In 2017, the Sisters are studying the lives of amazing American women.
January 2017 | Jane Addams
“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”
– Jane Addams
Social reformer Jane Addams was a pioneer. A settlement activist, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist and author, she was a leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. The eighth of nine children, she was born in Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860. Her Bible studies inspired her to serve the poor. In 1889, she and Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House in Chicago, a social settlement which served immigrants from across Europe. She worked tirelessly to stop the use of child labor. In 1919, Jane Addams founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
- Learn more about the life and service of Jane Addams: the second woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
February 2017 | Rosa Parks
“I was not tired physically….I was tired of giving in.” – Rosa Parks
On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history when she boarded a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to sit in the
back of the bus, where black passengers were supposed to sit. She was arrested and jailed. Her protest led to a boycott of the city buses that lasted more than a year until the city repealed its segregation ordinance.
- Learn more about the act of courage that made Rosa Parks an icon of America’s civil rights movement.
- See additional photos from the life of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.
March 2017 | The Grimke Sisters
“If persecution is the means which God has ordained for the accomplishment of this great end, emancipation, then…I feel as if I could say, let it come; for it is my deep, solemn deliberate conviction, that this is a cause worth dying for….” – Angelina Grimke
Early and prominent activists for abolition and women’s rights, Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) were raised in the cradle of slavery on a plantation in South Carolina. The Grimke sisters, as they were known, grew to despise slavery after witnessing its cruel effects at a young age. Sarah and Angelina were prominent speakers on the abolitionist circuit. By the 1830s, they were also known as proponents of women’s rights.
- Learn more about the lives of the Grimke sisters.
- Sarah and Angelina Grimke are profiled in “Young and Brave: Girls Changing History.”
April 2017 | Blandina Segale
“If this is His work it will succeed despite opposition. If it is not His work we do not want it to succeed.” – Servant of God Blandina Segale
Born in a small town near Genoa, Italy, Rose Marie Segale was just four years old when her family immigrated to the United States. At age 16, she joined the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, taking the name Sr. Blandina. In 1872, she was assigned to a small town in Colorado. From 1872 to 1894, she built orphanages, schools and hospitals in Colorado and New Mexico. In 1900, she returned to Albuquerque to build St. Joseph’s Hospital. Sr. Blandina acquired a reputation for facing lynch mobs, bandits and gunfighters – including Billy the Kid – with courage and kindness. In fact, her life was celebrated in an episode of the Death Valley Days television series. It was called: “The Fastest Nun in the West.” Sr. Blandina died on Feb. 23, 1941. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe has opened a process to canonize Sr. Blandina Segale, who is now honored with the title Servant of God.
May 2017 | Sr. Dorothy Stang
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Dorothy Stang was one of nine children. Raised on a farm in a traditional Catholic family, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur community in 1948. She began her ministry in Brazil in 1966. A citizen of Brazil and the United States, Sr. Dorothy worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants. As the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur note on their website: “Protecting the rain forest by encouraging sustainable farming techniques presented a threat to loggers, land speculators, and agribusiness concerns in the region. As a result, in the late 90s she was named to a ‘death list’ created by the power brokers of the area.” On February 12, 2005, two hired gunmen fired six shots, killing Sr. Dorothy Stang. Sr. Dorothy was posthumously awarded the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. She has been the subject of books, movies, documentaries and an opera. The Vatican has recognized her as a modern day martyr.
June 2017 | St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, sometimes called Mother Seton, was the first native-born American citizen to be canonized as a saint. Born on August 28, 1774, Elizabeth Ann Bayley was the daughter of a wealthy family in New York City. Her relatives, by blood or by marriage, included families of fame and power in the colonial United States. She grew up next door to Alexander Hamilton. She was raised in what would eventually become the Episcopal Church. But, in spite of her society background, Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew older, the Bible would become her comfort and support. In 1794, at age 19, she married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman. In 1803, William Seton died of tuberculosis. As a widow, Elizabeth was received into the Catholic Church in 1805. In order to support herself and her children, Elizabeth Seton established an academy for young ladies. The school had originally been secular but once news of Elizabeth’s conversation to Catholicism spread, several girls were removed from the school. In 1908, Elizabeth Seton established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland, dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America. On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From that time, she was called Mother Seton. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. Her remains are entombed in the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. Aloha, Oregon, is home to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, where Father Jeff Meeuwsen, Valley Catholic Class of 1995, currently serves.
- Learn more about the life and ministry of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who was beatified by Pope John XXIII on March 17, 1963, and was canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975.
July 2017 | Mother Theresa Maxis
It has been said that Mother Theresa Maxis lived and served between two worlds. During the 19th century, she helped found two religious communities: one for white women and one for African-American women. She served as leader of both. In 1829, at age 19, Almeide became one of the founding members of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious community for African-American women. She took the religious name of Theresa, later serving as mother superior. When church authorities tried to disband the congregation, Theresa left the Oblates. In 1845, Sister Theresa and a young Belgian priest named Louis Florent Gillet founded the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.), and she became their first Mother Superior.
August 2017 | Dorothy Gauchat
“Our faith supported our actions: If one does not love his neighbor, he cannot love God. These unwanted waifs are our neighbors.” – Dorothy Gauchat
Dorothy Schmitt met Bill Gauchat at the Blessed Martin House in Cleveland, toward the end of the Great Depression. Bill had opened the Blessed Martin House to serve and support the unemployed. After marrying in 1941, Bill and Dorothy moved to Avon, Ohio, where they welcomed three daughters. Then, in 1946, they received an unexpected phone call: would they accept a disabled child in their home? After discussing the request and the impact on their family, the answer was clear. They could not refuse. In opening their home to disabled children, they found their lifelong vocation as foster parents to a stream of other children, later opening Our Lady of the Wayside, a home large enough to care for dozens of severely disabled children. After her husband’s death, Dorothy founded a hospice for infants with HIV/AIDS. She worked there until her death on Feb. 20, 2000. Dorothy and Bill Gauchat lived the Gospel message in their daily lives. They remind us to remember the God-given dignity of all and act accordingly.
September 2017 | Eunice Kennedy Shriver
As founder of the Special Olympics and executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a pioneer in the worldwide struggle for rights and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities. The fifth of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Eunice earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Stanford University. After graduation, she worked for the U.S. State Department, was a social worker at a penitentiary for women, and served as director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. The foundation was established to seek the prevention of intellectual disabilities by identifying its causes and to improve the means by which society deals with citizens who have intellectual disabilities. In 1984, Eunice Kennedy Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. In 2017, she was the posthumous recipient of the 2017 Arthur Ashe Courage award for her tireless work on behalf of individuals with disabilities and for the creation of the Special Olympics. The award was accepted by her son, Tim Shriver, who is chairman of the Special Olympics.
October 2017 | Eileen Egan
In her own quiet way, Eileen Egan was a remarkable and effective force for peace. She joined the newly-formed Catholic Relief Services as its first professional layperson. During Vatican II, she lobbied for a condemnation of nuclear war. Egan’s long-term concern for peace led her to cofound the American PAX Association and its successor Pax Christi-USA, the American branch of International Pax Christi. In May 1995, Catholic Relief Services announced the creation of the Eileen Egan Journalism Award. After Egan’s death at the age of 88 in October 2000, Ken Hackett, then executive director of Catholic Relief Services, said, “Eileen Egan exemplifies what CRS’ mission is all about. Her recognition of war refugees as human beings worthy of dignity and respect represents the basic principles through which CRS was founded.”
November 2017 | The churchwomen of El Salvador
Dec. 2 marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, lay missionary Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, the four churchwomen of El Salvador who were savagely brutalized and killed for spreading the good news and teaching people to read and pray. As the Fathers and Brothers of Maryknoll noted: “The history of the church is written in the blood of martyrs. But these four women represented a different kind of martyrdom, increasingly common in our time. Their murderers dared to call themselves Christians, indeed defenders of Christian values. And they died not simply for clinging to faith but for clinging, like Jesus, to the poor.”