'The Women Doctors of the Church' teaches about St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Hildegard
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Local author Colleen Pressprich can relate to the “little way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux — the challenge to love in the small moments of everyday life.
She also appreciates the wit, blunt honesty, and “sassy nature” of St. Teresa of Ávila.
Pressprich’s new children's book, "The Women Doctors of the Church" (Our Sunday Visitor, 2022), seeks to capture the unique personalities of the two saints along with those of St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. Catherine of Siena.
“My daughters can be feisty and loud, and they like to climb trees. They play with dolls and do all the little girl things, but they’re also very strong-willed and bold. I wanted to be able to show them that those things are feminine, too,” said Pressprich, mother of three girls and two boys, ages 5 months to 8 years, and a parishioner at St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms.
The picture book dives into the lives of the four saints who made an indelible mark on the Catholic Church. Published in the fall by Our Sunday Visitor and illustrated by Adalee Hude, "The Women Doctors of the Church" inspires girls to embrace their individual attributes to glorify God as the four female doctors of the Church did. The book provides examples of strong, interesting, faithful Catholic women who can teach all readers how to live holy lives.
“Each of these women, in her own way, was such a barrier-breaker within the Church and within the society that she lived. I really wanted my girls to know them, and my boys, too,” Pressprich said.
Of the 37 doctors of the Church who have been designated since the 13th century, four are women. Doctors of the Church are named through a papal proclamation. In their writing, research or study, these doctors have advanced the knowledge of God and contributed significantly to Catholic theology or doctrine.
To help children understand what it means to be a doctor of the Church, Pressprich writes in the book, “They help people to know God and his Church through their writing, their speaking, their teaching, and their lives.”
When Pressprich began writing the book, she could find only a handful of titles about the four female saints, and no children’s books about St. Teresa of Ávila or St. Catherine of Siena. Of those she could find, Pressprich felt the books about St. Thérèse of Lisieux portrayed the saint as “pastel” and soft, when one of Pressprich’s favorite traits about her favorite saint was her ability to persevere in love when it was hard to do so.
“St. Teresa of Ávila has been my patron saint since I was 18, and I couldn’t find any children’s books about her," Pressprich said. "It was so surprising to me that there was almost nothing for young girls about these powerhouse saints.”
Pressprich’s first book geared toward children, "Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children," was published in 2020 and has sold thousands of copies. She continues to receive positive feedback about the book, designed to help young children learn about their Blessed Mother.
“For parents, opening a book with their kids can give them a jumping off point and the confidence to have faith conversations with kids. It gives them language they can use and lessons to apply,” Pressprich said.
Pressprich holds fond memories of meeting children’s author Tomie de Paola as a child, who lived in her home state of Connecticut. She still owns a signed copy of "Strega Nona." Now, as a writer herself, Pressprich enjoys going to schools for author visits to share her books with the next generation. She answers the children’s questions, explains what it means to be an author, and tells them that they, too, can be a doctor of the Church someday.
With her experience as a Montessori teacher and a homeschooling mother, Pressprich hopes readers will find her new book relatable and engaging.
“The research for this one was really fun for me because it was like going back to old favorites, with women I have read and loved and know well,” she said. “I hope the girls who read it will come to know them, too.”
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