Sister Mary

A little woman, she holds down her wispy gray hair with a white sweat band, a silver cross pinned over her right ear. She wears baggy black pants and a gray hoodie. Wooden beads loop down from under the hoodie and tuck into her bulging pants pocket. The loop sways and clacks with every scurried step.

She says in Touch, “I haven’t been raped or abused since I was 16,” the year she entered religious life. 22 years after that in 1959, with the permission of her order, she opened Saint Rita’s shelter for abused women and their children, named after the patron saint of abuse victims.

By the close of Touch in 2008, she has managed this 30-woman center, a converted warehouse, for 49 years. Almost three thousand women have graduated, as she calls it, from her shelter. Hundreds of graduates work as volunteers, from the center’s emergency drivers to its lawyers and accountants.

Maybe in the next book, Traffic, there should be one heck of a party, when St. Rita’s turns 50—and Sister Mary turns 88.