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Sr Mary Grace SV (Sisters of Life)

Self-confessed rugby addict Jessica Langrell’s ambition was to represent Australia at the Olympics. She turned down a training squad invite and swapped her leather ball for a nun’s habit. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

Under her new religious name, Sr Mary Grace, the one-time surf lifesaver from Manly moved to a convent in New York and wears a veil, cape and scapular, with a heavy rosary at her hip.

Her antiquated outfit is a radical choice these days. After Vatican II modernised the Church in the 1960s, most religious orders swapped old-fashioned robes for plain clothes that allowed them to move less conspicuously in the community.

Sr Mary Grace could have chosen any one of the venerable religious orders that still exist in Australia, most of which no longer have habits. Instead, she went to a New York-based order that does. “Something about it captivates you,” she says.

Her decision reflects a push by young Catholics to resurrect the old traditions of their faith. For nuns, it’s the bride-of-Christ habit; for priests, the cassock; and for churchgoers, the mantilla (lace veil), the Gregorian chant, and the increasingly contentious Latin mass.

Some say the trend is about defiance, a public proclamation of faith in what they perceive as a hostile world. Others say it reflects a growing conservatism in the Australian church, of the kind that’s already put many Americans on an angry collision course with a more progressive Pope in Rome.

Young people argue it’s about embracing what’s unique and beautiful about the Catholic faith, while the more cynical argue it verges on the shallow and performative; an expression of the social media generation’s preoccupation with personal brand.

“It’s easy to dismiss them,” says theologian and sociologist Tracy McEwan, who has researched the religious conservatism of young Catholics, “but it’s a very powerful movement. It’s a valid and meaningful source of religious identity.”

Fr Sam French – a 31-year-old known as the TikTok priest – is open about embracing traditional attire, and discusses it with his 63,900 followers. 

“We’re living in an increasingly post-Christian world in some sense,” he says. “[Wearing the cassock] is a particular way of bearing witness to one’s own faith.”


A TikTok priest and a surfing nun: The new wave of conservative Christians (By Jordan Baker, Sydney Morning Herald)


Senior Cardinal backs Australians’ right to celebrate Latin mass despite Vatican ban (The Australian)