When the Sisters Said Farewell: The Transition of Leadership in Catholic Elementary Schools

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When the Sisters Said Farewell: The Transition of Leadership in Catholic Elementary Schools Michael P. Caruso, SJ Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland 2012, 155 pages, $24.95 ISBN 978-1-61048-653-8

Despite the sweeping societal changes that characterized virtually every aspect of American life during the late 20th century, it would be difficult to identify an institution that experienced as pervasive and as speedy a transformation in leadership and staff as the institution of American Catholic schools.

Jesuit Father Michael Caruso's "When the Sisters Said Farewell" chronicles the century-long commitment of women religious in those schools and analyzes the transition to lay staffing following the departure of sisters from Catholic school ministries. A perfect storm of factors hastened their departure, including declining numbers due to death, fewer women entering religious life and a post-Vatican II open placement system that permitted sisters to enter non-school ministries. The sisters' exit precipitated the need for lay ministers to continue the legacy begun by the sisters.

Beyond providing historical perspective about the systemic change of Catholic school leadership and staffing, "When the Sisters Said Farewell" includes thoughtful commentary regarding the effects of the change. The book serves as homage to the sisters whose sacrifices became a living endowment to Catholic schools and acknowledges lay ministers' sacrifices in sustaining and growing the sisters' legacy. …