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Social Activist



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Joanna Manning was born in England in 1943. She entered the Society of the Holy Child Jesus to become
a nun in 1961 and then earned degrees from the University of London, one in medieval history and the
second, with first class honors, in theology. She left the religious life and married in 1970. Joanna and
her family, which includes two sons, Nicholas and Andrew, immigrated to Canada in 1975 and settled in
Toronto, where she now lives. Joanna has had a long and distinguished career as an educator. She
taught at a girl's grammar school in England before being employed by the public school board in
Toronto, where she became the founding principal of A.S.E. 2, a progressive alternative high school.
After transferring to the Catholic school board in 1985, Joanna served in various schools as a department
head of history, religion, and chaplaincy. She completed a master's degree in theology and taught
part-time in the Faculty of Education, York University. She served on the Equity Committee of the
Catholic Teachers' Union at local and provincial levels and co-authored the Toronto Secondary Unit’s
1993 Report on Equity. In 1995, Joanna was the recipient of the Catholic Teachers’ Union highest honor,
the Marion Tyrell Award for distinguished contribution to Catholic education. Joanna's career as a writer
began in the late 1980s with the publication of articles in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail
newspapers and periodicals, for which she won awards from the Canadian Church Press Association
and the Educational Press of America. Prompted by the clergy sexual abuse scandals at Mount Cashel
in Newfoundland and elsewhere, she started to advocate for the need for structural reform
in the Catholic Church and organized a national group, the Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics, to
demand changes in the church. These activities drew the ire of Toronto's Archbishop, Cardinal Aloysius
Ambrozic, who ordered her removed from teaching religion. OECTA mounted a legal challenge to this,
and when the case came to court, the verdict went in Joanna's favor and she was reinstated.

Joanna's first book was a best seller. Is the Pope Catholic? A Woman Confronts Her Church, was
published in Canada in 1999 (Malcolm Lester Books) and in the US in 2000 (Crossroad). It was named as
Editor's Choice in the Globe and Mail, and was a finalist in the US Independent Publisher's Award for
Religion. Her second book, Take Back the Truth: Confronting Papal Power and the Religious Right, was
published by Crossroad in July 2002. It analyses the rise of Catholic and Protestant fundamentalism as a
religious and political phenomenon. Joanna’s third book, The Magdalene Moment, which offers creative
new insights and inspiration for Christians of all denominations, will be published by Raincoast Books in
early fall 2006. Joanna is frequently sought out by the media as a commentator on Church affairs.
She was the media coordinator for the highly successful Challenge the Church event, a parallel
conference during papal World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002, and also for the WOW (Women’s Ordination
Worldwide) conference in Ottawa in 2005. She is a member of Religion Counts, an NGO at the United
Nations and has participated in several UN conferences as an advocate of a more inclusive and holistic
approach to global affairs by the world's religions. She is an honorary member of the Board of CCPC,
the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity. Since 1993, she has organized weekly breakfast and
other outreach programs for street people in the Kensington Market area of Toronto where she continues
to reside.

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