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Radical Grace    cover photo

Radical Grace 2015

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Produced by Daniel Albert, Nicole Bernardi-Reis, Susan Sarandon
Directed by Directed by Rebecca Parrish
DVD , color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 06/13/2016

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

"What I learned in the course of making this film is that social justice work becomes a spiritual practice when, in the act of serving, the boundary between self and others breaks down. It becomes communion." Rebecca Parrish, from review on 4/16/14

In a superb follow-up to Mary Fishman’s 2012 documentary Band of Sisters, director Rebecca Parrish (Protect Our Defenders, 2012) trains her lens on women religious in the United States whose commitment to social justice brings them into conflict with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Originally planning a documentary on community-based social justice work, Parrish shifted focus after interviewing Sister Jean Hughes, who asserts that her work mentoring newly-released prisoners on Chicago’s West Side is a spiritual practice. Along with Sr. Jean, Radical Grace introduces us to Sr. Simone Campbell as she spearheads the 2012 “Nuns on the Bus” national tour advocating better access to health care for the nation’s poor; and Sr. Christine Schenk of FutureChurch, educating and building support among Catholic laity for women’s equality within the Church.

Utilizing footage from major news outlets to frame the issues, Parrish follows the sisters through a tumultuous time, recording their responses to the Vatican’s recent stinging critique of American women religious, alleging their focus on social justice issues leads them to neglect traditional Catholic teaching; to contentious national debate on the Affordable Care Act culminating in a Supreme Court ruling on its legality; and to Pope Benedict XVI’s unexpected resignation—followed by the even more surprising election of Francis I. Throughout, the sisters are frank in their opinions, in assessing the work that is their spiritual practice as well as their passion, and clear-eyed but ultimately optimistic about the future of women religious in America. As Sr. Simone puts it, “I’m afraid, but I think the Holy Spirit makes mischief in surprising ways. Who knows what the Spirit has in mind?”

A thoroughly engaging film that is top-notch in all technical aspects, Radical Grace is a winning choice for academic libraries supporting religious studies, women’s studies and social justice degree programs. It is equally appropriate for church, school, and public libraries serving communities where interest in issues of social justice and the Catholic Church are high. Chaptered and closed captioned.


  • Best of Fest, AFI Docs 2015
  • Top 5 Audience Favorite, Hot Docs 2015