Cover image for The calling : the year in the life of an order of nuns
The calling : the year in the life of an order of nuns
Whitney, Catherine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 254 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX4337.5.E35 W48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BX4337.5.E35 W48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



On a hilltop north of Seattle, overlooking the glorious vista of Puget Sound and the white-capped Olympics, stands Rosary Heights, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross. The story begins here, with a catastrophic storm that shifts the ground beneath the motherhouse and threatens to send it crashing into the waters below. In a single act of nature, a moment of truth, the order is forced to rethink its place in the world and its purpose.          With Rosary Heights as the backdrop, Catherine Whitney takes a personal journey inside the order that ran the school she attended as a child, the order that, for a short time, she contemplated entering herself. Her quest is to come to terms with what it means to be called to the religious life. What is the secret these women hold that makes them--no matter how diverse--perform common rituals, celebrate the same Mass, and serve the same God?          In The Calling, we meet several valiant women who struggle with the practicalities of the world around them as well as the complicating issues of the life of a nun. Each woman's story is compelling. Together, they form a dramatic human chronicle that is fascinating and revealing--a chronicle of a community that has existed for centuries but is still evolving and whose anxieties and joys are utterly relevant to all of us, regardless of our beliefs.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Whitney provides an intimate, firsthand account of a year spent in the bosom of a small but vibrant religious community. Approached by her agent to do a book about nuns, the author, a lapsed Catholic and a product of parochial schools, was initially intrigued by the idea of analyzing the seemingly anachronistic role played by nuns in contemporary society. After moving into Rosary Heights, a scenic estate outside Seattle that serves as the motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross, Whitney also felt compelled to revisit her Roman Catholic roots, embarking on an intensely personal inner journey. Immersed in the communal rituals of the sisters' daily life, and deeply impressed by the remarkable dedication of this devout band of women, she was able to reflect on her past and to resurrect the faith of her childhood. A richly textured portrait of a religious order understood by one woman's spiritual reawakening. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Whitney grew up steeped in strict Roman Catholicism and was fascinated by the nuns who educated her. Estranged from the Church and a self-professed "radical feminist non-believer," she returns to the sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross to write an expos‚ of the "piety and pretense" of religious life. She traces the lives of several nuns from childhood to their entrance into the novitiate and, in some cases, their decisions to leave the order. She describes Sister Claire, who emulates Jesus' suffering on the cross by wearing a girdle of thorns under her clothes; Sister Carmen, who escaped abusive drunken parents to join a loving convent school; and Sister Elizabeth, torn between her vows to the Church and her love for a man whom she finally decides to marry. These women, her teachers at Holy Angels Academy during the 1960s, had inspired the adolescent Whitney to become a nun. But, when Mother Dominic told her to wait, go to university and make sure she was hearing God's call, the young girl was stunned, and thus she began a journey away from the Church toward disbelief and cynicism. To a great extent, this memoir is Whitney's attempt to unravel her feelings about Roman Catholicism, faith and the nuns who encouraged and challenged her creative spirit. As she rediscovers the nuns of her youth, she finds a group of women who, like her, struggle to live in community, to love one another and, committed to a single purpose, do the work they feel called to do. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Centering her latest book on a 1997 storm and landslide that threatened a community of Dominican sisters near Seattle, baby boomer Whitney weaves in a memoir of her Catholic youth in the area and the indelible stamp left by the sisters who taught her. Although a self-described lapsed Catholic, Whitney carefully probes the community's history and the changes in religious life since Vatican II. Through interviews with former teachers and classmates, whose poignant stories often bespeak great courage and dedication, her own admiration and self-discovery emerge. Whitney has coauthored numerous publications on health, nutrition, and parenting, including the best-selling Eat Right 4 Your Type (LJ 2/1/97); she makes occasional errors of description but generally provides a realistic view of the enduring life of active religious sisters in a fictionalized style based on fact. The past remains surprisingly alive for her. This well-written book is recommended for religious collections where there is interest.ÄAnna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Whitney begins her account with the tremendous storm that hit Edmonds, WA, in January of 1997. An ensuing landslide removed an entire section of the Rosary Heights estate and threatened to take the remainder of the land on which the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross had established their religious community. This event persuaded the author to gather the history of these Roman-Catholic nuns. The storm parallels the turmoil and change this religious order survived throughout this century, especially during the 1960s and '70s. The Sisters share memories of their call to the order as well as stories about those who have left and those who have died. The storm also parallels the tempests in Whitney's own soul. When her agent asked her to write a book on nuns, the author readily agreed, perhaps intuitively knowing she would be led to examine her own feelings and beliefs. She returned to Edmonds, to many of the same nuns who had taught her in school, to the religious order she almost joined. She was greeted with love, acceptance, and joy, and she felt her life come into focus as an inner renewal began. A realistic, moving account of a contemporary religious order, its fascinating women, and the author's personal journey in faith.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.