If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission (Open Road Media, 2014) is the title of this latest work by journalist Jo Piazza whose previous output includes Celebrity Inc.: How Famous People Make Money and a novel, Love Rehab. According to her website, Piazza has reported for the New York Daily News, the New York Times, New York ,Glamour, CNN, Fox News, The Daily Beast and Slate. She is currently a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Elle.com.
For those who might be tempted to ask what anyone who has made a name for herself on the celebrity beat would know about nuns, Piazza also has a masters degree in Religious Studies from New York University, in addition to her degree in Journalism from the prestigious program at Columbia University. Her thesis, combining her interests, was on the ways nuns use social media. And she went to an all-girls Catholic high school.
In an article about her book in Religious Dispatches, Piazza acknowledges the incongruity of the situation and explains why she wrote her book: "...For a good portion of my career I covered the entertainment industry and celebrities. One of my goals here was to elevate the incredible work of the nuns so that we will consume their stories as hungrily as we consume content about celebrities....Nuns are the true embodiment of the way that Christians believe Jesus Christ wanted us to live. They are right there fighting on the frontlines of social justice for the people who live at the margins of our society. They rarely get banner headlines or magazine covers or even recognition from their male peers, but they do it anyway..."
The nuns featured in this book are household names to most of us who consider ourselves progressive Catholics. They include "Nun on the Bus" and Executive Director of NETWORK, Sr. Simone Campbell, Sr. Jeannine Gramick who, together with Fr. Robert Nugent, founded New Ways Ministry to encourage a more LGBT-friendly approach in the Catholic Church, Sr. Megan Rice, an 84 year-old nun who is presently serving time for her role in the 2012 "Transform Now Plowshares" action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Sr. Donna Quinn, a leader of the National Coalition of American Nuns and supporter of reproductive freedom, Sr. Joan Dawber, Executive Director of LifeWay Network which provides shelter and assistance to victims of human trafficking, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, who was abducted and tortured by the Guatemalan military while serving as a missionary in that country and later went on to found the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, Sr. Maureen Fiedler, host and executive producer of Interfaith Voices and advocate for women's equality in the Catholic Church, Sr. Tesa Fitzgerald, executive director of Hour Children which helps incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their families, Sr. Madonna Buder, the "Iron Nun" who in 2012 became the overall Ironman world record holder in age at age 82, and Sr. Nora Nash, director of corporate social responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis and member of the shareholder advocacy group, Partners for the Common Good.
All of these sisters, Piazza says, "helped me find gratitude for all of the incredible things I have, and to take time out every day to feel thankful." Describing herself as agnostic, she adds "I may not believe in God, but I do believe in nuns."