Jeana DELROSSO, Leigh EICKE, and Ana KOTHE (eds.).  Unruly Catholic Nuns: Sisters’ Stories.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2017, pp. 160. $60.00 hardover; $19.95 softcover ISBN 978-1-4384-6648-1. (Also Google e-book $9.99.) Reviewed by Meg Wilkes KARRAKER, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55105.


I always appreciate writing that gives voice to the actual words of the subject. The eighteen essays in this short volume do just that, with contributions by Sisters (and women who have left) congregations including OSF, SL, CDP, SSND, CSJ, and SSJ. Organized around three themes inspired by Julian Norwich (“our Father wills, our Mother works, and the Holy Spirit confirms”), the editors use blends of autobiography, fiction, poetry, and prose to present the lived experience and deep reflections of women in the Church (both agreements and disagreements), in the contexts of Sisters charisms.

For example, Julia Rice, OSF poignantly (and painfully) reflects on the journey from her early years to the apostolic visitation at the end of the first decade of the new century.

Now that I am seventy-five,
you do not trust me.   
Suddenly you think
that I have been unfaithful.
I am useless, wrinkled,
Worthless to work, worthless to you. (p. 12)

Christine Schenk recounts being “outraged at the arrogance of a structure that honestly believes it can silence the voice of God speaking and witnessing in and through female bodies” (p. 104). And then Jane Morrissey’s free-prose “& the Truth Shall Set U Free” called to my mind the Sisters I studied a small Midwestern city who persist in their faith-full work for the common good, no matter what the opposition.

As a sociologist, I appreciate how the editors’ Introduction “On Unruly Nuns (and the Women Who Admire Them)” frames “unruly” beyond a social construction as deviance to a challenge to identity and agency through the deepest commitment to values and integrity. I particularly recommend this volume to scholars in literature, social justice, theology, women’s studies, as well as Catholic Studies.

  DelRosso is Professor of English and Women’s Studies and Director of the Elizabeth Morrissy Honors Program at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Eicke is a writer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kothe is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüz. The three are coeditors of Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism (SUNY Press, 2013).