A short summary of the recent Conference on the History of Women Religious from Sister Regina Bechtle, SC:
Sisters and Daughters of Charity were prominent among panel presenters at the recent Conference on the History of Women Religious, June 23-26, sponsored by Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center at St. Mary’s College, Indiana. The conference theme, “Commemoration, Preservation, Celebration,” showcased creative research that places women religious in the mainstream of women’s, American and Catholic history.
Denise Gallo, Sister Margaret Ann Gainey, DC and Sister Judith Metz, SC, drew from compelling original accounts by Sisters and Daughters of Charity who traveled West to open hospitals, orphanages and schools in 1828 (St. Louis), 1852 (San Francisco and the Nevada Territory), and the 1860s and 1870s (along the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico and Colorado).
Reinforcing the fact that “memory matters,” Sister Betty Ann McNeil, DC, compared the journals of early Sisters of Charity Cecilia O’Conway and Rose Landry White.
Angelica Bullock described the collections, current projects and future plans of the Archives of the Sisters of Charity of New York, where she is assistant archivist.
Sister Regina Bechtle, SC, interpreted the legacy of St. Elizabeth Seton as “an energy of Charity” that takes flesh in “relationships of mutuality [and] reciprocity” in the Sisters of Charity Federation and the ministries of its member congregations.
Kristine Ashton Gunnell described how she preserves the history of the Daughters of Charity Foundation, Los Angeles, through oral histories of its Board members.
Several lay scholars presented research drawn from archives of SC Federation congregations. A sampling:
- The contemporary meaning of charism and mission in colleges founded by Catholic women religious, including the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Bronx, NY (Kevin Ahern, Manhattan College)
- Catholic hospitals, including St. Vincent’s, Manhattan, and labor activism in the 1960’s (Thomas Rzeznik, Seton Hall University)
- Bishop John Baptist David and relationships between superiors and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (Jacqueline Willy Romero, Arizona State U.); portraits of Mother Catherine Spalding (Mitchell Oxford, College of William & Mary);
- The lively journals of Sisters Blandina and Justina Segale and their groundbreaking social service work at Cincinnati’s Santa Maria Institute (Mary Beth Fraser Connolly, Purdue U. Northwest)