A generous grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will enable St. Kate’s to lead a national campaign to promote the numerous contributions of women religious.
By Christina Capecchi
Beneath her desk, Amata Miller, IHM, keeps a box for size 9 suede patent Red Cross shoes. It’s loaded with hundreds of index cards, each one cataloging a different nun who made a significant contribution to academia, healthcare and other professions. It was a simple research method for a graduate paper back in the early 1970s, and the box filled quickly.
“I don’t know what to do with it!” says Sister Amata, the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Distinguished Professor in Catholic Identity and director of St. Catherine’s Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity. Still, she acknowledges: “I couldn’t throw it away.” She flips through the index cards, tilting her head to read the neat cursive. “Sister Katherine was a philosopher, apparently. She published books. She was an educator. Here’s another one: Sister Florence Marie got a Fulbright to go to Italy. She published a book on Virgil for young readers. Here’s Sister Margaret, who was a hospital administrator.”
The tucked-away shoebox — out of sight, out of mind — is an apt metaphor for society’s limited knowledge of the lives and formidable achievements of women religious. But all of that is about to change. Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, St. Catherine plans to bring national visibility to the contributions of women religious, whose far-reaching work on the frontlines of social change, women’s leadership, healthcare, education and the Church remains relatively unknown. A key initiative of the three-year project will be the 2014 launch of National Catholic Sisters Week as part of Women’s History Month next March.
The Hilton Foundation awarded two other grants for a similar purpose:
- $2.3 million over three years to the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co. to build a network of journalists — including Sisters — to cover women religious across the globe.
- $525,000 over two years to “A Nun’s Life,” an online ministry managed by two IHM Sisters that invites young women and nuns to “explore God’s calling” in their lives.
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