Bill Murray made a name for himself as a comedian on TV in Saturday Night Live and in movies like Ghostbusters and Caddyshack. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2004 for his role in Lost in Translation.

But lately he is being upstaged by his older sister, Nancy, who has given 15 performances already this year of her one woman show based on the life of St. Catherine of Siena. Bill Murray’s sister is also known as Sister Nancy, a nun who entered religious life at the Dominican Community in Adrian, Mich., at the age of 18. That was over 40 years ago.

On Sunday, April 25, she will don her 15th-century nun’s costume and portray St. Catherine as well as 13 other characters involved in the saint’s life, including Catherine’s family members, a priest and even a pope. The performance will begin at 2 p.m. at St. Catherine/St. Lucy Catholic Church.

When asked what it is like being introduced as her famous brother’s sister, Sr. Nancy replied, “Billy’s wife once said that her husband and I are the most alike among the nine children in our family. We’re both extroverts, and we’re both a little crazy.”

If Sr. Nancy doesn’t sound like a typical nun, she would respond by asking what a typical nun looks like these days. She said that if people think of nuns in terms of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music or the nuns in full garb in Whoopie Goldberg’s Sister Act, their conceptions are old fashioned. The Chicago Tribune reported that a sign at the entrance to the community offices in Adrian includes the words, “Nuclear-Free Zone.”

That’s one reason why Sr. Nancy identifies with Catherine, even though the saint lived over 600 years ago.

“Catherine of Siena is a woman for our times,” she declared.

Murray went on to say that there were many parallels between the 14th century and our own. In the 1300s the church was fragmented by scandal. There were actually two popes, one living in Avignon and the other in Rome. Now the scandal is about clergy misconduct.

Sr. Nancy then quoted Catherine as saying, “I knew my nature was fire.” If that doesn’t sound like something your typical saint would say … well … maybe that caricature is old fashioned, too. Although without formal education, Catherine of Siena had the pluck to confront kings and popes. She sought to bring people who were divided by ambition together in faith. Her writings are considered to be classics of medieval literature. She talked about walking the road of life with one step for service to God and the other for service to others.

Nancy Murray summed up what she is trying to do with her one woman show by saying, “The church is in a time of struggle. The flock has been scattered and people are confused and in doubt.

“As I travel around, I see that people are hungry for a voice of truth, like Catherine’s, something that makes faith relevant. I feel that she has a voice that says, ‘Don’t give up on the Church. Believe in it, its struggles and pain, and be a part of making a difference.'”

St. Catherine of Siena: A Woman for Our Times

  • April 28 at 2 p.m.
  • St. Catherine/St. Lucy Catholic Church, 38 N. Austin
  • 708-386-8077

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...