Dr. Timothy Walch of the Hoover Presidential Library has published a positive review of my latest book in Choice, a journal for librarians. Not only did Dr. Walsh recommend the book, but in the expanded listing he also recognized the wide number of audiences this book would appeal to, including undergraduates, graduate students, researchers and faculty, and professionals and practitioners. I had hopes that the book would have theoretical and practical implications for multiple audiences and I’m glad to know that an emeritus colleague thought so, as well! As Choice reviews are very brief, I will paste the text here, but you can read the official version in the December 2020 issue (vol. 58, no. 4) and the review number is #58-0991.
The image of American Catholicism as rigid, unchanging, and immutable dates to colonial times. In fact, as Day (Franciscan School of Theology) notes, American Catholicism evolved from a republican style (1750–1820), to an immigrant tradition (1820–1920), and then to an evangelical impulse (1920–60). Since the 1960s, American Catholicism has developed an individualistic style that emphasizes discipleship at the parish level. Volunteerism is replacing institution building as a means of Catholic engagement. It is in this context that Day focuses on the work of JustFaith Ministries, which describes itself on its website as “a vast community of faithful people, transformed by the Spirit, and leading extraordinary lives of compassion.” Since 1989, JustFaith Ministries has enlisted 50,000 people in more than 1,500 churches to share its vision. Day studied JustFaith Ministries over the course of three years, and her conclusions are based on interviews, surveys, participant-observation data, and traditional printed secondary sources. Including two useful appendixes and a substantive bibliography, this readable, professional treatment of JustFaith Ministries puts the organization in the context of a larger social movement within American Catholicism.
Congratulations to Dr. Jean-Luc Marion on the release of the English edition of his book, A Brief Apology for a Catholic Moment (University of Chicago Press). Dr. Rich Wood and I offer our praise on the back of the book:
“This book deserves the fullest attention of all who care about the future of democracy. Writing for people of secular conviction as much as for people of faith, Marion offers a powerful thesis: If we are to overcome our current societal struggles and political impasses and find any kind of shared future, Christianity represents an irreplaceable public voice. In particular, Catholicism offers cultural resources the world needs in order to face this moment. But to offer that gift successfully, Catholics must be more truly Catholic.”– Richard L. Wood, author of Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America
“A rich and comprehensive philosophical analysis of Catholicism in contemporary France. And yet, the questions Marion raises have significance for Catholics globally, as they also assess the relationship of their faith to the public sphere. Through its insights on separation, crisis, communion and more, A Brief Apology for a Catholic Moment is guaranteed to shape the philosophical imagination of its readers.”– Maureen K. Day, author of Catholic Activism Today: Personal Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice
This has been the season of book reviews! Closing out this season America has just published my review of an excellent book that examines the recent history of American Catholic activism. Sharon Erickson Nepstad continues to “do it again,” with books that bring readers insights on religion and activism. Catholic Social Activism: Progressive Movements in the United States (NYU 2019) brings the readers into the changes and efforts made by the laity and hierarchy on issues of gender, the environment, the Central American peace movement and more. The whole book examines the interplay between the laity and hierarchy on each of these topics; sometimes they work together, sometimes their efforts are more parallel and at times they are at loggerheads. Nepstad closes the book by connecting these efforts to broader ideas on understanding Catholic social change. The book is one of those that is great for classroom or a parish book group, and I note the multiple-audience appeal in my review:
The rigor and breadth of Nepstad’s research and analysis makes this an excellent book for academic courses. Yet the page-turning readability also makes it valuable for everyday Catholics who look to deepen their understanding of Catholic social teaching and how our church has enacted it.
The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching has just published my review of the edited collection Identity and Internationalization in Catholic Universities: Exploring Institutional Pathways in Context (Brill 2018). Appropriately spearheaded by a global team (Hans de Wit, Andrés Bernasconi, Visnja Car, Fiona Hunter, Michael James, and Daniela Véliz), this book uses case studies to examine the ways various institutions in Catholic higher ed have navigated questions and challenges surrounding identity and internationalization. It is a book that would provide insights on Catholic identity for a number of institutions, as I note in my review:
Identity and Internationalization in Catholic Universities is indispensable not only for those in leadership in Catholic higher education, but also for those leading Catholic schools, hospitals, nonprofits, networks, Bishops conferences, and other organizations that seek to make a distinctly Catholic impact in an increasingly global and pluralist world.
Social Forces has just published my review of Beyond Betrayal: The Priest Sex Abuse Crisis, The Voice of the Faithful, and the Process of Collective Identity (University of Chicago Press 2019). This book, written by Drs. Patricia Ewick and the late Marc W. Steinberg, explores a single Voice of the Faithful affiliate for ten years. For those unfamiliar, Voice of the Faithful is a group that began following the discovery of clerical sexual abuse of minors and its subsequent coverup. Ewick and Steinberg’s long-haul study allows us to see the ways the group does identity work as they encounter victories and setbacks in their work for justice and healing. Beyond the content itself, the book is a wonderful contribution to the literature on theories of narrative; I’m especially appreciative of this as this in an understudied field within sociology. To share a piece of my review:
Beyond Betrayal is a masterfully written book that dives deeply into the minds of individual activists to see the ways they make sense not only of their activism, but also their very selves. This book is sure to invite new questions on meaning and the role of narratives in social life. It is a must-read for scholars in the areas of social movements, identity, emotion, small groups, or framing and would be very useful for those who lead small groups trying to foment social change.
My Featured Review Essay of The Twenty-something Soul (OUP 2019) just came out in Sociology of Religion. Authors Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley do an excellent job of providing the reader with a clear understanding of the social and religious characteristics of today’s Mainline Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical and unaffiliated twenty-somethings. The book uses both survey data and interviews to look at religious and nonreligious twenty-somethings’ commitments and challenges, providing many insights. It is a great book for both scholars and ministers, as I close my review by writing:
[T]hrough its clear presentation of the findings and insightful analysis, this is a timely book that answers questions in both the public and academic minds. The Twentysomething Soul is an exciting new addition to the sociological literature on religion and young adults and is a must-read for those working in campus or young adult ministry.
The most recent edition of The CARA Report featured two of my projects.
First, my edited collection, Young Adult American Catholics, was featured. The summary highlighted discussed the major parts of the book as well as highlighted the contribution of CARA senior researcher, Mary Gautier, as an example. You can read the report here.
Second, some findings from the report on the USCCB national study of Catholic campus ministers, co-authored with Brian Starks, were also featured; the CARA feature can be viewed here.
As any scholar knows, it is one thing to do research. It is an entirely different task to get your analysis into the hands of the audiences that would most benefit from these findings. Thank you, CARA, for your not only your own important research, but also your generosity in spreading the research of others in the field.
I’m very grateful to Dan Morris-Young of the National Catholic Reporter for the thoughtful and positive review he gave of my Young Adult American Catholics. He concludes his review by noting some of the most relevant audiences for the book, writing:
The book could be a valuable tool on many fronts, in addition to simply providing its reader with a panoramic sense of young adult Catholics. Parish leaders could be better-informed in the evaluation of young adult outreach. Diocesan planners could gain insight into specific challenges, such as ministry to the LGBTQ community or to young Hispanics. Lay organizations might have light bulbs come on about involving young adults in their perhaps flagging apostolates.
Please enjoy the full text of his review here and if you prefer to purchase on amazon, you may do so here.