Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American -- Priceless Spirit: A History of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, 1841-1893 by Sister M. Georgia Costin

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American -- Priceless Spirit: A History of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, 1841-1893 by Sister M. Georgia Costin

Article excerpt

Priceless Spirit: A History of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, 1841-1893. By Sister M. Georgia Costin, C.S.C. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 1994. Pp. xi, 268. $24.95.)

Prominent among pioneer settlers in the American Midwest were religious sisters from Europe. With few material sources, these young women faced severe cultural and physical challenges in order to serve the spiritual, social, and educational needs of expanding frontier communities. Drawing upon archival records and contemporary accounts, Sister Georgia Costin explores the experiences of an important Indiana sisterhood, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, during its first half-century in America. Her chronicle has much to tell us about nineteenth-century religious life and organization and about the efforts of sisters to gain and retain autonomy over their collective lives and works.

Interaction between sisters and church officials was uneasy throughout the period, since female initiative was, for the most part, neither expected nor welcomed. Within the Holy Cross community, however, brothers and priests appreciated the talents and generosity of the sisters and collaborated with them in various ways. In this regard, the book has an important secondary theme, one that receives nearly as much attention as its primary subject. According to Costin, previously published histories and community legends present an inaccurate, unduly negative picture of Father Edward Sorin, charismatic leader of the Holy Cross community throughout much of the period. …

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