Notre Dame to sponsor exhibition on women religious

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Women and Spirit

The University of Notre Dame will be the principal sponsor of “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America,” a traveling museum exhibit on the history of Catholic women religious in the United States, when it visits northern Indiana in fall 2011.

The exhibit, a project of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), began a three-year nationwide tour last May in Cincinnati and is now at the Smithsonian Institution. It will be at the Northern Indiana Center for History from Sept. 2 to Dec. 31, 2011.

“Women and Spirit” includes photographs and items contributed by more than 400 communities of women religious, many of which have never before been placed on public display. Articles for the exhibit include handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson, a 19th century cradle from Sisters of Charity New York Foundling orphanage, a replica of the first incubator, traveling trunks, journals and diaries describing the sisters’ immigration experiences, pioneering healthcare devices, samplers, musical instruments, student work, and miscellaneous artifacts associated with a number of saints.

The University of Notre Dame Archives holds the archival records of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Archives also worked with
the exhibit design team, offering research assistance as well as numerous photographs, films and videos for the display.

“I am thrilled that the University of Notre Dame’s central administration will be underwriting a significant part of the cost of the exhibit,” said Kathleen Cummings, assistant professor of American studies and acting director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. “In attaching the name of the country’s premier Catholic university to ‘Women and Spirit,’ we are recognizing that the work of women religious has been integral rather than peripheral to church and nation.”

Cummings will teach a seminar on “Women and Religion” in connection with the exhibit during fall 2011. In addition, the Cushwa Center will join Notre Dame’s Departments of History and American Studies in sponsoring a conference on women religious in American history and in developing courses that explore the exhibit’s themes. Both departments also will host a related lecture series whose inaugural lecture will be given by Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M., professor of New Testament studies and Christian spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, Calif.

Along with several academic departments at Notre Dame, other sponsors of the exhibit include the Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary’s College, and the Northern Indiana Center for History.

More information on the exhibit is available here.

Contact: Kathleen Cummings at 574-631-8749 or