I first met the Sisters when they were promoting a fundraiser and art show at Ultra Pop. As I approached the small, brightly colored shop on Barret Avenue, my eyes were drawn to the strangest nun I’d ever seen. She was very tall, and in addition to a fairly outrageous habit, she was wearing a clown-white face with deep blue and bright pink eye shadow. Sporting a full beard, she used her deep baritone to call out to passing cars asking them to honk their horns in support of love and outrageousness.
As soon as my eyes adjusted to the sight of one Sister, I noticed there was a whole gaggle, going in and out of the store, blowing kisses at cars and carrying on.
I was delighted to recently learn that the Sisters can be found on the first Sunday of every month engaging in that most Catholic of fundraisers: playing bingo.
Sister Velveeta VonTease recently spoke with Insider about the monthly fundraiser, and the Sisters’ mission here on Earth.
“We are part of an international order of 21st century nuns,” VonTease said. “We take vows, dedicated to spread(ing) joy throughout the world, and help to rid the world of guilt and shame and any energy that chains the human spirit from its full expression.”
The international order began in that Queer Mecca, San Francisco, in 1979. Since then, they have spread their message, with chapter houses all over America, as well as Africa, Australia and Europe. Their early focus was helping AIDS patients, back before that acronym was even coined, and they were on the leading edge of providing condoms and safe-sex education to fight the epidemic.
Per the international order’s website, “The Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.”
Louisville’s chapter, the Derby City Sisters, use their eye-catching presence to support a variety of nonprofits. Their monthly “Sister Bingo” at Play Dance Bar is a great example of how the Sisters work to spread their love throughout Louisville.
“Each member has organizations that pull their heartstrings, so we follow up with those organizations and give them a platform to talk about what they do,” said VonTease.
“Sister Bingo” focuses on a different nonprofit every month, and that organization receives all the money raised at the event. During the games, a member from the chosen nonprofit will get a few minutes to talk about their cause and help spread awareness of their mission.
December’s “Sister Bingo,” which will be held Sunday, Dec. 6, benefits the Louisville Youth Group (LYG), an organization dedicated to supporting local LGBTQ youths. LYG offers teens a place to be themselves without fear of shame or harassment they might experience in the less tolerant parts of their life.
“There are some members who drive all the way from Lexington and Pikeville just to be able to get that level of support,” said VonTease.
In addition to lavishing praise on LYG, VonTease also praised their venue.
“Play has been one of the biggest supporters of our work from the very beginning. They’ve been, like, ‘Whatever you want, whatever you need, we’re here to support you.’” VonTease added that the Derby City Sisters are indebted to the Nashville chapter, the Music City Sisters, for originally fostering that relationship with Play in its Nashville location.
While the mission and the work are no doubt very important, it’s also reportedly a great time.
In addition to the games being called by one of the Sisters, the action includes extra tomfoolery. If you call a bogus bingo, an act described as “premature ebingulation” by VonTease, you’ll likely be challenged to run around the room kissing people on the cheek to make up for your transgression.
Of course, the bar will be open for the event.
“You have to have your holy water,” said VonTease. “We enjoy our Sister Juice, and communion is very important. We find that the more bourbon is present, the better people are at bingo.”
Doors open at 7 p.m., and the first game starts at 7:30. It’s a $5 donation at the door, which gets you six playing cards. If you bring non-perishable food items or toiletries, you get an additional six cards, which gives you 12 chances to win. Donated items go to help AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana.