Ross man earns award for book about the New Orleans Sisters
What started as a plan to write an article or two about an order of sisters turned into an award-winning book for Ross Township resident Edward Brett, a professor emeritus of history at La Roche College in McCandless.
Recently, he learned that his book “The New Orleans Sisters of the Holy Family: African American Missionaries to the Garifuna of Belize” was named the 2012 Bronze Award winner in the religion category by ForeWord Reviews, a magazine and book-review service focusing on books published by independent presses.
In addition to showing the book “rises above others in its genre,” the award provides a new marketing opportunity for a book that no longer is “new,” said Karen Connick, head of publisher and author services for ForeWord Reviews.
Brett's book had been one of 13 finalists selected from 30 entries in the religion category.
The work tells the story of some special women “who struggled against racism in society and patriarchy in the church, and yet made tremendous achievements,” Brett said.
Founded in New Orleans in 1842, the sisters were the first African American Catholics to serve as missionaries. They ministered to the people of Belize, formerly British Honduras, from 1898 to 2008, until the devastation of Hurricane Katrina brought them home.
Having grown up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Brett admitted he never spoke to an African American in his neighborhood because there weren't any. On one trip to Manhattan, he saw two black sisters requesting donations. His mother didn't give anything to them and said, “They weren't real nuns.”
She wasn't a racist, he said; she just didn't know. Many people didn't in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Yet all the while, the Sisters of the Holy Family were working in New Orleans, where Brett lived for a time, and Central America.
“Being an historian, a start on one topic opens so much I never knew before,” Brett said.
He had wondered if the order was better received among the Belizean people. His research proved him right. He searched the order's archives in New Orleans. There, he said he learned the sisters were successful because they operated in a low-key manner, and they learned how to negotiate with the white power structure inside and outside the church.
“There were too many racists out there and in all the churches,” said Brett, 68.
Just over 100 sisters are left in the order.
“The sisters are jubilant about this book,” Brett said.
Brett also is pleased about the recognition the book has received, although he was surprised to win the award.
“All entrants are first sorted through by a group of our editors,” Connick said. “They select the finalists, and those books are sent to one bookseller and one librarian who determine the winners. Many have been judging the same genre for many years.”
Brett's interest in Latin America started when he taught at the College of Santa Fe, a Catholic college in New Mexico, from 1979 to 1984.
He learned that a friend's brother had been murdered in Guatemala. But before he died, the man wrote a letter explaining why he couldn't leave his work and the people there.
What followed was a book, “Murdered in Central America: The Stories of Eleven U.S. Missionaries,” written by Brett and his wife, Donna, in 1988.
“That book changed our lives,” said Brett, who has been at La Roche for 29 years.
The couple learned of the struggles of the poorest of people, and the part the Catholic church played in fighting for justice for them.
“This pope — Pope Francis — is a product of what the church did at that time,” Brett said.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 7 North Allegheny schools see dip in state scores
- Northern Tier librarian discusses life, pursuits
- Pine-Richland High School tops county in state performance profile
- Project to put iPad minis in hands of Shaler middle schools students
- Students’ efforts breathe life into Pine-Richland school newspaper
- North Hills residents continue to fight proposed sale of elementary
- Ingomar MOPS offers discussions, videos, social time
- New position brings uniformed officer into Shaler Area buildings
- Hampton DAR chapter works to serve community, military members
- Proposed fitness center in Hampton would be open 24/7