Christina, a.k.a. “Sister Christina,” has become a world-wide sensation after winning the hearts of the judges and audience on the Italian version of the reality television show “The Voice.” When asked about why she auditioned for this television show, she replied, “I came to the show because I have a gift and I want to share that gift with others. I came here to evangelize.”
Many say that Sister Cristina is one of the wonderful effects of the new tone established during the first year of the papacy of Pope Francis. Inspired by the pope, she expressed how the Holy Father told us “to come out of our convents and spread the Word of God.” Like Pope Francis, Sister Christina uses popular means to speak to the faithful, and her influence has been tremendous. Her tattooed-covered coach, the Italian rapper J-Ax, remarked, “If I had found you at Mass I would always be in church.”
This new evangelization did not just begin with Pope Francis. The newly canonized St. John XXIII only 100 days into his pontificate opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962 with the idea of “aggiornamento,” or “bringing up to date.” In essence, the council expressed that the church should be more pastoral. This word “pastoral” takes us to the heart of Vatican Il.
“Pastoral” is not a new word but to the council it signified that the church had to be more modern. The commission to the apostles by Jesus Christ was to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that Christ had commanded them. Therefore, the Church, including all of us disciples, needs to be more necessarily outward-looking and not primarily introspective. In essence, each one of us must become an indomitable adventurer in new fields.
Cardinal Montini, later Pope Paul VI, said in a speech near the end of the first session of the council that “the church is not so much a society founded by Christ, as Christ himself using us as his instruments to bring salvation to mankind.” St. John Paul II, who had been an actor, had a presence before the cameras that enthralled millions including Catholics and non-Catholics, young and old, as he evangelized by traveling to all corners of the globe.
Reflecting on the Christian faith, Pope Benedict XVI insisted, “Our faith is always new and every young. The vitality of the faith must be constantly renewed. But this can only come from the strength of people who have deep roots in God.”
When the judges of “The Voice” had swung their chairs around after hearing Sister Christian for the first time, they were visibly startled to see a Catholic nun in full habit singing her own soulful rendition of Alicia Keyes’ “No One.” What the judges stared at in shock was a religious sister attired a plain black habit with a large solid crucifix hanging from her neck, and wearing comfortable, flat black shoes. Sister Christina Scuccia is 25 years old and a member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family of Milan. She is Sicilian by birth, born in Comiso in the province of Ragusa. In total disbelief one of the judges, Raffaella Carra, first asked her if she was a real nun. Sister Christina responded joyfully, “I am truly, truly a sister.” Then, Carra asked her what the Vatican thinks about her going on this television show. She answered half-jokingly, “I am waiting for a call from the pope.”
Sister Christina has given only one interview so far and during it she said, “My dream was always to be a singer. The Lord has made use of my wish to call me to him and is taking me to realize my dream in a way that I could have never imagined.” When not rehearsing, Suor Christina returns to her convent in Milan.
Whoopi Goldberg, who played a singing nun in the movie “Sister Act,” tweeted about Sister Christina’s performance on “The Voice” as, “if you really want to see a real life Sister Act, tune in.”
Sister Christina takes seriously the charism of her order to evangelize. She realizes that she is an instrument in God’s hand to bring people to God. The foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, St. Angela Merici, instructed her sisters, “In fulfillment of your duties, let your intentions be so pure that you reject from your actions any other motive than the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
As to being a singing star, Sister Christina is more interested in bringing God to others. She says this is the reason she is on the stage singing and dancing. As to her talent, Alicia Keys wrote on her Facebook page a tribute to the nun: “Now, THAT’S what beautiful, pure energy looks like!”
Many criticize that the church is out of touch and losing faithful, but Sister Christina is bringing Catholicism to the masses by means of television and the computer. As Catholics, we are all called to participate in the missionary dimension of our faith, which is to go out and evangelize. This is what Sister Christina is doing by bringing a spark of love and joy to the world singing and evangelizing in a very unique and special way.
One of the judges on “The Voice” said, “I believe in God and I think to bring God to something like this is something that is really beautiful. It is missing today, this spiritual dimension.” Sing it, Sister Christina!
Father Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Norristown.