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Book on women religious deserves wide, respectful readership


This is the cover of "New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity" by Mary Johnson, SND de N; Patricia Wittberg, SC; and Mary L. Gautier. The book is reviewed by Rachelle Linner. (CNS)

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"New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity" by Mary Johnson, SND de N; Patricia Wittberg, SC; and Mary L. Gautier. Oxford University Press (New York, 2014). 216 pp; $29.95.

"New Generations of Catholic Sisters" is an important and sober study about a topic that, too frequently, is written about in polemical language.

Well-written and grounded in impeccable scholarship -- the authors are all accomplished social scientists and academics -- the book is, nonetheless, accessible to the general reader. They base their conclusions on findings from two major national studies of religious life. One, in 1999, focused on sisters who had entered religious life between 1965 and 1980. A 2009 study analyzed the responses of women who entered after 1993. (The survey questions are included as an appendix to the book.)

The authors provide important information about the contemporary religious landscape. "How do we distinguish between religious institutes and other ways of life in the church that are becoming more visible in some parts of the country and the world?" These include ecclesial movements, secular institutes, different forms of consecrated life -- including consecrated virgins and hermits -- and associations of apostolic life.

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