SISTERS: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America

John J. Fialka, Author . St. Martin's $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-26229-7

When Wall Street Journal reporter Fialka set out to tell the story of America's Catholic nuns, he knew he faced a daunting challenge. Church histories contained little about the women he calls "America's first feminists," though they built 800 hospitals and more than 10,000 private schools. Since doing them justice would require volumes, Fialka decided to use one large order, the Sisters of Mercy, as a model, mentioning some of the other 400 communities where appropriate. The approach makes for a well-told history of these remarkable women from the time of their arrival in America in 1790 to the present, when their numbers have dwindled considerably. Fialka's account is rich with anecdotes, many told by the sisters themselves; however, his reporting makes this more than a sentimental history. The author ferrets out statistics and interviews experts to find out why these women have begun to disappear from Catholic life. In his look toward a seemingly bleak future, he includes several hopeful notes, including a chapter about a community in Nashville that is flourishing with its traditional approach to religious life. The product of a Catholic school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Fialka sprinkles his account with personal recollections and writes sympathetically of a group that often has been maligned and caricatured. Nuns will appreciate his treatment of their lives, as will Catholics pondering a church with diminishing numbers of the women who helped shape it. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-312-32596-1
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0706-5
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4668-4909-9
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