PRINCETON, NJ, October 5, 2012, ( – According to some in today’s popular culture, being a “Catholic woman” is practically an oxymoron. In a newly-released book, nine women of faith seek to dispel that myth.

The book, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, is edited by Helen Alvaré, a Witherspoon Institute Senior Fellow in Princeton


Alvaré recognized the need the “Catholic woman’s” story to be heard while observing popular culture and media increasingly treating the Catholic female as a split personality: a woman who, while she might say “yes” to the faith as a private source of comfort, should say “no” to its countercultural teachings on sex, contraception, marriage, child-rearing, and other ethical teachings of modernity.

In recent years the faithful Catholics, as well as hierarchy and canon lawyers, have tried to correct the perception that political figures like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are in good standing and representative of the typical Catholic female.

“But Catholic women themselves are in a different place,” stated Alvaré. “Faced with situations their grandmothers and even their mothers never imagined, they are faced with the question of whether a 2,000-year-old Church has anything to offer them at this moment in time. They are trying to make sense of the intersection of faith, modern science, and their contemporary, lived experience.”

Alvaré’s book attempts to show that the authentic Catholic woman’s life, while not being devoid of struggle and confusion, is lived quite differently than what is being portrayed by the popular culture.

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The nine contributing authors, including Alvaré, add their voices and experiences to this effort to balance out the bias and misconceptions about what it means to be a modern Catholic woman. In the book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, their autobiographical stories come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and occupations. The authors include:

– Marie Anderson, M.D.
– Elise Italiano, M.A.
– Sister Mary Gabriel, S.V.
– Mary Devlin Capizzi, J.D.
– Rebecca Vitz Cherico, Ph.D.
– Mary Hallan FioRito, J.D.
– Michelle A. Cretella, M.D.
– Kim Daniels, J.D.

“All of the them, including myself, have struggled to figure out how the demands of their faith allow them to live freely and even with joy in the context of some very pointed and current challenges,” stated Alvaré. “Their stories—full of honesty, but ultimately hope—come to a new and deeper understanding of the realities of being a Catholic woman in America today.”

These women share their wisdom and insights about such timely topics as:

– Navigating dating and sexpections
– Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandal
– Wrestling with the issue of contraception
– Faith, psychology and same-sex attraction
– The countercultural “draw” of religious life
– Squaring politics with everyday Catholic living
– The Church and the single mom

Alvaré is no newcomer to these issues. Earlier this year, Alvaré co-wrote a letter to President Obama, Secretary Sebelius and members of Congress for campaign entitled “Women Speak for Themselves.”  The letter, signed by more than 30,000 women, sent the message to Washington, D.C., that there are many women in this country who aren’t represented by the likes of Sebelius and Pelosi, that there are women who subscribe to the teachings of the Church and are demanding religious protections, which are being threatened by Sebelius’s HHS mandate.