Libraries hosts Chittister Symposium: Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Questions

Jackie Esposito
September 15, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Joan Chittister is an internationally renowned writer and lecturer, a Penn State distinguished alumna and has been called one of the most articulate social analysts and influential religious leaders of this age. The Eberly Family Special Collections Library in Penn State’s University Libraries invites attendees to the Joan Chittister Symposium: Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Questions, scheduled for Oct. 14-15 at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and in Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, on the University Park campus.

The full symposium schedule includes four panel discussions led by Libraries faculty, 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, and the following keynote speeches, both at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center:

Wednesday, Oct. 14
Opening Presentation: Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK, religious leader, attorney, poet and coordinator of Nuns on the Bus
noon-1 p.m., Pasquerilla Spiritual Center

Thursday, Oct. 15
Closing Presentation: Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, author and lecturer, speaking on “The Evolution of the Divine Feminine”
Introduction by Barbara Dewey, dean, University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, Penn State
noon-1 p.m., Pasquerilla Spiritual Center

The Special Collections Library, which 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, also is displaying “Inspired and Inspiring: The Passions of Joan Chittister’s Life, an exhibition” Sept. 15-Dec. 15 in 104 Paterno Library.

Chittister, a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., has won 13 Catholic Press Association awards for her books, as well as numerous awards for her advocacy work for justice, peace and equality, especially for women around the world, in church and in society. An author of over 50 books — including three being published in October 2015, along with her new biography by author Tom Roberts — Chittister 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, also in Erie.

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

  • vertical portrait of Sister Joan Chittister, smiling, wearing light blue suit jacket and black blouse

    Sister Joan Chittister

    IMAGE: courtesy of Joan Chittister

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 12, 2016