Karraker, “Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small City”

This July, Lexington Books published Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small City, by Meg Wilkes Karraker (University of St. Thomas). The publisher’s description follows.

Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small city examines how Catholic Sisters and their congregations have been critical nodes in religious and civil networks, translating their social capital to address one of the most pressing issues facing communities today: diversity. The book begins with a regional overview, placing “Bluffton” in historical, cultural, and social context in America’s heartland before describing past racist incidents in the city and region, including cross-burnings and a raid by Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE). Into this history are woven interviews with Catholic sisters and Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious leaders, as well as civic leaders in education, government, journalism, and social welfare. “Bluffton” is revealed as a community that has confronted and resolved a past stained by overt racism of the ugliest kind, and has created a good society for her citizens through the concerted efforts of her Catholic Sisters and a highly committed civil society.

Blending original quantitative and qualitative research collected over three years, as well as scholarship on civil society, Diversity and the Common Good tells the story of one small city in the Midwestern United States in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The work is well grounded in the academic literature and includes an extensive bibliography, but is written in a narrative style that engages not only scholars from sociology, community studies, political science, public administration, and religious studies who study community, civil society, and faith, but also practitioners and professionals, among them community leaders, journalists, those working with civic and religious organizations, and others seeking to understand the challenges facing American communities today. Unusual in social science, Diversity and the Common Good tells the story about a community that “works!” Finally, given the severe criticisms of American Sisters by the Vatican, the story of the great good done by Sisters must be told now.

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