92-year-old twin sisters joined convent together at age 19
By CANDY NEAL
Jan. 27, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.
FERDINAND, Ind. — Sister Mary Carmel and Sister Mary Carmen Spayd share more than similar names. They share the same DNA.
"Most people get us mixed up. They'll think I'm her or that she is me," Sister Mary Carmen said of her twin sister, Sister Mary Carmel.
The 92-year-old twin nuns are used to the mix-up, especially now, since they are almost always together at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand.
They joined the convent together when they were 19. And now, 73 years later, they have no plans of separating from the monastery or each other.
"We spend quite a bit of time together," Sister Mary Carmel said. "The stuff we do, we generally do together, especially with flower arrangement and working outside."
Sister Mary Carmen continued the thought, a habit the two share. "We often work together; we have rooms just catty-corner from each other."
They also like to stay quietly in the background.
"We don't like to be in the limelight," Sister Mary Carmel said.
"People think it's so interesting that it's twins and that we both entered the (religious) community," Sister Mary Carmen said. "But I'm sure that after a while, people get tired of hearing that and seeing us."
But they deal with the interest and perceived novelty to show others the perks of living in a religious community.
"Sometimes, people don't know what we do here," Sister Mary Carmel said. "So I pray that what we do here is good for our community, and that they get a different perspective on religious life."
The twins, who were born 45 minutes apart, grew up in Mariah Hill. "We could've had different birthdays," Sister Mary Carmen said with a laugh.
Of course, their birth names are different — Sister Mary Carmen is Luella Cyrilla and Sister Mary Carmel is Cyrilla Luella.
"Mother heard of a sister here named Cyrilla, and she thought it was a nice name," Sister Mary Carmel explained. "Well then lo and behold, two came. So she wondered what she would name us."
"Someone said Grace and Disgrace," Sister Mary Carmel continued. "There were other names that rhymed. But I think mother found the other name in a book."
When they were baptized, their names got switched by mistake. "Our godparents got us confused," Sister Mary Carmen said.
Sister Mary Carmel jokingly continued, "And we've had an identity crisis ever since."
Their mom was very religious, and considered becoming a nun when she was younger. "Her mother said, 'Not until you are 21,'" Sister Mary Carmen said. "And then she just kind of forgot about it."
The sisters' schooling was led mostly by Benedictine sisters, including their high school years at the monastery school, Academy Immaculate Conception, later known as Marian Heights Academy, in Ferdinand. And they loved their teachers.
"We admired them so much," Sister Mary Carmen said. "And they always seemed to be so kind to each other."
At that time, it was customary for girls to join the monastery while still in high school, some as young as 15. And back when the monastery was founded in 1867, girls as young as 13 joined.
"It was a different world then," Sister Mary Carmen said.
The twins didn't join while in high school. They graduated and went into the workforce: Sister Mary Carmen at an aircraft manufacturing company in Evansville and Sister Mary Carmel in civil service in Tell City before joining her sister in Evansville. And they had their pastimes."We loved to dance," Sr. Mary Carmel said. "We would rather go dancing than go eat."
"We loved it that much," Sr. Mary Carmen finished.
Despite their love of the Jitterbug and the Charleston, the sisters decided to join the Sisters of St. Benedict in 1944. They made their monastic profession in 1946. Their experience at home and with the Benedictine sisters throughout their education were contributing factors.