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The inaugural Women of the Church conference was held Friday, October 7, 2016, through Sunday, October 9, 2016. The conference was hosted by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, in partnership with Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
The Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, were founded in 1867 by four young Benedictine sisters who came to Ferdinand to teach the children of area settlers. 144 members strong and thriving, the community is one of the largest Benedictine communities of women in the United States.
For more than 150 years, the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey have been educating and forming leaders for the Catholic Church. Today, the school offers initial and continuing education for priests, permanent deacons and laity.
In the News
The 2016 Women of the Church conference made headlines in several places following our spirited gathering!
We have collected links to a variety of articles and blog posts on this page to serve as a resource, both for participants and those of you who could not join us at the conference. Whether you are reflecting back on your conference experience or learning about the conference for the first time, we hope that these articles will offer insight into the conference itself and spark your ongoing consideration of the value of women’s leadership within the life of the Church.
- For an excellent overview of the conference, check out Marnie McAllister’s article for The Record, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville. The Catholic News Service picked up the article and it appeared in Catholic newspapers in Philadelphia, Saskatchewan, and even Malaysia.
- Kimberly Baker, conference co-chair, offered her perspective on the conference in an interview with Notre Dame’s Church Life journal.
- Carolyn Woo, Kerry Robinson, and our conference co-chairs, Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB, and Kimberly Baker, share comments about the conference experience on pages 13 and 14 of the Spring 2017 issue of Seek. Pray. Share., the magazine of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana.
- Heidi Schlumpf of National Catholic Reporter blogged daily from the conference. Her topics included Pope Francis’ letter of blessing, along with the moderated bishops’ conversation, as well as leadership that flows from baptism. She also featured the conference in her November 2016 NCR column.
- You can reflect with Kerry Robinson’s beautiful conference preaching by going to her blog, Love in Ordinary Time.
- For reflections on the conference from a participant’s perspective, see the blog post by Mai-Dung Nguyen, OP.
- Carolyn WooPresident and CEO, Catholic Relief Services
Dr. Carolyn Woo has served as CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) since January 2012. Founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe, CRS now reaches more than 100 million people in nearly 100 countries on five continents.
Dr. Woo, representing CRS, was featured in Foreign Policy (May/June 2013) as one of the 500 Most Powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of “a force for good.” Her monthly column for Catholic News Service took first place in the 2013 Catholic Press Association Awards in the category of Best Regular Column – Spiritual Life. She recently published Working for a Better World (Our Sunday Visitor, 2015).
Before leading Catholic Relief Services, Dr. Woo served as dean of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame from 1997. During her tenure, the Mendoza College achieved No. 1 ranking (BusinessWeek/Bloomberg) in 2010 and 2011. Prior to her work at the University of Notre Dame, she served as Associate Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Purdue University.
- Dr. Kathleen Sprows CummingsWilliam W. and Anna Jean Cushwa Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of American Studies and History, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Kathleen Sprows Cummings is a historian who specializes in the history of women, immigration, and religion in the United States. She published her first book, New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era, in 2009 with the University of North Carolina Press. A volume co-edited with R. Scott Appleby, Catholics and the American Century: Recasting Narratives of U.S. History (Cornell University Press), was published in 2012.
Her current project, Citizen Saints: Catholics and Canonization in America, was supported by an NEH Fellowship during the academic year 2010-11. She has published academic and scholarly articles on this topic and is recognized as a national expert on canonization.
In June 2014, Dr. Cummings convened (with John McGreevy) Notre Dame’s Annual Italian Studies seminar in Rome. The seminar explored transatlantic approaches to the study of American Catholicism, with a particular focus on connections between Italy and the United States. She also serves as co-director (with Timothy Matovina and Robert Orsi) of the Cushwa Center’s “Lived History of Vatican II Project,” which explores the local implementation of the Council in 15 dioceses on six continents.
In May 2015, she convened, with Carmen Mangion and Alana Harris, “The Nun in the World: Catholic Sisters and the Second Vatican Council,” an international conference in London. Dr. Cummings currently oversees the History of Women Religious, an academic organization devoted to the historical study of Catholic sisters in the United States.
Dr. Cummings often serves as a media commentator on contemporary events in the Church. She appeared on NBC’s live coverage of the papal conclave in March 2013, the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXII in April 2014, and will appear on NBC’s live coverage of the papal visit to the United States in September 2015.
- Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, OPProfessor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Sister Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on theological anthropology, Christology, fundamental theology, and feminist and intercultural theologies at the University of Notre Dame.
She is the author of: Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination (Continuum, 1997), Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today (Paulist, 2008), The Praxis of the Reign of God: An Introduction to the Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx (co-editor; Fordham University Press, 2002) and numerous articles on theology, preaching, and spirituality in both scholarly and pastoral journals.
She is currently working on a book titled Words of Spirit and Life: Theology, Preaching and Spirituality. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (2005-2006), Sr. Hilkert was the first recipient of Washington Theological Union’s Sophia Award for Theological Excellence in service of ministry in 1997 and was awarded Barry University’s Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence in 2011.
She was the 2012 recipient of the Ann O’Hara Graff Award by the Women’s Constructive Theology Seminar of the Catholic Theological Society of America for her contributions to the integration of academic and pastoral theology. She has preached and lectured in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and Australia, as well as the United States.
- Breakout Session Speakers
- Tammy BechtDirector of “One Bread, One Cup,” Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, Indiana
- Dr. Kathryn Lilla CoxAssociate Professor of Theology, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary, Collegeville, Minnesota
- Dr. Ann GarridoAssociate Professor of Homiletics, Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri
- Sister Teresa Gunter, OSBVocation Director, Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana
- Dr. Edward P. HahnenbergProfessor of Systematic Theology, John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio
- Sister Karen Joseph, OSBSpirituality Ministry, Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, Board Member, Alliance for International Monasticism
- Dr. Nancy Pineda-MadridAssociate Professor of Theology and Latino/Latina Ministry, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
- Sister Guadalupe Ramírez, MCDP, D.Min.Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Mexican-American Catholic College, San Antonio, Texas
- Sister Kate Willegal, OSBNurse Clinician of Post-Surgical and Pediatric Services, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Jasper, Indiana
Sister Kate Willegal, OSB, a member of the Ferdinand Benedictines, has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Nursing. Sister Kate is an assistant professor of Nursing at Vincennes University Jasper Campus and is on the staff at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Jasper, Indiana.
- Sister Rose Mary Rexing, OSBExecutive Director of Mission Integration, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Jasper, Indiana
- Dr. C. Vanessa WhiteAssistant Professor of Spirituality and Ministry, Director of the Certificate in Pastoral Studies, and Director of the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois
- Other Participants
- Kerry Alys Robinson, Preacher for the Opening Liturgy (Vespers)Executive Director of Leadership Roundtable, Washington, D.C.
Kerry Robinson is the executive director of Leadership Roundtable, dedicated to promoting excellence and best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of the Catholic Church by harnessing the managerial expertise and financial acumen of senior level lay executives.
She is a member of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities and FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities). She has been an advisor to and trustee of numerous grantmaking foundations, family philanthropies and charitable nonprofits since 1990, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, America Magazine, Jesuit Volunteers Corps and the Gregorian University Foundation. She serves on the advisory board of Voices of Faith, a global platform in the heart of the Vatican to celebrate the contribution of women to the Church and world. She gave a reflection at the 2015 Voices of Faith event held at the Vatican.
Robinson served as the director of development for St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University and led a $75 million fundraising drive to expand and endow the chapel’s intellectual and spiritual ministry and to construct a Catholic student center.
She is the author of Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy and a Spiritual Call to Service and the founding editor of The Catholic Funding Guide: A Directory of Resources for Catholic Activities.
She and her husband, Dr. Michael Cappello, have two children.
- Janèt Sullivan Whitaker, Composer of our Conference Theme SongLiturgical Composer
Janèt Sullivan Whitaker is a nationally renowned composer of liturgical music for the Catholic Church. A native of Berkeley, she is a lifelong veteran of active music ministry in the Diocese of Oakland. Janèt’s compositions are published exclusively by OCP Publications in Portland, Oregon.
Her best loved songs, In Every Age, Here At This Table and Day of Peace continue to be featured in OCP hymnals and parish missals, including Breaking Bread, Journey Songs, and Spirit and Song.
In addition to her work as a composer and recording artist, Janèt is a dynamic cantor, percussionist, pianist, workshop presenter and retreat leader. For the past 14 years, she has served on the staff for”One Bread, One Cup” summer liturgical leadership conferences, the highly acclaimed youth program held at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana. Her newest OCP collection, This Place of Perfect Peace features music from her years with this conference.
Janèt holds a BA in music from California State University, Hayward (CSUEB), and an MTS in liturgical studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Currently residing in Hayward, California, she now serves as full-time director of music and liturgy at St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, California.
- Angelus, Concert PerformersAmerican High School Ensemble
Whether the stark beauty of an 10th century chant, the rich harmonic language of a contemporary Irish work or the rusticism of a Sacred Harp tune, Angelus finds its voice in the wide range of sacred works it performs. Completely unique among American high school ensembles, Angelus is dedicated to the performance of sacred music of varied religious traditions and historical periods.
Angelus has performed over eighty concerts in thirteen states including concerts in cathedrals and churches in Asheville, Charleston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco, St. Paul and St. Louis. Their recordings have been featured on “Celtic Connections” on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio and in Europe on the Dutch program, “Song from Ireland”. In April 2016, they made their Lincoln Center (NYC) debut as featured singers in Christopher Tin’s “Calling All Dawns” at David Geffen Hall.
- Participating Bishops
- Bishop Charles C. ThompsonBishop of Evansville
The Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson was ordained and installed as the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville on June 29, 2011.
Bishop Thompson is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and a graduate of Moore High School in Louisville. He attended Bellarmine University, where he earned a degree in accounting.
He also earned a Master of Divinity from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology and a Master in Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood, serving the Archdiocese of Louisville, in May 1987. In addition to serving five parishes across the Archdiocese, he served as Metropolitan Judicial Vicar and Director of Tribunals from 1993 to 1998, and as Vicar General of the Archdiocese from 2008 to 2011, when he was named Bishop of Evansville.
He has served as a visiting professor of Canon Law at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology since 2002.
- Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.Archbishop of Indianapolis
The Most Reverend Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., was appointed archbishop of Indianapolis by Pope Benedict XVI, on October 18, 2012.
Archbishop Tobin, a Redemptorist priest, is a native of Detroit. He was born May 3, 1952, and is the oldest of 13 children. He was educated at Catholic schools. He studied at Holy Redeemer College in Waterford, Wis., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1975. He also studied at Mount Saint Alphonsus Seminary in Esopus, N.Y., where he received a master’s degree in religious education in 1977 and a master of divinity degree in 1979.
Archbishop Tobin professed perpetual vows as a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) on August 21, 1976, and was ordained a priest on June 1, 1978.
He was ordained an archbishop on October 9, 2010, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome following his appointment on August 2, 2010, by Pope Benedict as the archbishop secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. In that role, Archbishop Tobin worked in the Vatican to oversee the more than 1 million men and women in the world’s religious orders.
Archbishop Tobin has served as a parish priest in the inner city in Detroit and Chicago. As associate pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit from 1979 to 1984, Father Tobin was responsible for ministering to the Hispanic community. He served as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish from 1984 to 1990. He then served as pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago from July 1990 until October 1991.
Archbishop Tobin served as general consultor of the Redemptorist congregation from 1991 to 1997 and as its superior general from 1997 to 2009. He was appointed by the pope to five Synods of Bishops in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2008.
Archbishop Tobin has served as the co-chairman of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation since June 2013. He has also been a member of the USCCB Sub-committee on the Church in Africa since June 2013.
On March 29, 2014, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Tobin a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Archbishop Tobin speaks several languages including Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese.
- Friday, October 7, 2016
- 2:00-5:00 p.m. RegistrationMonastery Event Hall
- 2:00-5:00 p.m.Exhibit Hall OpenMonastery Event Hall
- 5:00 p.m. (Optional)Vespers with the SistersMonastery Church
- Dinner on Own
- 6:30-7:15 p.m.Opening Liturgical Celebration Monastery Church
- 7:45-8:45 p.m.Kickoff Keynote Speaker: Carolyn Woo, Catholic Relief Services Monastery Event Hall
- 8:45-9:30 p.m.Reception and Exhibit Hall Open Monastery Event Hall
- Saturday, October 8, 2016
- 8:00-8:30 a.m. (Optional)Morning Prayer with the SistersMonastery Church
- 8:30-9:30 a.m. Exhibit Hall Open Monastery Event Hall
- 9:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote Speaker: Kathleen Sprows Cummings, University of Notre Dame Monastery Event Hall
- 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions Various Rooms on Campus
- 12:00-1:00 p.m.Box LunchMonastery Event Hall
- 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.Exhibit Hall OpenMonastery Event Hall
- 1:00 - 1:45 p.m. (Optional)Church Tours Monastery Church
- 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Moderated Conversation with Archbishop Joseph Tobin and Bishop Charles Thompson Monastery Event Hall
- 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.Breakout SessionsVarious Rooms on Campus
- 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.Evening Prayer and BanquetFerdinand Community Center
- 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.Concert: AngelusMonastery Church
- Sunday, October 9, 2016
- 8:45 - 9:30 a.m. Exhibit Hall OpenMonastery Event Hall
- 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.Keynote Speaker: Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, University of Notre DameMonastery Event Hall
- 10:45 – 11:15 a.m. Exhibit Hall OpenMonastery Event Hall
- 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.Closing Sendoff Mass with Bishop Charles ThompsonMonastery Church