Northwest Missouri ‘nun with a gun’ heeds call to serve, but it wasn’t her first

CLYDE, Mo. -- She grew up in a middle class Catholic family in New York City, going to church on Sundays with her family.

"I have five siblings," Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa said. "I'm the second oldest."

Despite her devotion, becoming a member of a religious order as she is today didn't really occur to her back then.

"While I was a kid, none of the sisters ever asked me if I wanted to become a nun," she said.

Instead, she dreamed of being a lawyer -- until Congress gave its approval to women being admitted to the nation's military academies. So she applied.

"We were the first class of women that West Point ever accepted," Gucwa said with a smile.

She was attracted to the "Long Gray Line" and "Duty, Honor, Country" and considers it her first calling.

Nancy Rose Gucwa

It wasn't easy, as the formerly all-male U.S. Military Academy cadets weren't too welcoming. But she and 61 other women graduated as second lieutenants.

She would go on to a 7-year active duty career rising to the rank of captain.

When she left active duty, she got a job in the financial services industry and remained in the Army Reserves.

But as she worked in her two careers, her faith deepened. And eventually, when the call to serve a higher power came, Gucwa joined the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration near Clyde, Missouri. That was 2006.

"I was on a retreat, and a priest asked the question point blank," she remembered. "He said to me, 'Have you ever thought about religious life?' And at that moment, everything became clear."

But at that point, Gucwa had two years of military service left in the reserves. So she traveled from northwest Missouri to near St. Louis once a month, eventually retiring from military life as a lieutenant colonel.

Nancy Rose Gucwa

"In the Army, of course, you serve the commander in chief, the president," Gucwa said. "But in religious life, you serve the real commander in chief -- God!"

She said her reserve colleagues called her the "nun with the gun," but they and her new-found fellow sisters accepted her and supported her dual lives.

Now full-time at the monastery in Clyde, Gucwa helps organize the prayer requests received from all over the world. Five times daily she joins her 54 monastery mates in prayer for those requests.

She speaks publicly about her journey, most recently at Leawood's Curé of Ars Catholic Parish to a vocations group. Her message: Heed the call no matter your age.

"I'm glad I don't have to do it again, but I don't think I'd change anything," she said.

Nancy Rose Gucwa