Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Creating Community: Mary Frances Clarke and Her Companions

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Creating Community: Mary Frances Clarke and Her Companions

Article excerpt

Creating Community: Mary Frances Clarke and Her Companions. By Ann M. Harrington. (Dubuque, Iowa: Sisters of Charity, BVM. 2004. Pp. xv, 198. $10.00.)

Like scholars in other historical fields, at least some of those concerned with the history of women religious have begun to challenge the "great [wo]man" approach to the past, in which extraordinary credit is given to the significance or contributions of a specific person in shaping the experiential legacy of a group. For those writing about sisters, however, this concern raises particular trials, because congregations and orders traditionally have been understood to owe their distinctive character and spirit to the inspiration or "charism" of an individual "founder." Without rejecting the notion of charism entirely, a number of recent works have skillfully modified and nuanced its understanding. Important scholars contributing to this approach include Josephine Marie Peplinski (A Fitting Response: The History of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis), M. Raphael Consedine (Listening Journey: A Study of the Spirit and Ideals of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters), Carol K. Coburn and Martha Smith (Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920), the collective authors of Building Sisterhood: A Feminist History of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and, perhaps most creatively, Mary C. Sullivan (Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy). Now, with Creating Community: Mary Frances Clarke and Her Companions, Ann M. Harrington has earned her place within this circle.

Creating Community is a concise and very readable account primarily of the founding and foundational traditions of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an Irish-American congregation originally established in Philadelphia (1833), but soon moved to Dubuque, Iowa. Harrington has built upon the work of numerous previous historians of the community (most, like her, both BVM sisters and trained scholars), but she has also taken upon herself the more difficult-and sometimes controversial-task of exploring aspects of the heritage that she calls its "mythistory" citing William McNeill who describes this as "what groups of people have known and believed about their past and found necessary to preserve as essential for their entire existence" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.