What we’re reading this month: October 2023

The books U.S. Catholic writers have enjoyed this month, including “Creating Spaces for Women in the Catholic Church” and “Home-Going.”
Arts & Culture

Creating Spaces for Women in the Catholic Church

Edited by Sarah Kohles (Paulist Press, 2023)

“From all continents comes an appeal for Catholic women to be valued first and foremost as baptized and equal members of the People of God.”

These words from Enlarge the Space of Your Tent (the working document for the Continental Stage of the Global Synod) speak about the complicated relationship many women feel with the institutional church. Now Creating Spaces for Women in the Catholic Church offers nine searingly honest narratives of women sharing their struggles with the Catholic Church. The book dives into some of the hardest questions facing our church today: how to respond meaningfully to the reality of LGBTQ Catholics, or to women who sense a call to ordination—either to the diaconate or the priesthood. How to serve increasingly diverse congregations when many ministries are geared toward those who are white and middle class. How to minister to those who are Catholic yet find meaning, connection, and community beyond Catholic rituals.

The book shows the human cost of ignoring or minimizing these questions. While the writers name their experiences of marginalization, the book is fundamentally hopeful, highlighting how people carve out spaces for themselves, build community, and reenvision faith.

Those who have been wounded or excluded by the church will find resonance and reassurance in these pages. Those who find themselves at the center rather than the periphery of the church may at first experience defensiveness when reading these women’s stories—a discomfort I hope will ultimately produce greater empathy for those who do not experience the Catholic Church as a place of welcome.


—Rhonda Miska

Home-Going: The Journey from Racism and Death to Community and Hope

By Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J. (Anamchara Books, 2023)

At the heart of Patrick Saint-Jean’s book Home-Going: The Journey from Racism and Death to Community and Hope is a challenge to Americans to acknowledge the pain caused by racism in our country and to grieve for the past in order to heal the present. Drawing from his experience as both a therapist and a Jesuit, Saint-Jean invites the reader to move out of Western binary thinking and into the holistic view of the African diaspora. He argues that only by drawing on the Black experience will America find hope and restoration. Specifically, he writes, one must shed rugged individualism for the principle of ubuntu—the belief that individual identity is found in one’s place in the community—and learn to see death not as an ending of life but as a translation into a new kind of living.

Saint-Jean is a master storyteller. Even when describing the atrocities of slavery and lynching, his writing transports the reader into the scene. Each chapter of the book is bracketed with thought-provoking quotations and embodied prayer rituals that help the reader process their emotions through the movement of the Holy Spirit. While deeply grounded in Catholic tradition, Saint-Jean also uses wisdom from many other religious and cultural traditions to envision a hopeful future and shine new light on the good news of Jesus Christ.

Home-Going is an engaging, meditative book that is unflinching in speaking truth about the sin of racism. It calls the reader to experience the hurt white supremacy has caused. It does not sugarcoat the ways Black people have suffered. But it also offers those willing to grapple with grief a place for healing and a path for reforging the American community. For this reason, it’s an essential read for those who, in Saint-Jean’s words, have the “courage to commit to the long journey of healing.”


—Shannon Wimp Schmidt

Briefly noted:

Rivermouth: A Chronicle of Language, Faith, and Migration

By Alejandra Oliva (Astra House, 2023)

Oliva tells of her experience interpreting at the U.S.–Mexico border, focusing on the physical spaces that make up different phases of immigration.

New Rules Next Week: Corita Kent’s Legacy Through the Eyes of Twenty Artists and Writers

Edited by Corita Art Center (Chronicle Books, 2023)

Contemporary artists reexamine Sister Corita’s “ten rules,” which are an ever-timely guide to engaging with one’s creative process.

When I Go to Church, I Belong

By Elrena Evans, illustrated by Rebecca Evans (InterVarsity Press, 2023)

This illustrated book tells the stories of children with disabilities as they find inclusion and belonging in their faith communities.


This article also appears in the October 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 10, pages 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

About the author

Rhonda Miska

Rhonda Miska is a preacher, writer, spiritual director, and lay ecclesial minister currently based in Minneapolis. Read more of her work at rhondamiskaop.com.

About the author

Shannon Wimp Schmidt

Shannon Wimp Schmidt is the content director for TENx10 Youth Ministry Collaboration, cohost of Plaid Skirts and Basic Black Podcast, and author of the book Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s (Ave Maria Press). She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, Eric, and their four children. Follow her on Instagram, TikTok and Threads: @teamquarterblack.

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