January 10, 2011
"Service to Catholic Studies" Award Received From The American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA) for Outstanding Historical Exhibit
Service to Catholic Studies
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious
For the traveling exhibit: “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America”
The American Catholic Historical Association’s Award for Service to Catholic Studies acknowledges the exceptional contributions of those who “promote study and research of the history of Catholicism broadly conceived” apart from teaching and publication. The term “service” may include: service to the Association, archival management, museum displays that advance public knowledge of Catholic history, media and other activities that promote the role and place of Catholic studies to a wide audience.
The ACHA is proud to confer this first Service to Catholic Studies Award on the
Leadership Conference of Women Religious for their superb traveling exhibit, “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” This display began its three year traveling cycle in May 2009 at the Cincinnati Museum Center and has appeared at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Ellis Island Museum in New York. It is currently touring various cities and college campuses in the United States through 2012.
This marvelous mélange of artifacts, personal testimonies, archival materials and
recorded interviews with women religious not only accentuate the pivotal role of these congregations in shaping the Catholic church in the United States, but even more of the importance of religious sisters in shaping our nation’s history. Relying on the skills of respected ACHA members such as Sister Karen Kennelly, C.S.J. and Dr. Carol Coburn, the elements of the display reflect the best of the abundant research and scholarship that has been done on women religious in the past generation. The display not only informs and entertains, it also challenges its viewers to look again at the role and place of these religious communities. It urges them to transcend stereotypes of sisters and to develop a better understanding of the practical effect of the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience taken by the sisters.
We learn here of early sisters who came to places like New Orleans, who endured anti-Catholic mobs and arson in Charlestown, Massachusetts, who defied laws prohibiting the education of slaves and people of color, who followed the ever-shifting frontier and marched through deserts and plains, over mountain peaks and even to the Hawaiian islands to bring education, health care and social provision to Catholics in the American diaspora. We march with them at Selma and also follow their heroic efforts to establish institutions of elementary, secondary and higher learning that have formed generations of American Catholics. Their hands have literally nursed untold millions to health in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Phoenix.
We honor not only this superb exhibit, but also the many women religious who have
enriched the American Catholic Historical Association by their scholarship, collegiality and love for historical truth. Through them we express our support and best wishes to all women religious in America.
Larissa Juliet Taylor, President, American Catholic Historical Association, 2011.