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Every time you’re put on hold, you’re probably listening to a Catholic priest


Dean Drobot | Shutterstock

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 11/11/21

These 11 people are known for their legacies in science, the arts, or society -- but they also had a vocation to follow Christ exclusively.
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Since it’s Vocations Awareness Week, let’s take a look at some of the many nuns and priests who have contributed significantly to our world today.


Just about every Baroque composer tried his hand at sacred music, but for Antonio Vivaldi the laborious work of drawing melodies onto musical bars was part of his vocation. At the age of 15, Vivaldi began studying for the priesthood, and was ordained 10 years later. Since Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has become notorious for use as hold music, you are likely listening to his work when you’re waiting on the phone!

Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897-1929) was a concert pianist (trained at a NY conservatory) in Quebec City and a gifted composer prior to entering the order of the Religieuse de Jésus-Marie at the age of 24.

And a writer

Rose Hawthorne was the daughter of American literary legend Nathaniel Hawthorne, who one year before her birth published The Scarlet Letter. Rose grew up and married, and she and her husband both dedicated themselves to a literary career. Eventually, though, Rose converted to Catholicism, separated from her husband, and founded the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, Congregation of Saint Rose of Lima.

One of the inspirations of Alcoholics Anonymous

In AA’s early years, one of the key figures was a nun from Ohio named Sister Ignatia Gavin, S.C. (1889-1966). At St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, she helped Dr. Robert H. Smith, AA’s co-founder, to dispel the notion that alcoholism was a moral defect, rather than a spiritual, mental and physical disease.

The Big Bang

Many people know that Catholic teaching combines a correct understanding of the Bible with the science of creation. But some might not realize that the guy who came up with the Big Bang theory was a priest.

And more in the heavens

We also should mention these “lady computers,” four nuns who spent over a decade completing one of the greatest astronomy projects of the 20th century.

More scientists

And while we’re talking about hyper-smart scientists, how about this nun behind our understanding of DNA?

Or how about genetics or geology? Both fathers of those disciplines were priests. Blessed Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) was a Danish convert to Catholicism and a bishop, the father of geology whose work led to the fields of paleontology and crystallography and contributed significantly to the study of anatomy. He discovered how the circulatory system works, how muscles contract, where saliva comes from (the Stensen duct is named for him), and that the heart is a muscle. 

The science of genetics was basically invented by a Catholic monk, Gregor Mendel. He was born July 20, 1822, and died January 6, 1884. He was a meteorologist, mathematician, biologist, Augustinian friar and abbot.


Fra Angelico was a friar (that’s what the “Fra” means) but imagine what it would have been like to live in the monastery with him!

The Florentine nun Plautilla Nell had a difficult road to becoming an artist in her times, but she managed to do it anyway. Her self-taught style was once the highest regarded of any female artist in Italy, and her Last Supper has now been put on display.

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