Vocation in Avocation: Book Club
By AJ Keith, Communications intern
The Sisters of Charity have always thrived in an environment where they can be of service to their local community, but a book club founded almost 20 years ago proves that the Sisters are just as involved with their internal community. Created to ponder theology and gender-based issues, this book club has proved to strengthen the members’ faith, their acceptance of differing ideas and their sense of community.
Though Sisters of Charity have formed many different book clubs among the Community, this particular group was first suggested by Sisters Judith Metz and Carol Brenner. Interested in learning more about theological issues through a feminist lens, the two began the book club nearly two decades ago with no signs of stopping. Since its creation, S. Carol has attended each book club meeting and has watched it evolve over the years.
Currently, the group consists of Sisters Carol Brenner, Jean Miller, Mary Gallagher, Katharine Pinto, Pat Malarkey, Joan Deiters and Laetitia Slusser. However, the group has always been inclusive, as Associate Margaret Cushing is also a regular member. This sense of community is apparent in all of the decisions that are made in the group. The books, for example, are chosen based on an alphabetically ordered list where each member suggests a book that the group will read. The participants of the group state that this pushes them into new territory and broadens their horizons. “We read things we normally wouldn’t read and we meet people we otherwise wouldn’t,” S. Katharine says.
Because many of the books that they have read are nonfiction, the group easily relates what they are reading to the events going on in the world, even if they have differing opinions. For example, their current book, entitled Educated by Tara Westover, is a memoir that focuses on the necessities of education to those who have never experienced it. The differing life-experiences of the members bring new insights and appreciations to light, offering some to consider points that they otherwise would not have thought of. This can sometimes extend to learning something new about their faith and growing from it. “Discussing the book out loud makes it come to life,” S. Mary says. “It makes the point of the book real.”
However, knowing the members of the club is just as important as reading the chosen book. Experiencing the same book and discussing it out loud displays the values of each member which makes them feel like they were close friends all of their lives. “Before each session, we talk about what has been going on with our lives,” S. Jean says. “Sometimes we get so involved in talking to one another that we don’t talk about the book!”
For many of the Sisters, reading comes as a time of relaxation from the stresses of everyday life. Though the content of the stories often involve women overcoming hardships in their lives, it is still a welcome release from the tiring day that they put behind them when they read. Coupled with dialogue that takes place among the members, the book club provides a balance that brings the Sisters’ concern for social justice and a sense of relaxation together. When the book club meets every other month, the warmth of the small community can be felt even by an outsider. When the Sisters reconvene to discuss their newest book, they simply pick up the conversation from where they left off.