Chittister, Joan (Daugherty) 1936-

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Chittister, Joan (Daugherty) 1936-

PERSONAL: Born April 26, 1936, in Dubois, PA; daughter of Harold C. and Loretta (Cuneo) Chittister; entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA, 1952. Education: Mercyhurst College, B.A., 1962; University of Notre Dame, M.A., 1968; Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D., 1971. Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES: Home—Home and office—Benetvision, 355 East Ninth St., Erie, PA 16503-1107. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: 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-; writer and lecturer. Member of board of directors, Emmaus Ministries, Inc.; member, International Committee for the Peace Council, 1995-; co-chair, 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.

MEMBER: Speech Communication Association, American Benedictine Academy.

AWARDS, HONORS: 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.

Gospel Days: Reflections for Every Day of the Year, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1999.

The Friendship of Women: A Spiritual Tradition, Benetvision, 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, Blue Bridge (New York, NY), 2004.

Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God, Sheed & Ward (Franklin, WI), 2005.

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.

SIDELIGHTS: 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 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 public speech, 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 Thomas C. Fox in 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, examination 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."



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.

Anglican Theological Review, winter, 2000, Diana Evans, review of Heart of Flesh, p. 225.

National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 1993, Richard Kropf, review of The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages, p. 13; November 18, 1994, p. 3; December 29, 1995; October 16, 1998, Karen M. Kennelly, review of Heart of Flesh, p. 16; January 12, 2001, p. 24; February 23, 2001, Thomas Roberts, "Inside NCR," p. 2; April 6, 2001, p. 11; May 4, 2001, p. 3; May 11, 2001, Tom C. Fox, "Ask Not What Joan Can Do for You," p. 28; July 13, 2001, p. 3; July 27, 2001, p. 5.

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.


Benetvision Web site, (February 7, 2005), "Joan D. Chittister."