Sister Act: Sister Suzanne Giro

Sister Suzanne Giro finds acting with a theater company another way to reach out to the dear neighbor

By Patti Eischen

Sister Suzanne Giro’s life sounds like a mashup of movie titles, “Sister Act” and an Italian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

She grew up an only child in a large, extended Italian family in Kansas City. She lived in the family duplex with her parents upstairs, grandparents and aunt, uncle and cousins downstairs.

Her family entertained themselves by going to movies, concerts and the theatre all the time.
“On Sunday afternoons, you could hear my grandfather’s opera from upstairs. If you went downstairs, after 4 p.m. on Sunday, he would snatch you up and you’d be forced to listen to his explanation of the opera that was airing,” she explains.

Pictured: Sister Suzanne in Wild Oats, June 2017

A self-admitted extreme extrovert, S. Suzanne says the performance bug had always been somewhat recessive in her. In her eight-year ministry as the mission coordinator for the congregation, she says she was on stage or at the lectern acting on Jesus’ behalf and the mission of the CSJs. “I was a traveling show and spoke in churches of all sizes. I got rave reviews.”

When she moved to St. Louis attending Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, she heard about a production of “Annie Get Your Gun.” She admits that she thought about auditioning, but didn’t. She ended up getting a small part because they needed actors. “When I was asked to be a townsperson I was on cloud 137!”

It was her involvement with that production that she learned about Monroe Actors’ Stage Community (MASC) in Waterloo, Illinois. She auditioned, having never been to the building or seen a production of theirs. She landed a part and started rehearsing. It was only when she had a scheduling conflict with rehearsals and a CSJ community meeting did the fact that she was a woman religious come up.

“I’m not who you think I am,” is what she told her director.

Her fellow co-actors didn’t really treat her any differently after learning that Suzanne was really “Sister Suzanne,” but she explains, “They responded differently as a fellow human. I think they were and are attracted to our charism, which brings them in.”

Bonds were and are created. Help was offered to one another. “Actors are a community themselves. As a whole they are welcoming, accepting—a community forms with each production because of so much time spent together,” she explains. “They are affirming, confirming people and with each production, the idea of ‘we’re all in this together’ comes through.”

S. Suzanne has been in two of the company’s productions as well as two other productions with her church community, and she has found the experiences invigorating.

“Learning to do these things, like fainting and remembering the lines, is a challenge at this stage of my life. I never thought at 67 that I'd get into theater. But I love it, I thrive on it. I am the happiest when I’m in a show, and my friends tell me they see the difference in me when I am in one,” S. Suzanne explains.

Her involvement with the productions propels her to always moving to the more. S. Suzanne says that she sees the mission of the dear neighbor fully engaged when she is with her theatre community. “I’m reminded of the quote, “The glory of God is man fully alive,” she says.

And alive she is, especially when the curtain is going up.

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