BOOK REVIEW: New dimensions of Joan Chittister’s life featured in biography, author says

by Kathleen L. Sullivan, NCR

Tom Roberts, author of a biography of Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister released Oct. 1, sign books with her at a launch event at Pucker Gallery in Boston. (GSR photo / Caitlin Hendel)

Tom Roberts, author of a biography of Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister released Oct. 1, sign books with her at an event in Boston. (GSR photo / Caitlin Hendel)

“Who writes a biography about a nun? Can you think of anything duller?”

Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister posed these questions at an Oct. 6 event marking the publication of the new biography Joan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith (Orbis Books). The predominantly female audience at the book launch at Boston’s Pucker Gallery could not have disagreed with Chittister more.

The evening featured Chittister and author Tom Roberts in a conversation reflecting on the origins of the biography and insights gained from the experience.

“The interior Joan was worth showing people because it was ultimately behind this woman who is helping to revolutionize religious life and confronting the church with enormous questions in an integral way,” said Roberts, who is editor at large of National Catholic Reporter. “There are dimensions to Joan’s life that are very pastoral that not many people know about.”

A biography is not what Roberts had in mind when he began his interview with Chittister at her Benedictine community in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 2011. He was interviewing her to “freshen up the files” — a journalistic euphemism for updating her obituary…

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