07/02/2012 05:36 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2012

Why and How I Remain Catholic

A few years ago, I ran into a nun whom I hadn't seen in more than 10 years. She immediately asked me if I was still Catholic. It struck me as an odd question for a "how have you been" casual conversation. Soon into the conversation I quickly came to realize that she was struggling -- not with her vocation as a nun, but with membership in a church where she felt harassed and disrespected by its governance.

Since that encounter, I have asked myself that question numerous times -- usually answering that I am Catholic by culture and by ritual. I remain Catholic by staying focused on the Gospel values and pay more attention to church with a small "c" than the Church with the capital "C."

Most recently the big "C" has decided to overhaul U.S. nuns and crack down on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, causing me to question, once again, why I am Catholic. My friends who are nuns give daily witness to Gospel values and represent for me, and so many others, what being Catholic really means. By their witness, they support me to remain Catholic.

Having done the lion's share of the social work long before social service agencies took notice, women religious across the United States have been the catalyst for government taking responsibility for the social needs of millions of people. Many of these dedicated, committed women are also responsible for providing the best of the best education, especially to poor students who were often students of color. These students are now leading physicians, attorneys, journalists, entertainers, senators and congressmen.

The multimedia exhibit, Choosing to Participate, sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, asks its viewers to consider the consequences of their everyday choices. It inspires viewers to make the essential connection between history and the moral choices that confront our lives. Part of the exhibit displays portraits and profiles of community leaders they call upstanders. Upstanders are ordinary people who are capable of doing extraordinary things. Upstanders take a positive stand and act on behalf of others.

There is a connection to this exhibit and how I remain Catholic. I do so by staying joined with these women religious and others who imagine a truly universal church, who work to make the dream of inclusion a reality and who work to create the kind of world where everyone matters -- not just those of a certain mindset or gender or sexual orientation. I am beyond disappointed that American nuns -- upstanders in every sense of the word -- are not being afforded the respect they deserve. They have taken a stand for countless others. I applaud them for respectfully standing up to the Vatican and pledge to stand with them.