The Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine community was founded in 1910 by marion gurney, who adopted the religious name Mother Marianne of Jesus. A graduate of Wellesley College and a convert to Catholicism,
Gurney had served as head resident at St. Rose's Settlement, the first Catholic settlement house in New York City. She founded the Sisters of Christian Doctrine when other communities of women religious appeared uninterested in a ministry of settlement work combined with religious education programs for children
attending public schools. The community established two settlement houses in New York City-Madonna House on the Lower East Side in 1910, followed by Ave Maria House in the Bronx in 1930. Alongside their classes in religious education and preparing children and adults to receive the sacraments, the Sisters distributed food and clothing, operated a bread line, and helped their neighbors in emergencies. In
1940 Mother Marianne and the Sisters began their first major mission outside New York when they adapted the model of the urban Catholic social settlement to rural South Carolina. They also served at a number of parishes, including several in South Carolina and Florida, where they ministered to both black and white Catholics.
In Neighbors and Missionaries, Margaret M. McGuinness, who was given full access to the archives of the Sisters of Christian Doctrine, traces in fascinating detail the history of the congregation, from the inspiring story of its founder and the community's mission to provide material and spiritual support to their Catholic neighbors, to the changes and challenges of the latter half of the twentieth century. By 1960, settlement houses had been replaced by other forms of social welfare, and the lives and work of American women religious were undergoing a dramatic change. McGuinness explores how the Sisters of Christian Doctrine were affected and how they adapted their own lives and work to reflect the transformations taking place in the Church and society.
Neighbors and Missionaries examines a distinctive community of women religious whose primary focus was neither teaching nor nursing/hospital administration. The choice of the Sisters of Christian Doctrine to live among the poor and to serve where other communities were either unwilling or unable demonstrates
that women religious in the United States served in many different capacities as they contributed to the life and work of the American Catholic Church.
McGuinness explores how the Sisters of Christian Doctrine were affected and how they adapted their own lives and work to reflect the transformations taking place in the church and society. * -American Catholic Studies Newsletter *
"Illuminates our understanding of the history of American women religious by examining the unique apostolate of a particular community that blended concern for the spiritual and material wellbeing of the Catholic poor." -- -Christine Anderson * Xavier University *
Professor McGuinness provides a magisterial account of the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine who instilled Catholic values among poor immigrants in New York City, promoted ecumenism in the American South, and remained steadfast to the core values of their mission. McGuinness is an accomplished scholar and her use of sources and sound analytical structure provides a marvelous model for others exploring the history of women religious. Neighbors and Missionaries makes an important and timely contribution to the history of American Catholicism. -- -James T. Carroll * Iona College *
In bringing to light the history of the Sisters of Christian Doctrine, and documenting the evolution of the community from a foundation in settlement work in New York City in the early twentieth century through post war efforts in child care, religious education and social work in the south, Margaret McGuiness reveals an innovative community of women religious continually engaged in responsive ministry. Neighbors and Missionaries enriches our understanding of the development of American sisterhoods and their work, and is an important contribution to the historiography of American Catholic efforts in social welfare in the twentieth century. -- -Bernadette McCauley * Hunter College of the City University of New York *
In this important book, Margaret M. McGuinness shows that the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Charity, fueled by personal faith and ideals of the settlement house era, shaped a social service ministry that touched modern America's urban and rural poor. McGuinness adds a significant chapter to the narrative of Catholic womanhood, documenting that religious sisters, with slim institutional support, immersed themselves in the communities of the indigent, where they labored tirelessly for social justice. Drawing on an impressive array of fresh sources, the author illuminates the guiding principles of these sisters, who reached across national barriers and economic divides, using practical programs, steady friendships, and spiritual assistance to combat poverty. Neighbors and Missionaries is a major historical contribution, central to understanding the powerful gender issues that influenced women's religious congregations in the growth of an American Catholic church. -- -Anne M. Butler * Utah State University *