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The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s

The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s

by Amy L. KoehlingerAmy L. Koehlinger


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In the 1960s, a number of Catholic women religious in the United States abandoned traditional apostolic works to experiment with new and often unprecedented forms of service among non-Catholics. Amy Koehlinger explores the phenomenon of the "new nun" through close examination of one of its most visible forms—the experience of white sisters working in African-American communities. In a complex network of programs and activities Koehlinger describes as the "racial apostolate," sisters taught at African-American colleges in the South, held racial sensitivity sessions in integrating neighborhoods, and created programs for children of color in public housing projects.

Engaging with issues of race and justice allowed the sisters to see themselves, their vocation, and the Church in dramatically different terms. In this book, Koehlinger captures the confusion and frustration, as well as the exuberance and delight, they experienced in their new Christian mission. Their increasing autonomy and frequent critiques of institutional misogyny shaped reforms within their institute and sharpened a post-Vatican II crisis of authority.

From the Selma march to Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project, Amy Koehlinger illuminates the transformative nature of the nexus of race, religion, and gender in American society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674024731
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/30/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Amy L. Koehlinger is Assistant Professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion at Oregon State University.

Table of Contents


Introduction: An Apostolic Revolution

1. Church and Society: The Emergence of New Nuns

2. Education and Training: Tools for Racial Justice

3. Vocation and Negotiation: Congregational Dynamics

4. Sisters in Selma: Working Under Jim Crow

5. Project Cabrini: Becoming Sistahs

6. The Placement Bureau: Matching Nuns with Needs

Conclusion: Endings and New Beginnings





What People are Saying About This

Susan M. Hartmann

An original and engaging study of Catholic sisters' anti-racist work in the 1960s. Koehlinger is superb in describing the forces promoting the racial apostolate and in taking the reader close to the thoughts, emotions, and daily activities of the sisters.
Susan M. Hartmann, Ohio State University

John T. McGreevy

A beautifully written book on a neglected subject: Catholics nuns in the United States. Koehlinger's study will powerfully assist us in understanding the experience of race and reform among women religious--and its meaning for Catholicism--during the cauldron of the 1960s."
John T. McGreevy, author of Catholicism and American Freedom

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