His final mission now complete, Francis visits the nuns in their convent, asking for Sister Mathilde, his and Nicole’s former 7th grade teacher. He hopes that she may have kept in touch with Nicole after she left and will be able to tell him where she lives now.
While his childhood may be finally out of reach, Francis shows a sign of looking towards the future when he endeavors to track down Nicole.
When Sister Mathilde arrives, Francis respectfully removes his Red Sox cap and introduces himself by his real name. After pleasantries, he asks the sister if she knows where Nicole went after she abruptly left Frenchtown, worried that she may have left to become a nun herself.
Reflexively, Francis removes his hat as a sign of respect to the Sister, showing how religion has conditioned certain habits into him that he executes almost unthinkingly.
Thankfully for Francis, Sister Mathilde explains that Nicole and her family simply moved back to Albany. When pressed, she admits that Nicole seemed unhappy when she came to the convent to say goodbye. She then asks Francis why that might have been, which reveals to Francis that Nicole when Nicole withdrew into the convent after being raped, she never confided in the nuns the details of her trauma.
When Francis realizes Nicole had never confided in the nuns, it shows that, like Francis, she too saw religion as powerless in the face of suffering. Like Francis choosing the church as a place to commit suicide because of the high steeple, Nicole simply used the convent and its nuns to hide until she could flee Frenchtown.
Thinking that a familiar face might be a nice surprise for Nicole, Sister Mathilde gives Francis her new address in Albany. Before Francis leaves, Sister Mathilde gently tells him she hopes his wounds will heal soon. Instinctively, Francis tells her that he will be going to Dr. Abrams’s clinic to have his face reconstructed soon. All the while, he wonders if it is a special sin to lie to a nun. Brushing the thought aside, he sets out to reunite with his childhood sweetheart.
Here, Francis finally shows that religion is no longer meaningful to him, as he lies to a nun. Thus, it is apparent that when he removed his hat out of respect, it was purely a reflexive habit, something that had become so common that it had lost its significance, even as Sister Mathilde expresses the possibility of religion being used for healing and reconciliation.