Joan Chittister, Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, said communication is the base of everything that humans do.
“We don’t know one another, but by the time this conversation ends, we’ll know one another relatively well,” Chittister said. “And what’s more, we will have seeded one another’s brain with new ideas, with quick questions that will affect our own lives.”
Half of the human population are women, and Chittister said there has been a lack of women’s voices in society, which is “emblazoned in the mistakes that those societies have made.”
“We are working with half the human mind. The male mind. That’s the half we function on. It’s the mind through which we see life, say life, and create life,” Chittister said. “But as a result of that, we are ignoring half the resources of the human race, and the experiences that they bring to culture…to your family life, to the economy, to government.”
As well as being a Benedictine Sister, Chittister is an international lecturer and award-winning author of 60 books. She will talk at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, July 27, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform to launch the Week Five Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “The Feminine Spirit.”
When Chittister was a freshman in high school, she became an editor of her school newspaper.
“I discovered, knew and loved the fact that I was writing. And I knew that internally, essentially, I was a writer — that was the only thing I wanted to do in life,” Chittister said. “When I entered the community … frankly, it had occurred to me that nuns don’t write books. I thought I was giving that up because somehow or other, this was a better thing for me to do than writing.”
Chittister said her role in the church was to communicate with 23 Benedictine communities of women across the country. She wrote a lot during this time to communicate with these various groups, and eventually people outside the order asked her to write articles, give speeches and participate in national seminars.
“I woke up one morning and discovered that everything I was doing, and every way I knew to address any of the issues going on, was to treat them as universal questions that were absolutely an essential part of how institutions would move in the future,” Chittister said.
Chittister said that face masks are a great metaphor for the role of individuals in society, and how “the way we breathe on other people affects their life, their children, their fertility, their future.” With the pandemic, she said a person’s effects on others can be seen in loss of revenue for businesses, such as restaurants opening with 25% of their normal occupancy.
“They know what they’re facing. Hospitals know what they’re facing. It’s time we grow up. The time is now,” Chittister said. “We’re at this crossover point where we have to build on values, not on the past.”
Chittister has been a part of the Global Peace Initiative for Women for around 30 years and has worked to bring women “out of the woodwork, to talk about their lives … especially women who found themselves in countries in conflict.” She said the needs of people in other countries are essential because the United States’ economy has not been fully independent since World War II.
“If (any other country’s) economy falls, trust me that our economy will suffer too,” Chittister said.
For her Chautauquan Lecture “A Woman’s Life: A Good Event/Bad Event World,” she will discuss topics such as equality and its impacts on the global community.
“I really am asking myself, ‘What would equality really look like? And then, ‘Why don’t we have what’s missing?’” Chittister said.
This program is made possible by the Presbyterian Association of Chautauqua Religious Lectureship Fund.