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Cisco the Convent Cat

Cisco the Convent CatTwo years ago, I was living in a convent in Jersey City with seven other sisters. With every storm, the rain poured through various holes in the roof. When the roofers finally came to put on a new roof, we thought God had answered our prayer—no more buckets. However, once they tore off the old roof the convent became infested with mice. The mice took over every floor of our home. We put up the good fight, including storing our food in jars and laying out those dreaded glue traps (I can’t imagine St. Francis looks kindly on glue traps). We called the exterminator, who caught a few baby mice, but the invasion continued. Every evening I could hear Sr. Marenid shriek as another mouse scampered through her bedroom. At a community meeting, the sisters expressed varying degrees of discomfort with living with mice. After much prayer and discernment, and a long meeting —such as only nuns can engage in—we reached a consensus. The only acceptable solution to our mice dilemma was a cat. For some, this was the lesser of two evils.
I volunteered to go to the shelter and pick out a cat—a frisky one that looked like a good hunter. I later learned that the correct term is a “mouser.” As soon as I laid eyes on Cisco, a pretty champagne-colored kitten, I knew he was the one. I listened attentively to all the directions on how to care for him. I bought all the necessary equipment and took Cisco to his new home. As instructed, I kept Cisco enclosed in our community room until he became “adjusted.” The sisters couldn’t wait for him to get to work. After three days I set him free to roam the house and earn his keep. Cisco refused to leave the community room. This went on for more than a week. I finally had a talk with him: “Cisco, let’s get moving or they will make me take you back to the orphanage.” Finally, after he had resisted all the coaxing, I picked him up and brought him down the stairs to the kitchen. He sniffed around and finally, after a few days, he had a half catch—a mouse stuck in one of the glue traps we mistakenly had left behind. We applauded his work. It took more than a month for Cisco to venture out on his own and prowl the house. He added one more mouse to his record and, shortly after that, the mice vacated the house. Cisco quickly won over each of our hearts.
Then I noticed that one of Cisco’s eyes began to tear. I brought him for a check-up and after a quick evaluation the vet asked me, “Do you know that this cat is blind?” I couldn’t believe it. I felt really sad about Cisco’s blindness. Within a couple of months Cisco totally adapted to his environment, leaping onto windowsills in a single bound, discovering each one of our bedrooms, and meowing at our doors until one of us fed him. He had each of our routines down—Sr. Mary got up at 5 a.m. every morning and Cisco was at her side, waiting for her to play with him. He joined us each morning for prayer. When I arrived home and shared the news with the other sisters, Sr. Marenid exclaimed, “We can’t treat him any differently. Don’t mention his blindness in front of him.” Sr. Veronica added, “It was meant to be that we would be gifted with a blind cat!” Even if Cisco never caught another mouse—which he didn’t—we grew to love him blindness and all.
I have learned lots about cats in these past two years. Cisco continues to amaze me with all he can do in spite of his blindness. He sometimes drives us crazy with his antics but also gives us many a good laugh. I later learned that most shelters euthanize blind cats, because they are deemed unadoptable. I am glad that when I adopted Cisco, I wasn’t told that he was blind. I hate to admit that I probably wouldn’t have chosen him. I really would have missed a great gift from God.
Cisco reminds me that God loves me even with my blind spots. I often notice Cisco lying contently on the windowsill enjoying both the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze and I am reminded to embrace and enjoy the moment. When I come home after a long day at work I am greeted with enthusiastic meows and purring and I am reminded of not only God’s love but the love of family and friends. One of the blessings we have been given is the companionship of an amazing cat.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the President and Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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14 Responses to “Cisco the Convent Cat”

  1. John Bartelloni says:

    Not a cat guy (my preference is dogs), but Cisco sounds like quite a find.

  2. Jaime Rickert says:

    Great Story! Perfect for a scripture reflection. Reference…?

  3. alice says:

    I enjoyed your reflection but I still dislike cats – don’t tell St. Francis. Truth be known, I get an allergic reaction…so it ends up – me or the cat when I visit folks with a cat. Julie Jones has one and I was there for a small group meeting and I really had difficulty breathing…so the cat stayed and I went home.

    I hope the SSJ’s didn’t leave mice around in your new house!!
    Take good care. The website, etc. GREAT!!! Keep well. Alice

  4. Fran Wilhelm, OSU says:

    Our cat story can outshine yours!!!! We got Sam for the same reason you got Cisco. In the two years he has roamed through our house, he has begun to talk! When he wans to go to the front porch (enclosed with windows), he meows near the inside door till one of us asks, “Do you want to go out?” His response is a meow that definitely sounds like “Out!” Sometimes it sounds like “All right.” At other times he simply meows in a long conversation with anyone who will give him that opportunity. He also prays with us. As we gather in the living room for night prayer, he strikes a pose that says, “Come pet me first, then I will be ready to add my contemplative pose!”

  5. Kass says:

    I AM a cat person (and a dog person, too). Having spent some time with Cisco I am convinced that God led him to the sisters. St. Francis has blessed all of you!!

  6. Rachel Boes says:

    Thank you Sr. ‘Terry for the wonderful story about Cisco. I love cats! They are
    so classy and smart. They do what they want most of the time, like sleep all
    day, but if a mouse appears, it’s toast! My cats make sure that those little
    creatures don’t come around and other rodents stay away. A hug for Cisco. .
    God bless. bye.

  7. joan meader says:

    What a beautiful story. Thank you.

    I have dogs, but all three and past pups have been adopted
    So many animals just never get a second chance. Thanks for being so kind and accepting of your beautiful blind cat.

  8. Awwwwww I loved the story, what a blessing for all the sisters and the cat!!! God never ceases to amaze me!! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Cinda Lippman, OFS says:

    I love and have cats. One grew blind from a genetic defect but she could run up stairs and walk on the mantle ledge without missing a step. I love all animals and that includes mice! I never met an animal I didn’t love. Bless love for saving

  10. Carol says:

    What a wonderful story! Thank you, it made my day. A true blessing for both the sisters and the cat. Having a handicapped cat I know that they do amazing things. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Marie says:

    I love cats. I have 3 of my own.. They are there to bring fun and enjoyment to any home. This is a great story. It just goes to show you that just because you are blind doesn’t mean you can’t see (adjust).

  12. jerry dykman says:

    Great story! I love orange tabbies. Had one for twelve years. He is a special gift from God. Hope he is with you for a long time.

  13. susan heisler says:

    i am a cat owner, and everyday i am amazed by them….

  14. Helen Doon says:

    Thanks for sharing Sr. Terry! I have to admit that I am NOT an animal lover but I’m partial only to horses??? I was truly touched by your story. I’ve been dealing with a conflicting issue for the past week or so and I found my answer from God in your story about Cisco. He seems like an adorable and fun cat. Thank You God for showing me the gift of understanding and the abundant blessings when our hearts are open through this beautiful story of the life of CIsco. Thank You Sr. Terry for sharing. My love and prayers always, Helen

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