Mother Mary Taylor

Followed her heart to lead a religious life in Florence

Melinda Gallo
January 13, 2011

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 ( 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 school.


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.'



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