Carmelite nuns rarely make news headlines, still less because one has been wielding a chainsaw. But on 13th September Sister Margaret Ann in Florida, USA, became an internet sensation, and the symbol of cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Perhaps because the hurricane was so destructive, leading to several deaths and massive loss of property in the Caribbean and the United States, the footage of a Carmelite nun clearing fallen trees with a chainsaw provided people with a much-needed moment of both humour and determination.
The footage was captured by an off-duty officer of the Miami-Dade Police Department, and was posted on the force's Facebook page.
By the end of 13th September the video had been viewed nearly 2 million times. The vast majority of comments were full of praise:
"Prayers and great, but prayer accompanied by action is powerful."
"I love it. I love her. We are women. Hear our chainsaws roar!!"
A number of commentators criticised the use of a chainsaw whilst wearing a long habit and no safety goggles, but as one savvy person replied: "If you went to a convent school, you would know that you should NEVER tell a nun what to do!"
The video footage quickly went viral, being reported by major news outlets around the world. Many have described the nun's actions as symbolic of everyone contributing to the clean-up efforts, and communities pulling together.
Sister Margaret Ann told told CNN "The road was blocked, we couldn't get through, and I saw somebody spin in the mud and almost go into a wall going off the road. So, there was a need, I had the means - so I wanted to help out." She went to fetch a chainsaw from the school and started clearing the way. The Carmelite said she was trying to live up to something her school teaches its students: "Do what you can to help."
Sister Margaret Ann is the Principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami, where the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles act as teachers, administrators, and extra-curricular leaders. They are already a much-loved presence in their local community, and this new episode will surely cement that reputation further.
Here are some of the international news reports about Sister Margaret Ann