Libraries exhibits Joan Chittister’s ‘inspired and inspiring’ life, works

Jackie Esposito
September 15, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Joan Chittister, a Penn State distinguished alumna, is an internationally renowned writer and lecturer and has been called one of the most articulate social analysts and influential religious leaders of this age. Penn State’s University Libraries presents “Inspired and Inspiring: The Passions of Joan Chittister’s Life, an exhibition” Sept. 15-Dec. 23 in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, 104 Paterno Library. 

The Special Collections Library also houses the Joan D. Chittister Archive in a collaboration to preserve her accumulated works with Mercyhurst University in Erie and the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.

This exhibition features photographs, publications, speeches and quotations from more than 40 years of Chittister’s career. Topics within the exhibition include: the Person and the Icon, Passion for God, Passion for Justice, Passion for Living, Passion for Monastic Life, Passion for Dialogue, and documentation on Benetvision.

The Libraries' complementary two-day public event, the Joan Chittister Symposium: Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Questions, is scheduled for Oct. 14-15 at Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, both on the University Park campus.

The full symposium schedule includes opening and closing presentations by Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby organization, and Chittister, respectively. The symposium also includes four panel discussions led by Libraries faculty and lectures by National Catholic Reporter Editor-at-Large Tom Roberts, who is Chittister’s biographer, and by Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, the co-editor of Chittister’s essential collected writings.

Chittister, a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., has won 13 Catholic Press Association awards for her books, as well as numerous awards for her work for justice, peace and equality, especially for women, in church and in society. An author of over 50 books including four being published in October 2015, Chittister is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women all over the world, and has been considered one of America’s visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years.

A founding member of The Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, she works to develop a worldwide network of women peace builders. As co-chair of this group she has facilitated gatherings of spiritual leaders throughout the Middle East, in Asia, Africa, the Far East and Europe in an effort to spread an interfaith commitment to peace building, equality and justice for all peoples. She is a regular columnist for the “National Catholic Reporter” and has been awarded 12 honorary degrees from U.S. colleges and universities.

She has served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization of the leaders/superiors of Catholic religious women in the U.S; president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses, 1974-90; and was prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie for 12 years.

Chittister received her doctorate in speech communications theory from Penn State, a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and was an invited fellow and research associate at St. Edmund's College, Cambridge University, England.

She is the founder and executive director of Benetvision: a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality located in Erie. 

For more information about Joan Chittister, contact Sister Susan Doubet, OSB, at or 814-459-0314. For more information about the exhibit or the Chittister collection, contact Jackie Esposito, University Archivist, at or 814-863-3791.

  • vertical photo portrait of Sister Joan Chittister

    Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., was honored as a Penn State distinguished alumna in 2000. 

    IMAGE: courtesy of Joan Chittister

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Last Updated June 17, 2020