Saturday, December 11, 2010



When my wife Susan and I were at the Irish Books, Arts, and Music Celebration (IBAM!) at the Irish American Heritage Center in November promoting my books, we had the pleasure of being seated adjacent to Vicki Quade. You might not know Vicki’s name, but at least some of you are doubtless familiar with her work, and those of you who aren’t should be. Vicki, who grew up on the south side, attending St. Albert the Great grade school and Queen of Peace High School, is approximately my vintage, and is the writer and producer of a number of one woman plays about nuns (or, more properly, sisters. As I understand it, a nun is by definition cloistered. So the people we see and interact with are sisters, not nuns. If I am wrong on this, I am sure one of my sister friends will correct me. But it doesn’t matter much; in practice, we refer to sisters, along with nuns, as “nuns.” I may do so myself in this blog if I don’t catch myself.), including

--Late Night Catechism (the original, which she did with her partner Maripat Donovan)

--Put the Nuns in Charge

--Sunday School Cinema

--Saints and Sinners, and

--Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night
(obviously the Christmas show.)

These shows, which started here in Chicago, are now done throughout the country.

I first saw Late Night Catechism years ago. I was very reluctant to attend, thinking that it was another one of those lame-brained, ill-fated attempts at “humor” that depict the Catholic Church as hopelessly silly and the nuns as its sadistic agents of mind control, determined to beat the benighted doctrines of their Church into their hapless charges by any means necessary. Having been taught by Springfield Dominicans and having had the privilege of having befriended sisters of several orders throughout my life, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the sisters and boundless gratitude for what they have done for me, my friends, and all of God’s children throughout the world. They are truly His hands and arms on earth. And I say this even though I am very familiar with being on the receiving end of the especially effective means of discipline and persuasion they employed when I was a kid. In none of those cases, by the way, did I not deserve whatever I received and in all of those cases I remain indebted to the sisters for the lessons they taught me.

So when my wife suggested that we go to Late Night Catechism, I protested strongly, but went along to preserve peace in the family. And thank God I did. The show was laugh out loud, continually hilarious while still being respectful. It was poignant without being sappy. It was a learning experience without being pedantic. It was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. That the actress who played the sister (I don’t recall if it was Vicki, Maripat, or one of the several actresses Vicki now casts as the sister.) bore a dead ringer resemblance to the sainted Sister Monica (See the dedication page of my book, The Chairman’s Challenge, A Continuing Novel of Big City Politics.) of ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s St. Walter fame didn’t hurt either. It was a great show all around. Sisters and priests who have seen it have invariably (almost—some people have absolutely no sense of humor) loved it. And after the show, a completely voluntary collection was, and still is, taken up to benefit retired sisters. Over the years, Vicki has raised hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for retired sisters of several orders.

Shortly after seeing Late Night Cathechism, we went to a show that advertised itself as, roughly, from the people who brought you Late Night Catechism. It was called Sister Bernie’s Bingo Bash and it was an abomination before God and man. I was so surprised by the malodorousness of this piece of tripe that I challenged the cast after the show, asking them how they could possibly have done something so awful after something as wonderful as Late Night Catechism. They hemmed and hawed when I asked exactly how the two shows were related. Vicki told me at IBAM (years after my having seen Sister Bernie) that the woman who put that show together had once worked briefly in Late Night Catechism and that was her basis for claiming the connection. Vicki tried, but failed, to get her to stop claiming that the two plays were associated. But I digress.

After meeting Vicki at IBAM, she asked us to go to Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night at the Royal George Theater on Halsted just north of North Avenue. We went on Friday night, 12/10. While I didn’t like it as much as Late Night Catechism (maybe because of my feelings about Christmas, as currently celebrated; that annual screed is coming), it was still a delightful show and evening.

Vicki’s shows run continually at the Royal George; Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night is obviously seasonal, but the others alternate evenings. More information can be obtained at Vicki’s site, Also note her Have Nuns Will Travel feature: her troupe does shows for charity virtually anywhere within reason, so if you have a church (The show or the humor is not exclusive to Catholics; she’s done the show at Protestant churches; whether she’s been to a synagogue yet, I don’t know.), school, or business function that could use some great entertainment, contact her through the website. I would like to get her out here to Naperville to one of the several parishes we attend (Yes, we are nomadic Catholics.) and have to get working on that. I am especially eager to see Put the Nuns in Charge.

In any case, do yourself a favor and see one of Vicki’s shows. You’ll enjoy it, especially, but not only, if you are a Catholic, educated by the sisters.

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