Sr. Joan Chittister is one of the best known and best loved writers and international speakers on Benedictine spirituality and social justice in the world today. She has authored some 50 books and over 700 articles Sr. Joan has been a courageous and sometimes controversial advocate of social justice for all, especially for women, in both church and society. She speaks of “contemporary spirituality”. Rather than turning inward away from the world, Sr. Joan teaches us how to find God and inner peace in the midst of today’s turbulent world. Her books have been translated into nine languages and have won 16 catholic press association awards in the United States.
What makes Sr. Joan unique is that she has utilized modern media to create a network of spiritually minded seekers. First there is Benetvision, a media-based outreach that offers book publications, retreats, book discussions, a website and store. But there is also an online intentional community called “Monasteries of the Heart” with a monthly newsletter that one can subscribe to online or in print. The official website of Sr. Joan, www.joanchittister.org, calls it “a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers”. More than 100,000 individuals around the world participate in this offering, with some 58 communities registered. There is also a monthly publication of daily spirituality: “The Monastic Way.”
Sr. Joan is internationally known as a speaker and organizer and is considered “one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time.” She has a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, a Ph.D. in speech communication from Penn State University, and was a visiting research fellow at Cambridge University. She was Prioress of her monastery, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie Pennsylvania for 12 years, was President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and is currently co-chair of the U.N.-sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women.
Her best-selling commentary on the RB is: The Rule of Benedict: a Spirituality for the 21st Century (Crossroad, 1992/2010). For a good sampling of Sr. Joan’s writing, see Joan Chittister: Essential Writings, edited by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB and Mary Hembrow Snyder (Orbis Books, 2014)
Her special relevance for the theme of our Congress lies in Sr. Joan’s work and writing on the changing landscape of religious life for both monastics and the laity.