In 2006, I was commissioned by the Sisters of Mercy Chicago Regional Community to research and write their community history from their foundation in on the Southside of Chicago in 1846 to 2008, when the joined other regional communities of Sister of Mercy to form West Midwest.  The result of that work is a book-length manuscript entitled Women of Faith: The Chicago Sisters of Mercy and the Evolution of a Religious Community.  The book was published by Fordham University Press in 2014.

From the Fordham University Press website:

9780823254736When the Sisters of Mercy lost their foundress Sister Catherine McAuley in 1841, stories of Mother Catherine passed from one generation of sisters to the next. McAuley’s Rule and Constitutions along with her spiritual writings and correspondence communicated the Mercys’ founding charism. Each generation of Sisters of Mercy who succeeded her took these words and her spirit with them as they established new communities or foundations across the United States and around the world. In Women of Faith, Mary Beth Fraser Connolly traces the paths of the women who dedicated their lives to the Sisters of Mercy Chicago Regional Community, the first Congregation of Catholic Sisters in Chicago.

More than the story of the institutions that defined the territory and ministries of the women of this Midwestern region, Women of Faith presents a history of the women who made this regional community, whether as foundresses of individual communities in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries or as the teachers, nurses, and pastoral ministers who cared for and educated generations of Midwestern American Catholics. Though they had no immediate connection with McAuley, these women inherited her spirit and vision for religious life.

Focusing on how the Chicago Mercys formed a community, lived their spiritual lives, and served within the institutional Catholic Church, this three-part perspective addresses community, spirituality, and ministry, providing a means by which we can trace the evolution of these women of faith as the world around them changed. The first part of this study focuses on the origins of the Sisters of Mercy in the Midwest from the founding of the Chicago South Side community in 1846 through the amalgamation and creation of the Chicago Province in 1929. The second part examines how the Mercys came together as one province through the changes of Vatican II from 1929 to the 1980s. Part III examines life after the dramatic changes of Vatican II in the 1990s and 2000s.

Presenting rich examples of how faith cannot be separated from identity, Women of Faith provides an important new contribution to the scholarship that is shaping our collective understanding of women religious.

For more information, see Fordham’s website.

I was also fortune to collaborate with my friend Jeremy Bonner and Christopher Denny on a project on Catholic Action, Vatican II, and the Laity.  What began from conversations between Jeremy and I about a new perspective on American Catholicism in America, became a collection of essays from a group of excellent scholars on various aspect of laity and Catholic Action.  This volume, Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action before and after Vatican II, was also published by Fordham  University Press in 2013.

From the Fordham University Press website:

Empowering the People of GodThe early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Pope Pius XII’s assurance “You do not belong to the Church. You are the Church” emboldened the laity to challenge Church authority in ways previously considered unthinkable. Empowering the People of God offers a fresh look at the Catholic laity and its relationship with the hierarchy in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council and in the turbulent era that followed. This collection of essays explores a diverse assortment of manifestations of Catholic action, ranging from genteel reform to radical activism, and an equally wide variety of locales, apostolates, and movements.

See the Fordham University Press website for more information.


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