Chittister, Joan 1936- (Joan Daugherty Chittister)
Chittister, Joan 1936- (Joan Daugherty Chittister)
Born April 26, 1936, in Dubois, PA; daughter of Harold C. and Loretta Chittister. Education: Mercyhurst College, B.A., 1962; University of Notre Dame, M.A., 1968; Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D., 1971. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Office—Benetvision, 355 E. Ninth St., Erie, PA 16503-1107. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, nun, lecturer. Entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA, 1952. Diocese of Erie, PA, elementary school teacher, 1955-59, secondary school teacher, 1959-74; Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses, president, 1974-90; Benedictine Sisters of Erie, prioress, 1978-90; Benetvision (spiritual research center), Erie, executive director, 1990—. Member of board of directors, Emmaus Ministries, Inc.; member, International Committee for the Peace Council, 1995—; cochair, Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Other Spiritual Leaders, 2002—; member, Niwano Peace Foundation, Tokyo, Japan, 2003—. Has held numerous positions on boards of directors for educational, monastic, and health-related associations. Visiting fellow or writer-in-residence at numerous colleges and conferences, 1972-2001. Producer of numerous audio and video cassettes on spirituality, ministry, religious life and practice, and women in church and society. Member of board of directors, National Catholic Reporter, 1983-2000. Has also appeared as a guest commentator on church and societal issues for television programs, including Bill Moyers Now.
Speech Communication Association, American Benedictine Academy.
Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award, Pax Christi National Assembly, 1990; named "distinguished daughter of Pennsylvania" by Pennsylvania state legislature, 1991; named to Pennsylvania Honor Roll of Women by state legislature, 1996; first place book awards, Catholic Press Association, 1996, for There Is a Season, and 1997, for Passion for Life; distinguished alumni award, Pennsylvania State University, 2000; best general interest award, Association of Theological Booksellers, 2003, for Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope. Recipient of honorary degrees, including D.L. from Chestnut Hill College, 1986, Villa Maria College, 1987, Loyola University of Chicago, 1989, St. Leo College and Loyola University, both 1990, and St. John's University, 1997; honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology, Santa Clara University, 1994; D.H., Barry University, 1999; D.M., Catholic Theological Union, 2001; and D.H.L., St. Michael College, 2002.
(With others) Climb along the Cutting Edge: An Analysis of Change in Religious Life, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1977.
(With Martin E. Marty) Faith and Ferment: An Interdisciplinary Study of Christian Beliefs and Practices, Augsburg Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1983.
Women, Church, and Ministry, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Psalm Journal I and II, Sheed & Ward (Kansas City, MO), 1985.
Winds of Change: Women Challenge the Church, Sheed & Ward (Kansas City, MO), 1986.
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, Harper & Row (San Francisco, CA), 1990.
Job's Daughters: Women and Power, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Womanstrength: Modern Church, Modern Women, Sheed & Ward (Kansas City, MO), 1990.
The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages, Crossroad Press (New York, NY), 1992.
In a High Spiritual Season, Triumph Books (New York, NY), 1995.
There Is a Season, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1995.
The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life, Sheed & Ward (Kansas City, MO), 1995.
The Psalms: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, Crossroad Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Beyond Beijing: The Next Step for Women, Sheed & Ward (Kansas City, MO), 1996.
Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1996.
Songs of Joy: New Meditations on the Psalms, Crossroad Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Light in the Darkness: New Reflections on the Psalms, Crossroad Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men, William B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998.
In Search of Belief, Triumph Books (Liguori, MO), 1999, revised edition, foreword by Tom Roberts, Liguori Publications (Liguori, MO), 2006.
Gospel Days: Reflections for Every Day of the Year, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1999.
The Friendship of Women: A Spiritual Tradition, Benetvision (Erie, PA), 1999.
Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2000.
The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman's Life, William B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.
Life Ablaze: A Woman's Novena, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2000.
Living Well: Scriptural Reflections for Every Day, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2000.
Seeing with Our Souls: Monastic Wisdom for Every Day, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2002.
New Designs: An Anthology of Spiritual Vision, Benetvision (Erie, PA), 2002.
Scarred by Struggle; Transformed by Hope, William B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited, Benetvision (Erie, PA), 2003.
Listen with the Heart: Sacred Moments in Everyday Life, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2003.
Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2004.
In the Heart of the Temple: My Spiritual Vision for Today's World, BlueBridge (New York, NY), 2004.
Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2005.
In the Light of the Messengers: Lenten Reflections, Benetvision (Erie, PA), 2005.
The Way We Were: A Story of Conversion and Renewal, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2005.
The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible, BlueBridge (New York, NY), 2006.
The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2006.
(With others) The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2006.
Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You, William B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2007.
The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, Blue-Bridge (New York, NY), 2008.
Author of weekly Web column, "From Where I Stand," for National Catholic Reporter Online. Also author of pamphlets, published by Benetvision (Erie, PA) and Pax Christi (Erie, PA). Contributor to periodicals, including America, Commonweal, U.S. Catholic, Sojourners, Origins, Catholic World, Notre Dame, Liguorian, Religion and Intellectual Life, Weavings, Lutheran Women Today, and several foreign journals.
Joan Chittister's many books range in scope from simple advisories on religion in daily life to challenges for a more gender-free Christianity. A member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, since her teens, Chittister has written and lectured most notably on the role of women within the Roman Catholic Church, defying a Vatican ban on the discussion of women in the priesthood by speaking and writing on that issue. To quote Karen M. Kennelly in National Catholic Reporter, Chittister offers "convincing arguments for regarding feminization as a revolutionary movement with the power to revitalize institutions or to render them irrelevant." According to Kennelly, Chittister works under the basic assumption "that the church has everything to gain from receptivity to feminist perspectives."
Chittister is the first Benedictine woman to have earned a Ph.D., and she is probably its best-known female author worldwide. In her books, as well as in her lectures, Chittister calls for ordination of Catholic women to the priesthood and offers detailed theological arguments supporting her position. In an America review of Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men, Donald C. Maldari wrote: "Chittister correctly critiques an oppressive system that victimizes women. Her demand that the church recognize all women is both a call for justice and an opportunity to enrich the whole world. To do otherwise would be to limit or to ignore the contributions of half of humanity."
In her books, Chittister takes issue with the patriarchal thinking that has become ingrained within Christian theology and practice, suggesting that it has led to violence, authoritarianism, and human suffering. She advocates a feminist-based spirituality, not just to liberate women, but to improve the religious experience for men as well. According to Maldari, the author "calls for a new cosmic vision of creation, replacing the pyramid of patriarchal domination with the circle of feminist companionship and relationships." As Chittister told Tom C. Fox in the National Catholic Reporter: "Feminism is about getting a better world—for everybody."
At times Chittister's speeches and writings have challenged not only Vatican law but also Church-imposed bans on the discussion of such topics as female ordination. Nevertheless, Chittister has never been officially disciplined by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and her books on many topics are popular with American and European Catholics. Under the name of Benetvision, which she leads through her Benedictine order, Chittister supervises a wide variety of charitable undertakings, from art classes for poor children to a large food bank and soup kitchen. While some of her books concern themselves with feminist issues, others invite the reader to ponder the divine through essays, examina- tion of Scripture, or daily meditation. A Publishers Weekly critic described the author as having appeal to "readers who want more than platitudes and pat answers to life's challenges." Another Publishers Weekly contributor felt that Chittister's devotional works will encourage readers to "reflect deeply upon several aspects of their lives and to examine their belief systems."
In The Way We Were: A Story of Conversion and Renewal, Chittister examines the changes that have swept through the Catholic Church since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. She does so, as America contributor Carol K. Coburn noted, by setting "her astute lens on her own Benedictine congregation in Erie, Pa., between 1960 and 1990." She follows the transformation of this congregation through not only three decades, but also through three different leaders and leadership styles in this "engaging and thought-provoking book," as Coburn termed it.
Chittister explores the areas people of different faiths and ages have in common in a pair of books. With Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You, she culls the stories as well as the cultural and religious heritage of faiths including Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism to demonstrate such communal traits. For example, from the Christian tradition, the author examines the concept of love and its transformational power; from Hinduism, she looks at the ability to put the past behind one; from Buddhism, she tackles Western notions of success, and Judaism provides insight into idealism. Writing in Booklist, June Sawyer found this work to provide "exemplary inspiration from one of the foremost contemporary writers on spirituality." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "This refreshing book will be welcomed by Chittister's many admirers and is sure to win new ones as well." And writing for Spirituality and Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat termed Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You a "healing and helpful volume."
Working with a rabbi and a Sufi mystic, Chittister offers further examples of the communality between people in The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, a work that "offer[s] new insights into Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations by reaching back to the common origins of the Abrahamic traditions," according to a reviewer for Interpretation. The book is essentially an exegesis on the story of Abraham, as recounted in the Hebrew Bible and in the Koran, viewed through the perspectives of three different religions. Ultimately, as the Interpretation reviewer further noted, the authors find various aspects of the story of Abraham to be a "source of healing" between the different religions. A Tikkun reviewer had praise for The Tent of Abraham, observing: "This book will open your eyes to the possibilities for collaborative work between our traditions." Likewise, Library Journal reviewer Gary P. Gillum commented: "Delicate in telling but bold in message, this book encourages every reader to take an inner pilgrimage to understand better others' viewpoints."
Chittister takes on further biblical explication in The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart, "a brilliant interpretation," as a Tikkun reviewer termed the book. Here the author examines each of the commandments, attempting to bring them to life for a modern audience and render them into a recipe for successful daily living. Reviewing the book for the GoodBookstall, Ian Gibson concluded: "This book is a must for those seeking more understanding into this sometimes difficult area of our belief." Similarly, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, writing for Spirituality and Practice, felt that Chittister "makes a good case for measuring our spiritual development in terms of these laws of the heart."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Chittister, Joan, Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2004.
Newsmakers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Spiritual Questions for the Twenty-first Century: Essays in Honor of Joan D. Chittister, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2001.
America, September 12, 1998, Donald C. Maldari, review of Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men, p. 21; November 21, 2005, Carol K. Coburn, "Through Open Doors," review of The Way We Were: A Story of Conversion and Renewal, p. 24.
Anglican Theological Review, winter, 2000, Diana Evans, review of Heart of Flesh, p. 225.
Booklist, August, 2007, June Sawyers, review of Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You, p. 13.
Interpretation, January, 2007, review of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, p. 110.
Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Gary P. Gillum, review of The Tent of Abraham, p. 124.
National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 1993, Richard Kropf, review of The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages, p. 13; October 16, 1998, Karen M. Kennelly, review of Heart of Flesh, p. 16; February 23, 2001, Thomas Roberts, "Inside NCR," p. 2; May 11, 2001, Tom C. Fox, "Ask Not What Joan Can Do for You," p. 28; March 4, 2005, Antonia Ryan, "Meditations for the Season," p. 15.
Presbyterian Record, March, 2006, Lee McKenna du Charme, "Oysters, Pearls and Irritation: Joan Chittister's Anger Is Neither Dimmed nor Quenched," p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1996, review of The Psalms: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, p. 69; February 10, 2003, review of Scarred by Struggle; Transformed by Hope, p. 180; May 15, 2006, review of The Tent of Abraham, p. 68; June 11, 2007, review of Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You, p. 57.
Sojourners Magazine, July, 2006, "A Basis for Peace," p. 38.
Tikkun, July 1, 2006, review of The Tent of Abraham, p. 81; September 1, 2006, review of The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart, p. 81.
Benetvision Web site,http://www.benetvision.org/ (February 7, 2005), "Joan D. Chittister."
GoodBookstall,http://www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk/ (June 28, 2007), Ian Gibson, review of The Ten Commandments.
Shalom Center Web site,http://www.shalomctr.org/ (February 15, 2008), Claire Gorfinkel, review of The Tent of Abraham.
Spirituality and Practice,http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ (February 15, 2008), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, reviews of Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You and The Ten Commandments.
Website of Unknowing,http://anamchara.com/ (October 9, 2006), Carl McColman, review of The Tent of Abraham.