Mother Mary Taylor had always been attracted to
religious life, but didn’t make the decision to become a nun until she came to Florence.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Mary attended the Franciscan University of
Steubenville in Ohio to study English, and then switched to a double major
in theology and philosophy. She later earned a license in Sacred Theology from
the Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Centrale once she moved to Florence.
During her last year as an undergraduate, Mary studied
in Austria. She contemplated the religious life even more
seriously after meeting many people working at the university who were doing
just that. When the chaplain at the university there told Mary about the Sacred
Heart order in Florence, she decided to visit the city after graduation. The
Society of the Sacred Heart order interested her: it was founded in 1800 by a
French Catholic nun, Madeleine Sophie Barat, who was guided to assist in
rebuilding society by educating women.
The Sacred Heart order in Florence was exactly what Mary had been looking for: living a
religious life in a community while also educating youth. So, during that first
visit to the convent, Mary submitted her request to become a postulant to live
with the nuns.
Mary’s choice to enter the order in Florence would allow her not only to live the religious life
she had envisioned for herself, but to do so in the city where the Renaissance
was born-that unique time in history when humanity and Christianity came
together. What she appreciates in Florence is its perfect harmony: ‘In Florence, beauty is the human expression of spirituality as
well as the spiritual expression of humanity, which comes out in architecture
and art.’ Mary saw Beato Angelico’s paintings when she was a teenager, and when
she came to Florence the first time, she went to see them in San Marco.
After living with the nuns in Florence for several months, Mary’s request to be accepted
into the community was approved; she received her habit less than a year later,
in June 1995. In a private ceremony, she was first dressed in a wedding gown,
then clothed in a habit and white veil.
Her process of entering the order was quite lengthy.
Mary started out as a novice and completed two years of formation. At the end
of that time, she declared a consecration to God and took her vows of chastity,
poverty and obedience at a public ceremony called ‘the profession,’ in which
she received a black veil.
Mary continued her formation for another six years,
praying and working with the Sacred Heart order’s apostolate and teaching
youth, before she could take the order’s fourth vow. At her final profession,
she received a wedding ring and a silver cross.
The Institute of the Sacred Heart (www.SacroCuore.com)
in Florence is a private and state-accredited school that teaches
children from 3 to 19, many of whom are foreign students.
Besides living and
praying together, all the nuns work at the school in some capacity. Mother Mary
teaches English literature and religion, and is vice principal of the high
When Mary entered the order in November 1994, she was
one of the first Americans. Sixteen years later, the international order
comprises many Americans as well as Italians. Recently an American art student
working on her doctorate entered the order.
Mother Mary finds great joy in her life in the order
and is grateful for the initial attraction to Florence that led her to find her vocation, a strong community
of women, a home in the world and her passion to teach. As Mother Mary said
regarding her choice to come to Florence and become a nun, ‘You choose a life because you love it.’