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Who is Sister Madonna Buder? Meet ‘The Iron Nun,’ star of the Nike commercial


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/15/16

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By now, you may have seen this commercial that popped up during the Olympics and has become a viral sensation.

Her background:

She decided she wanted to become a nun at the age of 14 from the influence of the Visitation Sisters at the all-girls Visitation Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, that her parents put her in after sixth grade, and Marie Dorthy Buder was 23 years old when she followed her first calling in life and became a nun; it was then that she realized the importance of being of service to others. She entered a convent called the Sisters of the Good Shepard in St. Louis and served there until 1990 when she changed orders and was sent to Spokane, Washington, to serve with the Sisters for Christian Community. In 1970 she left the congregation to which she had belonged to join 38 other Sisters from different and varying backgrounds to establish a new and non-traditional community of Sisters. As a member of the non-canonical Sisters for Christian Community, independent of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Buder has had the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle. More than two decades later as Sister Madonna, she found her second calling: Running.

Here’s some more information via Wikipedia:

Buder was born in St. Louis, Missouri in July 1930, and entered the convent at age 23.[3] In 1970, she left the congregation to which she had belonged to join 38 other Sisters from different and varying backgrounds to establish a new and non-traditional community of Sisters… …Buder began training at age 48 at the behest of Father John who told her it was a way of tweaking, “mind, body, and spirit” and for the relaxation and calmness it can bring an individual. She completed her first triathlon at age 52 and first Ironman event at age 55 and has continued ever since. Buder is well known in the Triathlon community for her achievements in age group races. She has completed over 325 triathlons including 45 Ironman Distances.At the 2005 Hawaii Ironman, at age 75, the Iron Nun became the oldest woman ever to complete the race, finishing 1 hour before the 17-hour midnight cut-off time. At the 2006 Hawaii Ironman, at age 76, she again became the oldest woman ever to complete the race, finishing with a time of 16:59:03. During her sporting career, Buder has worked hard at also raising money for various charities. She is quoted as saying, “I train religiously.”

About her religious order, from its website:

What occasioned SFCC? Responding to Vatican II’s call to the Church to return on every level to a participatory and mutual model of organization, the Sisters For Christian Community (SFCC) emerged as a distinct community of women religious in 1970 that was destined to give witness to collegial community in the form of the traditional vows of obedience, chastity and poverty freshly expressed as listening, loving and serving.

Members came from the East Coast and West, from the Great Lakes and the Deep South, from across the prairies, and soon from the Canadian Provinces. It would not be long before members spanned from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Africa, Australia, Guam, India, the Philippines, Western Europe, Ireland and England, as well as Mexico and Central America hailed women who committed themselves to the vision, the charism, and the work of SFCC. Indeed, SFCC were soon found in every kind of work and in every corner of the world.

…By 1995 SFCC defined itself as a “prophetic-ecclesial community” driven to “speak the truth of love and grow in the maturity of Christ”      (Eph 4:15). SFCC continued to understand itself to be a community of consecrated women who are self-determining, self-regulating and self-governing and hold a common goal: that all may be one-the Christ prayer for unity and collegiality. To SFCC it is clear that only the Christ-prayer of unity makes all independence and collegiality possible and productive. Thus it is this Gospel prayer that forms the heart of the SFCC common spirituality, while it challenges each SFCC to take the uncomfortable risk of being prophet in her home town. Founded originally to concern itself with the restructuring of a hierarchical institutional Church, SFCC moved progressively toward what it came to understand as a “ministry of presence.” Individually and as a full membership worldwide, SFCC earnestly believed that myopic opinions can be turned to mutual understanding. Division can be turned to unity. Oppressive structures can be reformatted. These are simple but weighty assumptions that point to the very essence of SFCC’s “ministry of presence” through listening, loving and serving. By its very nature, then, SFCC’s “ministry of presence” is a prophetic action that takes them wherever their charism is needed.

Photo: Getty Images

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