For Rain Man, Thank You, Sisters

For Rain Man, Thank You, Sisters

If you’ve ever seen the film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, you might remember a scene when the brothers are walking up the long, tree-lined driveway of the mental institution where Hoffman’s character lives. That beautiful part of the film was shot at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Divine Providence in Melbourne, Kentucky, not far from St. Anthony Messenger’s editorial office in the Franciscan Media buildings.

The Sisters at St. Anne Convent are great friends of my family—they taught at our children’s elementary school and generally kept things running at our small parish  in northern Kentucky. There at St. Bernard’s we heard plenty of tales of the filming of Rain Man. Here’s one that stands out: One day the crew needed a coffee can for some shot or another.
They ran to town to buy a can of coffee, came back to the set, and were about to dump the coffee (they just wanted the can) when a Sister exclaimed, “Don’t waste that coffee!” A bag was found and the coffee saved.

Another true story: When the film producers made arrangments to use the Motherhouse for their set, they promised to restore the rooms to their original condition when the filming was done. “Don’t do that!” implored the Sisters—the rooms were much improved as movie sets! (The Sisters did allow the mental-hospital sign to be removed when the crew was finished!) The motto these simple women live by persists: “Trust in Providence.”

Today the beautiful elm trees have all been cut down, victims of the Emerald Ash-Borer. But the Sisters have planted new ones. Our beloved friend Sister Mary Luke moved from our parish elementary school to manage the healthcare facility for the aging Sisters. The Sisters are selling their Motherhouse as they scale back into smaller quarters as their community shrinks.

They, like so many Sisters I know, lovingly embrace the future, whatever it holds. The seedlings are growing. The Sisters tell anyone who will listen,  “Trust in Providence.”

Thank you, Sisters!

©2012 by John Feister
Top photo from film publicity poster; lower photo by John Feister



About the Author

John Feister is editor in chief of St. Anthony Messenger magazine. He has a B.A. in American Studies from University of Dayton, and master's degrees in Humanities and in Theology from Xavier University. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, and was previously an adviser to the Communications Committee of the U.S. Catholic bishops (2000-2006). His latest book, Thank You, Sisters: Stories of Women Religious and How They Enrich Our Lives is available from the Franciscan Media catalog. He has cauthored four books with Richard Rohr (Franciscan Media), and coauthored, with Charlene Smith, the biography of Thea Bowman (Orbis books).