By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some people get the call late in life.
That’s certainly the case with Sister Brigid, a Philadelphia woman who became an Orthodox Christian nun in her 80s.
Her daughter, Susan Morse, tells the story in a book called The Habit, which got a reading this week at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
The story is at once universal and unique; universal in the sense that Morse, 53, like many of her generation, found herself caring for her elderly mother while managing a hectic home life, but unique because of the colorful characters involved.
Morse grew up in Philadelphia before finding a glamorous career as an actress in Los Angeles, where she lived with her husband, actor David Morse of the TV shows “St. Elsewhere,” “Hack,” and “Treme.”
After the Northridge earthquake in 1994, they decided to bring their three young children back to Philadelphia to live — something she concedes was more attractive because her parents had moved to Florida.
But five years ago, with her father dead and her 85-year-old mother suffering from cancer, Morse brought her mother back here, too, and in the process of helping her through her medical crisis resolved issues that had made their relationship difficult.
“She was a hard person to have as a mother,” says Morse. “I mean, she’s really smart and really interesting, but because of a troubled childhood and a difficult marriage she had a lot of… I guess you would call them ‘personal flaws’ that she needed to get under control.”
Morse says she is now closer to her mother than ever, something she attributes in part to her mother’s finding her vocation after a lifetime of spiritual searching.
“She did everything!” Morse says with a laugh. “She was always looking for the answer to everything, and then trying to get us to go along with it. There was a course in Silva Mind Control we all took. I let her do Rake on me. She did horoscopes. We all got our charts done.”
Hear Pat Loeb’s full interview with Susan Morse in this CBS Philly podcast…
Morse says her mother found Orthodox Christianity through her art, when she began painting Byzantine icons, but it wasn’t enough to convert.
“What she needed to do was become a nun,” says Morse.
Morse says the book grew out of e-mail updates to her siblings about her mother’s treatment — e-mails that found the humor in the often difficult situation.
“Humor was the best way to approach it,” she recalls.