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Subversive Habits Book Study

Join us as we take a deep dive into Dr. Shannen Dee Williams groundbreaking research, Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle. We will explore the lives, experiences, struggles, and advances Black Catholic women religious made in the long struggle for freedom.  This series will include prayer, study, and guest speakers.  Please join us for an exciting exploration of our Catholic history and the women who changed the course of our faith.

Session One: Preface and Introduction

This first session covers the preface and introduction to Dr. Williams’ book. Deborah Rose, co-director of FutureChurch, provides a summary of the material and our guest, Sr. Anita Baird, DHM, offers her personal reactions.

View the Prayers, Questions, and Large Group Responses

Session Two: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapters 1 and 2 trace the emergence of Black Catholic communities; the struggles and barriers they faced and overcame; and, the unwavering commitment they made to education as a path to liberation in their formative years.

Here are resources that may be useful to you as you read each chapter.

  1. An article about the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, where African descended people, free and enslaved, first came to the U.S.  The Settlement of St. Augustine
  2. An article about the Haitian Revolution which was a turning point for abolition and the influx of refugees that prompted the growth of communities of Black Catholic women religious.  The Haitian Revolution
  3. A timeline the early years of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the ties to the Catholic Church.  Timeline Transatlantic Slave Trade: 1400s – 1600s

In this Second Session, we welcome Sr. Marcia Hall, OSP, who offers her insights and reactions as a member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence – the first successful community of Roman Catholic sisters of African descent in the United States.

View the prayers, questions, and large group responses from this session.

Session Three: Chapters 3, 4, and 5

Here is an excellent resource from PBS with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that offers two minute videos on various aspects of Black history.  The series is called “Black History in Two Minutes (or so)” with dozens of videos that will help you contextualize Dr. Williams’ book, “Subversive Habits.” 

Also, please view the website of the National Black Sisters’ Conference to get a more thorough understanding of this historic organization.

In this session, we welcome Sr. Josita Colbert, SNDdeN, a founding member of the NBSC, who shares their important work with us.

View the prayers, questions, and large group sharing for this session.

Session Four:  Chapters 6, 7, and Conclusion

We are joined this week by the author, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams.

To see the full documentary (at no charge through Avila University), Sisters of Selma:  Bearing Witness for Change go to