USC Book Club 2013

2013 Reviews

December 2013:

Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, Making Church Matter

By Michael White and Tom Corcoran

Review: Those in ho-hum parishes and even those in pretty good parishes will find this book a source of great ideas, practical suggestions, and hope for parish life. White and Corcoran, pastor and current pastoral associate at a parish in the Baltimore archdiocese, are blazingly honest—and funny—about what ailed the parish when they arrived, what they tried that flopped dismally (and why), and what they did that finally worked.

They concentrated on reaching “the lost”—those who routinely drove right by their church. They lost some longtime folks, but they didn’t mind. You may disagree with some of their pronouncements about parish life, but that only makes the book all the more interesting.

—Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria Press says: Drawing on wisdom gleaned from thriving megachurches and innovative businesses, while anchoring their vision in the Eucharist, Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran present the inspiring story of how they brought their parish back to life.

Paperback: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Ave Maria Press: 1-800-282-1865 or shop online at

Order now from Ave Maria Press.

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November 2013:

Faith Meets World: The Gift and Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching

By Barry Hudock

Review: We live in a world filled with tough moral questions. In Faith Meets World, author Barry Hudock presents the church’s moral teaching as a guideline for navigating some of these complexities. With human dignity and solidarity as the founding principles of Catholic social teaching, we learn how to serve the common good by living out the heart of the gospel message of love.

Using a blend of secular and Catholic history, Hudock demonstrates how the church has both initiated and responded to changes in society over the past few centuries. And while the book’s clear, everyday examples shed light on what is often called the church’s “best kept secret,” Faith Meets World still leaves room for readers to explore both the beauty and the challenges inherent in Catholic social teaching.

—Elizabeth Lefebvre, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liguori Publications says: Faith Meets World helps readers understand one of the church’s “best kept secrets”: Catholic social teaching. In a lively, relatable style, author Barry Hudock describes its history, major themes, and examples for putting the teachings into action.

Available at bookstores or from Liguori Publications: 1-800-325-9521 or shop online at

Order now from Liguori Publications.

October 2013:

From the Back of the Pews to the Head of the Class

Compiled by Robert McClory

Review: For black Catholics living in the segregated South, prejudice and persecution were a way of life—sometimes even in their own church. Thankfully for young African Americans in Mobile, Alabama, there was Heart of Mary, a Catholic high school whose faculty of white nuns challenged students to overcome racial barriers and armed them with the tools to make amazing progress in their lives.

From the Back of the Pews to the Head of the Class recounts the school’s inspiring story in the words of the students themselves, never sugarcoating the ugly truth of racism while highlighting their incredible story of triumph. In the worst of times, Heart of Mary showcased the church at its best; more than four decades after its closing, it still has a lot to teach us.

—Scott Alessi, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

ACTA Publications says: Based on hundreds of interviews with students, parents, teachers, sisters, and priests, this book documents the moving and dramatic stories of a segregated Catholic school during a period of revolutionary social change in both the USA and the Church.

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publications: 1-800-397-2282 or shop online at

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September 2013:

Miraculous: A Fascinating History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles

By Kevin Belmonte

Review: Given the speed and breadth of today’s technological and scientific advances, it is not surprising that people are not as easily amazed by the unexplainable as they used to be. Kevin Belmonte’s Miraculous, however, beautifully reminds us that miracles are not limited to biblical times. His book recounts recent awe-inspiring moments of inexplicable healings, dreams, redemptions, and other glimpses of divine intervention.

Miraculous is a thought-provoking and inspiring record of holy events, with Belmonte adding his words of wisdom to those of philosophers, saints, and visionaries. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, this book aims to show how God’s power and love for us truly work in mysterious ways in everyday life.

—Caitlyn Schmid, Editorial Assistant, U.S. Catholic

Thomas Nelson Books says: This profoundly important history of miracles recounts both ancient and contemporary scenes and lives touched by eternity, settings of almighty declaration, and moments marked by deliverance, mercy, or visionary unfolding of God’s divine intent.

Hardcover and eBook: $24.99

Available at bookstores or from Thomas Nelson: 800-834-7828 or shop online at

August 2013:

The Emerging Catholic Church: A Community’s Search for Itself

By Tom Roberts

Review: In this wide-ranging state of the church report, Tom Roberts provides both an unflinching record and analysis of the evils wrought by the clergy sex-abuse crisis and, on the other hand, a hope-filled account of the many signs of vibrant Catholic life he encountered during his “travels on the margins” from New Mexico to New Jersey.

The editor at large of the National Catholic Reporter engages some of today’s best Catholic thinkers in taking the pulse of today’s “emerging” church and examining critical issues such as authority, clericalism, adult faith, and how to reach out to the growing number of former Catholics. More than a year before Pope Francis’ election, Roberts notes, “We are waiting in the lobby between acts, not quite knowing what’s next.”

—Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

Orbis Books says: A leading journalist assesses the state of the Catholic Church today and the shape of the future to come.

Paperback: $24.00

Available at bookstores or from Orbis Books: 800-258-5838 or shop online at

July 2013:

No Longer Silent: The Empowerment of Women in the Gospels

By Susan Dehn Matthews

Review: No Longer Silent is an imaginative reflection on the women of the gospels, many of whom have been overlooked, ignored, misrepresented, or misunderstood. Susan Dehn Matthews presents 34 short (five pages or less) portraits of these women, including the more well-known Elizabeth, Mary of Nazareth, and Samaritan woman as well as the nameless women bent double and the woman disciple on the road to Emmaus.

Each of the reflections begins with the Bible passage in which they made their appearance. Along with her personal reflections, the author includes thoughtful and helpful questions for personal reflection or group discussion. This book is a wonderful invitation to listen to these women, whose voices still resonate today.

—Father John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic

ACTA Publications says: The story of Jesus of Nazareth has been called “the greatest story ever told,” but what role do women play in that story? In No Longer Silent, author Susan Dehn Matthews highlights the women in the gospels and provides the background behind those important women.

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publications: 1-800-397-2282 or shop online at

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June 2013:

I Wasn’t Dead When I Wrote This: Advice Given in the Nick of Time

By Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart

Review: Joe Durepos of Loyola Press had the guts to approach Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart on her deathbed to ask if she would write this book. Calderone-Stewart actually said yes. Thank goodness, because now we have I Wasn’t Dead When I Wrote This. Although the author was a youth minister and the book is pitched as advice to the young, her words speak to the bald, paunchy, and gray-haired as well.

Short on time, the author does not waste a word. Durepos told Publishers Weekly, “I came in on the last five minutes of a really good soul’s life to hear her talk in her last lucid moment about the spiritual truths she had discovered.” How can that not make for terrific reading? It also propels the reader to ponder, “What would I write from my own deathbed?”

—Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: It is never too late to change your life or to shape someone else’s—and Calderone-Stewart does just that with this honest, heartfelt perspective on living written a few months before dying.

Paperback: $12.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press: 800-621-1008 or shop online at

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May 2013:

Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty

Edited by Vicki Schieber, Trudy D. Conway, and David Matzko McCarthy

Review: Some say that if more people knew more about the actual practice of capital punishment, support for the practice would vastly decrease. Where Justice and Mercy Meet educates readers about the reality of the death penalty in the United States—from methods of execution to the influence of racism and poverty. Through well-researched and thought-provoking essays that combine history, statistics, and personal testimony, we learn of the grim reality of state executions.

More crucially, the book examines the arguments against capital punishment that stem from a rich Catholic tradition of forgiveness, love, and discipleship. We discover that, for criminal justice to be truly just, we must take into account the mercy of God’s love. This message is truly one to be spread.

—Elizabeth Lefebvre, Assistant Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says: This book explores the Catholic stance against capital punishment in new and important ways. The broad perspective of this book has been shaped in conversation with the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty, as well as through the witness of family members of murder victims and the spiritual advisors of condemned inmates.

Paperback: $18.95
eBook: $16.95

Available at bookstores or from Liturgical Press: 800-858-5450 or shop online at

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April 2013:

Why Bother Praying?

By Richard Leonard, S.J.

Review: Jesuit Father Richard Leonard is the first to humbly admit that he’s no authority on prayer, which in a way makes him the perfect candidate to write a book on the subject. Like most of us, Leonard has struggled with praying and understands the challenges of maintaining a healthy prayer life, making him less a teacher and more a trusted friend.

With wonderfully simple advice like, “If it helps, do it; if it doesn’t, don’t” and plenty of at times laugh-out-loud anecdotes, Leonard offers a fresh and engaging perspective on the richness and diversity of one of the church’s greatest traditions. For all who struggle to maintain their own personal relationship with God, Why Bother Praying?  is an answer to their prayers—especially if they were reluctant to say them.

—Scott Alessi, Managing Editor, U.S. Catholic

Paulist Press says: Written by the bestselling author of Where the Hell Is God?, this accessible volume is for everyone who wonders how to pray, everyone who wonders what happens when you pray, and everyone who wonders if God hears our prayers.

Paperback: $14.95

Available at bookstores or from Paulist Press: 800-218-1903 or shop online at

Order now from Paulist Press.

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March 2013:

7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness: Enriching Your Faith by Strengthening the Health of Your Soul

By Joe Paprocki

Review: In the contemporary dualism that sees spirituality as distinct from religion, Joe Paprocki admits that Christianity is too often confined to the latter and considered “less as a spiritual path and more as a code of ethics.” In his compact book, Paprocki offers seven deceptively simple keys to recovering the rich spirituality of the Christian faith. The keys correspond to unexpected questions, such as “Who is your court jester?”, “What is your dream vacation spot?”, and “What gives you heartburn?”

Signaling a departure from the ego-stroking found in most contemporary self-help books, Paprocki instead insists first on the importance of humility and offers this mantra: “It’s not all about you.” Honest as a physician and compassionate as a true friend, 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness is a book worth having on call.

—Meghan Murphy-Gill, Associate Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: Joe Paprocki provides a prescription for spiritual health based on the rich wisdom of Catholic tradition. He identifies seven strategies for achieving spiritual wellness and seven persistent dangers to our spiritual well-being.

Paperback: $12.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press: 800-621-1008 or shop online at

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February 2013:

Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible

By N.T. Wright

Review: Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright, one of today’s most respected scripture scholars, provides an invaluable guide to reading scripture “with cultural and intellectual alertness and integrity.” This book steers a middle course through the contemporary “mess and muddle” that Wright says has been created both by the fundamentalist eagerness for certainty on one end and by cultural, political, and philosophical pressures and the “agonized deconstructions” of postmodernity on the other.

It is through serious scripture reading, Wright argues, that Christians become energized to work for God’s kingdom. He urges a reading that is “totally contextual, liturgically grounded, privately studied, refreshed by appropriate scholarship, and taught by the church’s accredited leaders.”

—Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

HarperOne says: Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion.

Hardcover: $25.99

Available at bookstores or from HarperOne: Shop online at

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January 2013:

Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II

By Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford

Review: Gaillardetz and Clifford, two noteworthy scholars, have selected 20 significant passages or “keys” from the documents of the Second Vatican Council that help us understand and appreciate the vision of the council fathers. Each chapter places the given passage in its larger historical context, explores its fundamental meaning and significance, and considers its larger significance for the life of the church today.

Chapters include exploration of the liturgy constitution’s demand for “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy, as well as Nostra Aetate’s approach to non-Christian religions. With short, nontechnical chapters and very helpful sidebar definitions, it can serve as an excellent teaching text. I recommend Keys to the Council to anyone interested in Vatican II and its impact on the Catholic Church today.

—Rev. John Molyneux, C.M.F., Editor, U.S. Catholic

Liturgical Press says: Understand the vision of the council fathers for renewal and reform in this engaging and authoritative work as we mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

Paperback: $19.95
eBook: $14.99

Available at bookstores or from Liturgical Press: 800-858-5450 or shop online at

Order now from Liturgical Press.

What do you think? Once you have read the book, discuss it on

General Book Club guidelines

The U.S. Catholic Book Club is a collaborative project of U.S. Catholic magazine and the Catholic Book Publishers Association. The titles featured in the U.S. Catholic Book Club are selected each month by the magazine’s editors from submissions by participating book publishers. The publisher provides a paid advertising in U.S. Catholic magazine for the featured book.