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Catherine Wessinger, Ph.D.

Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions

Catherine Wessinger, Ph.D.
Catherine Wessinger, Ph.D.

Catherine Wessinger is the Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans. She is co-director of the Loyola Himalaya Adventure: Summer Study in Dharamsala, India program. Her primary research and teaching areas are women in religions, new religious movements, and Tibetan and Indian religions. Her articles in journals and chapters in edited books include history of religions and theoretical treatments of women and religion, millennialism, new religious movements, and religion and violence.

Since 2000 Dr. Wessinger has served as co-general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions published by University of California Press. 

Dr. Wessinger is editor of the Women in Religions series at New York University Press.

She is co-director of the Women in the World’s Religions and Spirituality Project, which is part of the World Religions and Spirituality Project online encyclopedia and archive.

Dr. Wessinger has published nine books. She is the author of Annie Besant and Progressive Millennialism (1988); and How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate (2000). She is editor of Women's Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream (1993); Religious Institutions and Women's Leadership: New Roles Inside the Mainstream (1996); Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (2000); and Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (2011). Her oral history project with surviving Branch Davidians produced three autobiographies, which she edited: Memories of the Branch Davidians: Autobiography of David Koresh's Mother, by Bonnie Haldeman (2007); When They Were Mine: Memoirs of a Branch Davidian Wife and Mother, by Sheila Martin (2009); A Journey to Waco: Autobiography of a Branch Davidian, by Clive Doyle with Catherine Wessinger and Matthew D. Wittmer.

She is currently writing Theory of Women in Religions for the Women in Religions series, and writing an updated and expanded second edition of How the Millennium Comes Violently.

Recent Publications

  • “Millennialism.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements, ed. George D. Chryssides and Benjamin E. Zeller, 133-48. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • “Apocalypse and Violence.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, ed. John J. Collins, 422-40. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • “The Second Generation Leaders of the Theosophical Society (Adyar).” In Brill Handbook of the Theosophical Current, ed. Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, 33-50. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion series. Leiden: Brill, 2013.


Ph.D., History of Religions, University of Iowa, 1985

Classes Taught

  • Religions of the World
  • Cults and Religions (Honors)
  • Women in World Religions
  • Tibetan and Indian Religions
  • Women in Christianity
  • Women in Religions and Cultures
  • Hindu Paths to God
  • Buddhism
  • Religions of Asia
  • Religion and Media
  • Religious Responses to Disaster
  • Millennium Seminar
  • Fundamentals of Conflict and Peace (team-taught)
  • New Orleans Religions: Before and After Katrina (First-Year Experience seminar)
  • Contemporary Issues and Conflicts in World Religions (Honors)