Affordable nun dolls aim to build vocation awareness
By Julie Filby
Photo by Julie Filby/DCR
A South Carolina mother has started a business that produces a unique line of dolls in hopes of sparking religious vocations. Saintly Sisters, established March 2011, offers nun dolls—dressed in handmade habits—at affordable prices.
Suzzanne Brakefield, 44, is founder, owner and “jack of all trades” for Saintly Sisters based in Rock Hill, 20 miles south of Charlotte, N.C.
Brakefield, a parishioner at St. Michael Church in Gastonia, N.C., grew up going to church and Catholic school in Ohio, but had little exposure to religious sisters—and none who dressed in habit.
“To me it was always kind of mythical,” she said. “(Like) they’re out there, but do they really exist?
“That’s a sad reality in many parishes, and we hope we can change that.”
The concept for the business was inspired when a friend was looking for nun dolls for her three daughters.
“They’re hard to find and the ones that are out there are about $100,” said Brakefield “I decided to make (the girls) habited nun dolls as Christmas gifts.”
Word spread fast when the girls took the dolls to Mass, and several mothers asked where they could purchase one.
“With the encouragement of my husband (Todd) and family and friends, I started Saintly Sisters,” she said. “We had always recognized the need for vocations to the religious life and here was a chance to encourage young women to prayerfully consider a vocation.”
Each plastic doll stand 13 ½ inches tall and is dressed in a detailed habit, made by Brakefield, along with a handmade rosary and a card describing the specific order. The sisters currently available are Dominican, Sister of Life, Carmelite, Holy Spirit Adoration, Sister of the Visitation and Children of Mary. She hopes to add Missionaries of Charity soon, and two or three others later this year.
The dolls cost $40, and custom orders are available for $75. Both Caucasian and African-American dolls are available.
While they do contain some small parts, they are meant to be played with.
“These dolls are meant to be loved,” she said.
Saintly Sister has sold about 100 dolls, coming up on their first anniversary of operation. Brakefield—with the help of her three sons: ages 20, 19 and 15—hopes to continue to grow the business and further promote religious vocations.
“Young girls like to imitate and role play,” she said. “If they only have Barbie or Bratz dolls to identify with it’s going to be hard to imagine a life of modesty, chastity and obedience.
“A doll is usually a little girl’s best friend and wouldn’t it be great for her to know that her doll’s best friend is God?” she said. “Wouldn’t she in turn want to have God as her best friend?”
Brakefield recently received a heartfelt note from a woman who bought a custom Sister of St. Joseph doll not only for her young daughter, but one for her mother as well.
“The woman described how her mother cried when she opened the doll,” she relayed. “She had always wanted a nun doll … the woman gave the second doll to her daughter so she could have that connection with her grandmother.
“I, in turn, cried because I had brought happiness to someone,” she said.
Saintly Sisters recently added a line of handmade Blessed Mother dolls. The current model, Our Lady of Lourdes, is 23 inches tall with a “soft body” and porcelain arms and legs.
She plans to add Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Kibeho this year. The cost is $90.
For more information on Saintly Sisters, visit www.saintlysisters.com or call 803-366-8452.