Shaw Island nun writes about transformation from Marxist to Christian

Mother Felicitas Curti lives in a quiet monastery, amongst the pastoral backdrop of Shaw Island. Yet, some 60 years ago, she was Martha Curti, a New York City resident and member of the youth division of the Socialist Workers Party.

“I had a very great desire to help turn around some main injustices in the world,” said Mother Felicitas about why she joined the party.

The nun of a Catholic religious order, called the Order of Saint Benedict, outlines her evolution in the autobiography “The Chord of Longing: My Life as Atheist, Marxist, Mother, Nun” published in 2017. She’ll talk about the book, along with her life at Our Lady of the Rock Monastery, at 7 p.m., Monday, March 5, at the San Juan Island Library. The event is co-sponsored by the library, Griffin Bay Bookstore and the San Juan Island Trails Committee.

The chord in the title of her book, said Mother Felicitas, comes from the opera “Tristan und Isolde,” and relates the dissonance in the musical notes with the discord in her early life, which included a failed marriage and a violent, unpredictable sister.

Today, her life is at peace, – a welcome respite from the eight states she lived in before permanently moving to Shaw in 1982.

Mother Felicitas started her book as soon as her religious superior asked her to write it, finishing about a decade later. She combed through half-forgotten journals in the monastery basement to piece together a story that, Mother Felicitas has been told, is as relatable to women as it is to men, and the young as it is to the old.

“Most people have that longing for something beyond, and there are so many ways to try to find it,” she said. “My story is just like the human story in general.”

She left the Socialism movement because the party didn’t respect individualism like the church does, she said. She joined the church when she fell in love with it.

“It basically came from the heart,” said Mother Felicitas, “seeing that [the church] could lead me to where I wanted to go, to God, to something beyond what we can see around us.”

Selecting the local author for the event was easy, according to Nancy Larsen, the events coordinator for the Griffin Bay Bookstore.

“We like to present local authors who are active or are well-known in our community,” said Larsen.

Pick up a copy of the book at Griffin Bay Bookstore or the San Juan Island Library.