Perfect Charity – Women Religious Living the Spirit of Vatican II is a new book that documents the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the lives of 14 Australian nuns, two of whom are Good Samaritan Sisters.
Through a series of interviews, Good Samaritan Sisters Anna Warlow and Clare Condon, and 12 other religious women from apostolic and contemplative orders, tell their personal stories of the dramatic changes they experienced as a result of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Instruction on the Renewal of Religious Life, Perfectae Caritatis.
“What they describe is radical renewal,” said Mary Ryllis Clark, one of the book’s editors.
“Their stories chart journeys which took them from school classrooms to the wider world. Variously they went to university, practiced canon law, feminist theology and biblical scholarship, and [undertook] advocacy on behalf of the marginalised and asylum seekers.”
Mary said Perfectae Caritatis “demanded a return to the scriptures, to the ‘spirit and aims of the founder’, a proper understanding of and adaptation to ‘the changed conditions of the times’ and an accompanying inner ‘spiritual renewal’.
“It changed the way women religious looked, lived and prayed.”
For Mary, the contribution of religious women to Australian cultural and educational life has been “remarkable” but “largely anonymous and its significance understated”. Recognising that in most orders the numbers are diminishing, she invited author and historian, Heather O’Connor, to join her in interviewing and writing up the nuns’ stories “while there was still time”.
“Valerie Krips, a close friend and brilliant editor, moulded our two very different voices into a harmonious whole,” she said.
Aimed primarily at the general reader, Mary said the book also provides material of value to the academic scholar and researcher.
The 14 women featured in the book are Brigid Arthur CSB, Joanna Bagot OSB, Deirdre Browne IBVM, Maria Casey RSJ, Clare Condon SGS, Maryanne Confoy RSC, Ann Derwin RSJ, Carol Hogan SSS, Bernadette Keating PVBM, Veronica Lawson RSM, Patricia Powell RSM, Libby Rogerson IBVM, Stancea Vichie MSS and Anna Warlow SGS.
In choosing these women, Mary said the editors “wanted a range of different congregations” and “a variety in the focus of ministry”. They also tried to get a geographical spread.
“We are aware the 14 we approached are the tip of the iceberg!” she added.
Journalist and broadcaster Geraldine Doogue has described Perfect Charity as “a terrific collection of Australian stories of women who have contributed mightily by adapting themselves to meet a changing mission; indeed leading some of that change when others weren’t quite sure where the journey led.
“Faith, bravery, risk and wisdom all feature within the experiences of these highly impressive nuns. I salute them,” she said.
PERFECT CHARITY: Women Religious Living the Spirit of Vatican II, edited by Mary Ryllis Clark, Heather O’Connor & Valerie Krips, is available through Morning Star Publishing for $35.50 plus postage. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org