Margaret M. McGuinness is Professor of Religion at La Salle University, Philadelphia. She is the author of Neighbors and Missionaries: A History of the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine (Fordham University Press, 2012), and Called to Serve: A History of Nuns in America (NYU Press, 2013), winner of the Catholic Press Association's award for general excellence. She is co-editor, with James T. Fisher, of The Catholic Studies Reader (Fordham University Press, 2010).
Column - Although the recent apostolic investigation of sisters focused on active congregations, American bishops have not always been happy to have the non-controversial contemplative congregations located within their dioceses. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, church leaders found themselves in need of religious communities dedicated to active apostolates and willing to establish schools and hospitals in order to meet the material and spiritual needs of the many Catholics who were poor and uneducated. In addition, they worried that contemplative nuns would be forced to depend on contributions from willing Catholics to support themselves, money that could better be spent in other places.