Patty Kogutek Ed. D., is the author of the award winning, “A Change of Habit”. She has helped thousands cure their anxiety, living “guilt-free”. Living as a Catholic nun for 7 years, and working her way through a 12 year failed marriage, she shares the “7 Secrets to Guilt-Free Living” that she gathered giving her the courage and the permission to finally follow her heart and putting the expectation of others aside.
She works with men and women at risk of losing their happiness, who try to please everyone, who have a difficult time saying “no”, and feel that they have to juggle life’s stresses taking care of everyone but themselves.
I am thrilled to share this interview. Patty Kogutek is a fascinating woman with lots to offer.
|As a young girl, did you want to be a nun?
I respected the nuns that taught me in school. I so admired their dedication and they seemed happy. I had been seen wrapping a towel around my head as a pretend veil playing “nun”….
If not, what did you dream of becoming as an adult?
Not as many exciting opportunities for women back then as there are today. Thank God!
In the Convent it seems you were steered towards education as a profession. Was this something you wanted to do?
In the 60s and 70s the only professions that were really open to women were teaching, nursing, and working as an office secretary. My favorite aunt was a teacher so it seemed like a natural path. At that time my order, Servants of Mary, in Omaha, NE was a teaching order. Now the order is open to all sorts of ministries, including counseling, message therapy, reiki, etc. Many women weren’t cut out to be teachers so this opened up many fields of expertise for them to reach out to their communities in other ways.
Early on in the Convent you voiced your doubts about having the calling to be a nun, you voiced your loneliness and were met with stoic indifference and summarily dismissed without much compassion. Do you think that your transition into the religious life might have gone differently had Mother Monica shared her own experience and shown more compassion?
Mother Monica guided me as if my “doubts” were homesickness that other girls were experiencing as they went away to college. My struggles were both with the strict rules in a strange lifestyle all the while missing my family and friends terribly. The compete cut off from everyone that knew and supported me, pulled the rug out from anything that I had known before including my self confidence. Mother Monica’s job was to mold perfect nuns to follow the rules and serve the Church.
What, if anything, did you miss the most from the outside world while in the Convent?
When my family moved from Omaha to California within 3 months of my entering to convent it proved devastating. Although I had no contact with them while they were in the city, just knowing that they were there, was somewhat of a comfort. I felt totally alienated when they moved, especially without saying good bye.
Your father suggested you go to college first. Have you ever reflected on that?
I did not have the maturity to make that big of decision at that time and my father knew it. I did not!
If so, what are your thoughts?
Although my decision did not work out as I had planned, I cannot regret it. People ask me all the time if I regret making that decision and my answer is “no”. I would not be the person that I am today, I could not help people as I do, had I not experienced those years. I have counseled many people about finding God. I share my secret #1: Don’t let religion get in the way of your relationship with God. People carry so much guilt when are “performing” their religious duties as they were instructed as a child. I see more and more people moving from religion to spirituality. I wrote a piece for the Huff Post about this very subject…from nun to none. (There are so many people who consider themselves “nones”, not identifying on their census information with one religion. They check the box “none of the above”) The SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) movement is growing and people are finding more of a personal relationship with God.
There are a series of events that add to your unhappiness and disillusionment. What was the pivotal moment that gave you the most courage to make the decision to leave?
Of course, as a “guilt sponge”, I worked to please others. I asked my father if he would be disappointed in me if I left the convent and he so wisely said, “If you stay in the convent I would be the proudest father in the world, and if you left the convent I would be the happiest father in the world!” That was all the permission that I was longing to hear….that is was OK to follow my heart.
You experienced culture shock when you first visited your family in California on a family trip to Disney. Can you share your feelings?
I lived as a nun, in a community of sisters, with the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. My decisions had been based on living humbly, purely, and follow rules with the goal of serving others. When I visited my family in California I found the world, cold, cruel, competitive and tied up in plastic things that meant nothing to me. Their decisions were based on themselves, seeming very selfish and shallow.
On this trip, you snatch a beautiful leaf stating to your parents, “Look, here is a stunning leaf that God made in His creation, and we’re here all caught up in the materialistic world.” You overhear your mother say to your father, “She’s weird, Ray. What happened to her?” How did that make you feel?
My mother’s comment started me thinking, “What happened to the girl that I once was?” I didn’t think I had changed that much but up against the backdrop California in the 60s, I looked and felt like a fish out of water. Religion had been important in our home growing up, but mom thought I had gone over the edge. And she was right! My mother is 92 years old and still winning at Bingo in her assisted care home!
You share seven secrets with a reflection on each and a moral one can learn. Which, if any, is the most meaningful or dearest to you?
The first secret, “Don’t let religion get in the way of your relationship with God” has had the biggest impact on my life. I now know that there is more than one right answer and more than one way to find God.
You saw changes within the Church because of Vatican II. What was the most encouraging and what was the most disappointing, if any?
Vatican II’s intent was to open up the closed doors of the Church to more accessible to the people, rediscovering the simple message of what the Church is all about. I’m thrilled to see Pope Francis resurrect that message that got lost through the years. The most disappointing aspect is the Church’s stance of birth control. My mother had 7 children, losing twins at the age of 35. Her medical doctor suggested going the birth control pill because of the medical hardships of her age and pregnancies. She went to our parish pastor who declined my mothers’s request to use the pill. Mom had 2 more children into her 40s.
At one point in the book you state, “Is this a strange twist of fate or is God punishing me for not staying in the convent? What is your concept of God today?
That’s a whole new book! I believe that God is with us all every day. We do not need the priests or nuns to tell us what God wants of us. I believe that God works in our daily lives, inviting into communion with him. I do not necessarily have to find God in Church, a great meditative walks often serves me better.
God is not a judge like I once thought as He is depicted in the prayer books pouring over a ledger of my past sins ready to damn me to hell for eternity. I now know that God is all loving and His love is not dependent on what I do or don’t do. Jesus even taught us that “the Kingdom of God is within you”…
I loved when your sister said “…you’re getting too old to buy green bananas. You need to hurry up and be happy.” Laughs aside, did you feel an urgency to be happy?
We are all called to be happy. I believe that when we are truly happy and our souls are singing, that we are on the right path, fulfilling our destinies. Our emotions serve as the language of our souls…. get out of our analyzing minds and into our feeling hearts and there we will find God. So I guess we all should feel that urgency to be happy NOW, not waiting around for someone else to make us happy or a better car, or house or degree. Our time to be happy is NOW, don’t wait for green bananas…
What is your take today on religion and spirituality?
I’m what I term a “Catholic in recover”. I think the whole Church is in recovery trying to rediscover what is meaningful finding their truth. I see God working through the SBNR and “none” movements as great vehicles of discovery. I think that our relationship with God is individual and personal, the Church can be there to guide us, but many people use it as a checklist of rules, rites, and rituals to be performed.
I have a burning question. Women have come a long way from the sixties when we accepted leaving our father’s home to the home of a husband. What advice would you offer young women today?
I would tell her to listen to her heart. Have the courage and strength to swim upstream and dance to a different drummer if necessary. Women try too hard to please and be perfect. We tend to take care of everyone but ourselves. We go on “guilt trips” takings to unwanted destination. I would advise to always follow your heart and you will never go wrong.
You were in the Convent for 7 years and worked for the San Diego Office of Education for 6 years. What occupies your time these days?
I love interacting with my readers on my weekly blog, “Spiritually Speaking” on my website: PattyKogutek.com . If you go to that website you can get a FREE download of “The Making of a Guilt Sponge”. That is the prequel to my book, “A Change of Habit”. This short book describes how I reached the decision to become a nun. It answers the question that everyone wants to know: WHY?
What is next for Patty Ptak Kogutek?
Besides writing, I enjoy working as a speaker and facilitator for my workshops, helping people to kick the guilt with my “7 secrets to guilt free living”. I support them as they take control of their own lives, living life on their own terms to find happiness.
Are there any other books to look forward to?
My next book should be out within the year, “G-vites: Divine Invitations From God”. This book chronicles how ordinary people find God in their daily lives. I believe that God is involved in our situations every day, giving us invitations (G-vites) to meet the Divine. I share examples from my life and offer practical ways to incorporate spirituality into your life. There are 27 life lessons for spiritual development.
A change of Habit: A Spiritual Journey From Sister Mary Kateri to Sister Mary Vodka available on amazon. com: http://www.amazon.com/CHANGE-HABIT-Spiritual-Journey-Sister-ebook/dp/B006N4Q8GM
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX61_LcCyaQ
Patty Kogutek web page: http://pattykogutek.com/
You can read my review of A CHANGE OF HABIT: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY FROM SISTER MARY KATERI TO SISTER MARY VODKA ON: http://www.amazon.com/review/RQ8EP8CZGSFTD and Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13282032-a-change-of-habit