Fearless Females 10 March 2016: The Role of Religion in Female Ancestors’ Lives

The prompt for 10 March asks about the role of religion and faith in the lives of our female ancestors.

March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]
Both of my grandmothers had a deep faith in God. Both were baptized in the Greek Catholic rite. After coming to America, my dad’s mother married in the Greek Catholic church but then followed her husband to the Roman Catholic church. My maternal grandmother attending the Greek Catholic church in America but then switched to Russian Orthodox. By doing so, she was then able to continue to observe Christmas on January 7th].

My dad’s sister was a Roman Catholic nun–she spent most of her adult life in a convent in Victoria, Texas. Our family always looked forward to her visits–usually at Christmas and for a few weeks in the summer. Here is a photograph of her once she took the name of Sr. M. Camilla.

Sr. Mary Camilla Alzo

Most people wouldn’t think it was “cool” to have a nun in the family.  For anyone who attended Catholic school, nuns were the teachers you typically revered, but mostly feared. Dressed in their long habits and stiff veils, with rosary beads in one hand and a long yardstick in the other, they could intimidate even the most pious child.  For me, however, my father’s sister, a Roman Catholic nun, was one of the coolest people I knew.  She didn’t scare me in the least.  In fact, I admired, respected, and simply adored her.

Born on January 7, 1918 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, a young Anna Alzo knew from the time she was 13 that she wanted to follow this vocation.  Her father, John, was Roman Catholic, but her mother, Elizabeth, had been baptized Greek Catholic, but followed her husband to the Roman Catholic faith upon marriage.

On June 25, 1934, at age 16, Anna followed her calling and entered Nazareth convent in Victoria, Texas to begin her journey as a sister in the order of the Blessed Sacrament of the Incarnate Word.  She chose the name Sister Mary Camilla.  Mostly everyone just called her “Sister Camilla.”  I called her “Auntie.” 

My Auntie died in 1986 in Victoria, Texas. I miss her very much.

You can read more about my Auntie’s story in a post I wrote for The Catholic Gene blog back in October 2011.

[Photo from the Alzo family collection. Held for private use by Lisa A.Alzo, Ithaca, New York. Used with permission]

Copyright, 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All rights reserved


4 thoughts on “Fearless Females 10 March 2016: The Role of Religion in Female Ancestors’ Lives

  1. Very nice story & wonderful photo. Growing up we had Carmelite nuns teach us. Once a year we went to their convent on the Hudson River. It was a beautiful, peaceful place. Your post is a wonderful tribute to your aunt.

  2. 16 seems so young but it is amazing that she knew her calling at 13 and was able to spend her life doing what she was called to do. That is a lovely photo.

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