The first conference on women religious to be held at the University of Notre Dame’s Kylemore Abbey Global Centre in Ireland focused on the role of women religious in migrant education.
[Last month], sisters working on the front lines in migrant education in places like Italy, the Philippines, Latin America and Nigeria exchanged information and testimonies with scholars who document sisters’ work.
Kathleen Sprows Cummings, associate professor of American studies and history at the University of Notre Dame, oversees the History of Women Religious project, an academic organization devoted to the historical study of Catholic sisters in the United States. She told Global Sisters Report the impetus for the gathering was the centenary of the death of St. Frances X. Cabrini in 2017.
The title of the Kylemore conference, “A Pedagogy of Peace,” comes from Pope John Paul II who described Cabrini’s role in educating migrants as a pedagogy of peace, said Sprows Cummings, one of the organizers of the conference.
One of the presenters was Sr. Phil Kilroy of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, said, “We are all migrants. There is no pure race. Until that connection is made, we won’t treat migrants properly because we see them as ‘them’. [In my talk], I was trying to make the point that it is ‘us.’”
Benedictine Sr. Jacqueline Leiter, who teaches English-language learners at St. Paul’s Public School in Minnesota is guided by St. Benedict’s hospitality rule: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.’” But she said after visiting some of her students’ homes, she felt anger and grief,
“I was angry that apartment managers and owners allowed the conditions in which the families lived in crumbling buildings: mold, cockroaches, cracked walls, peeling floors and leaks,” she said. “I was grieved to see whole families who had to work so hard to make a life for themselves in a new country under these conditions.”
Speaking on behalf of Migrant Project/Sicily run by the International Union of Superiors in General in Rome Sr. Florence de las Villeon of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus related that congregations and Catholic organizations are putting their energy into setting up centers in Sicily for female migrants to help them avoid prostitution.
Attending the conference were Sr. Patricia Godoy, MSC; Maria Williams, Cabrini research scholar; and Dr. Maggie McGuinness, former professor at Cabrini College.