A new sister act: Nun and Nunner

“We’re a traveling troupe of two,” explains the cheerful young “Sister” Mary Rose.

Then, starting with “Sister” Maria Stella, in a July appearance on the Leah Darrow Podcast, they alternate in describing themselves:

“We evangelize —”

“We don’t criticize —”

“— we don’t compromise,”

“— and we certainly don’t circumcise!”

“But we do dramatize —”

Together, the guitar-toting, prank-pulling Sister Mary Rose and the wide-eyed, kazoo-tooting Sister Maria Stella form the duo “Nun and Nunner.”

The Indiana-based singing comediennes perform across the country. While Sister Mary Rose plays guitar, Sister Maria Stella handles percussion: “I play the tambourine, the kazoo, the egg shaker, the egg clapper, the cowbell — whatever sound effect goes with the song,” she told Our Sunday Visitor.

Only playing nuns

While the pair are as close of friends off stage as they are on, they are not really nuns. And they’re careful to make that clear, not wanting to confuse or scandalize anyone. Caitie Beardmore, who plays Sister Mary Rose, is a graduate of the Catholic Marian University in Indianapolis and works full time as a high school theology teacher. Michaela Glafke, who plays Sister Maria Stella, graduated from Purdue University and is a housewife who substitutes at the high school where Beardmore teaches.

The pair grew up with the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, a Eucharist-centered order of teachers and nurses that has a large presence in Indiana. Many of the sisters they encountered were lively and maintained a great sense of humor in their work of bringing the light of Christ to a dark world. Glafke said, “We have a great respect for women religious, and so we make sure we’re knowledgeable and representing them well.”

“We both discerned vocations and found that religious life was not necessarily what God was calling us to,” Beardmore said, “but I guess he gave us second best: to be fake nuns.”

And why do they perform as “very-pretend nuns”? Initially, they tried other personas, but, “We found that people responded more to us dressed as nuns than as teachers or old ladies,” Glafke said. The nun costumes — unlike playing two soccer moms, for example — also make it clear that this is coming from a faith perspective. At a time when far too many people have a negative impression of Catholics and sisters, their act seeks to give audiences a better perception of both.

“We are just being ourselves, as fake nuns, and finding joy and humor in the daily life of living the Catholic faith,” Beardmore said. She added, “We have a deep love for the Faith. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take the Faith seriously.”

Amazingly, the pair never does the same show twice. Considering each audience special, they try to personalize every show. To get a sense of their audience, they interview those who book them, asking, “What’s going on in your group? What are the inside jokes?” They also relying on the Holy Spirit. Even with reusing some material when suitable, it still takes them about five hours to write and prepare each half-hour show.

One standby is their Disney medley. The opening lines, on having “gadgets and gizmos a-plenty” and appearing to be “the girl who has everything,” come straight from “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.” Nun and Nunner transform Ariel’s dissatisfaction into their “vocation story” by simply changing a few words in the middle and ending with some lines of “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin.”

Rising visibility

Nun and Nunner began with two friends singing on a front porch and, as Young Life leaders, trying to come up with skits to get youth group kids engaged and laughing. They’re the first to admit that their early skits bombed, but over time, they discovered the secret was to do what they themselves thought was hilarious. Word got out, and for 10 years they performed song-and-comedy acts locally for such venues as moms’ groups, grandparents’ day, devotional groups and youth retreats.

Then in 2016, people they didn’t know started contacting them. They’ve been on the road so much, they’ve dubbed their travels, “The Nun on the Run Tour.” They’ve gained nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram and appear high on evangelist Michael Marchand’s list of top Catholic Instagrammers. They’ve also had a number of interviews, including one with Catholic speaker and author Leah Darrow.

Among their upcoming appearances, the women from Nun and Nunner are scheduled to perform at the Catholic National Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 17 and will soon appear on “The Gist” on Catholic TV.

Their growing fame has no one more surprised than Beardmore and Glafke. “This has never been our plan,” Beardmore pointed out. “We are just doing what we think is funny.” So they see this development as clearly God’s plan. And since it’s his plan, they want to follow it, and they pray a lot. Most of all, they want to stay in his hands.

And while they’re excited about the growing success of the act, they’re not interested in getting famous. Nor do they intend to go full-time with Nun and Nunner, because they also love the other things God is calling them to do. “I love being a theology teacher,” Beardmore said. “I would do my job for free — if I had money. And we love doing Nun and Nunner; we have a blast! There have been times when we’re writing, and we’re rolling on the floor laughing, and it’s just the two of us. It’s hard work, but the great thing about doing what God has made you to do is that it feels so great.”

What they hope for instead, Glafke said, is that their audiences will come away thinking, “‘You know what, that was cute and funny, and they’re right: Our faith is pretty awesome.’ We make every effort to make sure that our show is theologically correct, and at the same time infuses joy and laughter into people’s lives.”

Jeanette Flood writes from Ohio.