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Soul Search with Dr Meredith Lake: Joan Chittister on renewing community in a changing world

Joan Chittister found her community as a teenager, seventy years ago, when she joined the Benedictine sisters in Pennsylvania. For decades she has devoted herself to renewing community in and beyond the Catholic church. Her fierce advocacy for women has put her at odds with some within the hierarchy, but as a spiritual writer she had brought the insights of her tradition to a wider world.

Even before the pandemic there was an epidemic of loneliness, not only in American but in Australia too. Lockdown or no lockdown, millions live with emotional isolation and a lack of social support. So where do we find the communities of care we all need to flourish?

Joan Chittister says, “If community is showing us anything right now, it’s showing us that individualism has run its course. This was the great American moment, you know – everybody was free, and everybody was autonomous, everybody was self-saving and self-serving – until they weren’t. And then we began to discover what we didn’t have. We’ve been channelling people into isolation and had no idea it was happening.”