December 14, 2021

EP. 243 — What’s It Like To Be An Ex-Nun? with Kelli Dunham and Mary Johnson

If you’re a regular listener of Getting Curious, you know how much Jonathan loves the Sister Act films. But how realistic were they? This week, former nuns Kelli Dunham and Mary Johnson share what it was like to serve with Mother Teresa (yeah, that Mother Teresa) in the Missionaries of Charity—and why they left the congregation.

Kelli Dunham is a comic, writer, nurse, and genderqueer ex-nun. You can follow Kelli on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and YouTube @kellidunham—and at Make sure to check out Kelli’s storytelling series Queer Memoir at Caveat.

Mary Johnson loves life. Her award-winning memoir An Unquenchable Thirst reveals the secret life inside her 20 years as a nun with the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As a Humanist Celebrant, Mary creates ceremonies for weddings, memorials, and all life’s transitions. Mary is also host of The Book Canopy and is working on a second book and a video series. You can follow Mary on Twitter @_MaryJohnson and at

Want to hear more from Kelli and Mary, and other former Missionaries of Charity? Check out the excellent podcast series The Turning: The Sisters Who Left, inspired by Mary’s Memoir and produced by Rococo Punch and iHeartMedia.

Find out what today’s guests and former guests are up to by following us on Instagram and Twitter @CuriousWithJVN.

Transcripts for each episode are available at

Check out Getting Curious merch at

Listen to more music from Quiñ by heading over to

Jonathan is on Instagram and Twitter @JVN and @Jonathan.Vanness on Facebook.


Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness &  Kelli Dunham and Mary Johnson    JVN [00:00:00] Welcome to Getting Curious, I’m Jonathan Van Ness, and every week I sit down for a gorgeous conversation with a brilliant expert to learn all about something that makes me curious. On today’s episode, I’m joined by Kelli Dunham and Mary Johnson, where I ask them: What’s it like to be an ex-nun? Welcome to Getting Curious, this is Jonathan Van Ness. I am so excited. I have got to welcome our guests. We have two guests, which is also a really special episode of Getting Curious, because we don’t often have two people: Kelli Dunham and Mary Johnson, who are both, I need to switch back into my more professional podcast voice now that I got so excited. Who are both former congregants of the Missionaries of Charity. Mary said 20 years as a nun with the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Kelli served as a nun in the South Bronx. Those were, like, three really maj

Recent Episodes

May 31, 2023

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will hand down decisions that could have major implications for LGBTQIA+ rights, racial justice, tribal sovereignty, and beyond.

May 24, 2023

We’re dripping in jewels this week on Getting Curious! What does it mean for a diamond to be “hard”? Are lab-grown gems made to perfection? What’s the difference between rubies and pink sapphires?

May 18, 2023

New Orleans was one of America’s most important cities in the early 1800s. It was also one of the most deadly. This week, to mark the new season of Queer Eye, we’re exploring New Orleans history with Dr. Kathryn Olivarius in a special two-part episode.