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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Nuns in American Public Life

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Sr. Mary Bendyna, Aquinas College
Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM
, Boston College
Margaret Thompson, Syracuse University
Moderated by Erik Owens

Date: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Time: 5:30-7:00pm
Location: Higgins 310, Boston College

Abstract: The historic and unprecedented contribution of American Catholic sisters to the areas of Catholic education, health care, and social services is one of broad consensus. As sisters embrace the Vatican II mandate to expand their role in public life, the consensus regarding their social justice service has been increasingly divided among the church. This panel will examine the contributions of Catholic sisters to American public life since Vatican II.  

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Sr. Mary Bendyna is the Director of Institutional Research and Accreditation at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee.  She is the former Executive Director and Senior Research Associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, where she conducted numerous studies on ministry, education, faith formation, priesthood, and religious life. Her academic research examines religious beliefs and practices and their influence on political attitudes and behaviors, especially among Catholics in the United States.  A former member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sister Bendyna has been with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (the Nashville Dominicans) since 2010. She holds a B.A. in history and political science from Canisius College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in government from Georgetown University, and has also done graduate work in theology and education.

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Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM is associate professor of theology at Boston College. She is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Roman Catholic religious order based in Monroe, Michigan. The most recent past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Sister Hinsdale specializes in ecclesiology, Christology, theological anthropology, and feminist theologies. Among her major publications are Women Shaping Theology;(2006);It Comes From the People: Community Development and Local Theology(1995), co-authored with Helen M. Lewis and S. Maxine Waller; and Women and Theology (1995), co-authored with Phyllis H. Kaminski. From 2000-2003 she served as director of the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry (now a part of BC's School of Theology and Ministry); having come to BC after thirteen years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where she chaired the religious studies department, taught theology and directed the women's studies program. She holds a B.A. from Marygrove College, an M.A. in Religious Education from the Catholic University of America, an S.T.L. from Regis College (Toronto), and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the University of St. Michael's College (Toronto).

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Margaret Susan Thompson is associate professor of history and political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Maxwell School's Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her research focuses on the political and religious history of American women, especially the Americanization of Catholic women’s religious life. At work on a book entitled The Yoke of Grace: American Nuns and Social Change, 1808-1917, Professor Thompson has also published a wide array of articles and book chapters on the history of American Catholic women, lay and religious. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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