Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sisters: Catholic Nuns And The Making of America

Sisters: Catholic Nuns And The Making of America by John J. Fialka is an interesting and engrossing look at a slice of American history that is little-known and underappreciated.

How did nuns play a part in the development of American society? How did the largest private school and hospital system get built? Answer: The "sweat equity" of young women who made a vow to serve the Catholic church. John J. Fialka's book explores how nuns were just as much a part of settling America as the cowboys and explorers who have gotten so much more attention. Fialka's discussion revolves primarily around the Sisters of Mercy, who had orders all over the United States. Their nuns were nurses on both sides in the Civil War.

Because of their determination, devotion and huge numbers, nuns were able to accomplish a great deal, but it's still a miracle. The hierarchy of the Catholic church was/is male, and they were often guilty of treating nuns as inferior underlings. Fialka also discusses how Vatican II contributed to the decline of the incredible system that the nuns created. In the last chapters, he follows nuns up to the present. Many orders are close to dying out, but some, like the Dominican Sisters in Nashville, Tennessee are thriving.
I recommend this book without reservation. These young women created worlds that did so much good in the world at large, and John J. Fialka tells their stories with admiration and respect that is long past due.


Eva said...

Yay-my library has this one! It sounds awesome Bybee-thanks for reviewing it. :D

Jeane said...

I never thought much about the role nuns played in history, but now I'm curious, and thinking of the old missions all around California. Sounds like a good book!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sorry about the KU-Mizzou game, too! However, I was thrilled with the outcome of the KU/K-Sate game! Also, thanks for the great book recommendation!

jenclair said...

I'm adding this to my list! My daughter converted to Catholicism when she married which increased my interest considerably. Also, I have been saddened by the changes since Vatican II which resulted in drastic changes in our local Catholic schools. It was a tradition that has sadly deteriorated.

Thanks for a great review!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm adding this to my list for my mom - I think it's something she'd REALLY enjoy reading about. Thanks!