Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1921-) Sister of Notre Dame de Namur; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1963; Professor Emerita and longtime Chair of the Sociology Department at Emmanuel College, Boston. President, Association for the Sociology of Religion, 1972; Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1982-1983.

Sister Marie Augusta is the author of eight books, 31 chapters in collected volumes, and 33 articles, with frequent contributions to the refereed journals in the social science of religion. She is the recipient of several honorary degrees as well as the Isaac Hecker Social Justice Award from the Paulist Center in Boston (1977), the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Sociological Association (1986), and the Ecumenical Award from Xavier University in Cincinnati (1988) She has given guest lectures in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand and has been a visiting professor at several colleges and universities, including the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Divinity School.

There are four main components to the work that Sister Marie Augusta has been doing during the past 35 years: (1) survey research on change in the Roman Catholic Church, conducted first with diocesan priests and later with members of women's religious orders; (2) analysis of Catholic social teaching as expressed in the encyclical letters of the popes for the past hundred years; (3) experimentation with a dialogical teaching style adapted from the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, wherein social issues are discussed by means of critical analysis from the point of view of oppressed peoples; (4) a passion for social justice, with a current emphasis on human rights. In this context, Sister Marie Augusta also has written articles and papers on women's issues, has conducted research on schools in South Africa, and has done a critical analysis of sociobiology. She has served on the Boston Archdiocesan Commission on Human Rights, on the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women in Massachusetts, on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, on the Board of the Women's Theological Center, on the Educational Policies Commission of the Boston Theological Institute, and on the Advisory Committee of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. The range of her interests may be seen in a sampling of her publications: Values and Interests in Social Change (Prentice Hall 1965), The South African Catholic Education Study (Catholic Education Council of Durban 1971), The Just Demands of the Poor (Paulist Press 1987), From Nuns to Sisters: An Expanding Vocation (Twenty-Third Publications 1990).

Sister Marie Augusta's intellectual perspectives have blended elements that some might consider disparate: the structural-functionalism of her mentor, Talcott Parsons; Marxian sociology; quantitative analysis; and the strong religious foundation that has consistently inspired her views on social justice. She has accomplished this synthesis in a credible manner by means of a rigorous research methodology that is grounded in classical and contemporary social theory and the critical use of a wide range of written sources. As a result, her commitment to thorough, painstaking scholarship is evident throughout her published work.

Madeleine R. Cousineau


M. A. Neal, Themes of a Lifetime (Boston: Emmanuel College, 1995).

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