By Peggy Weber
A bus filled with pilgrims from the Diocese of Springfield journeyed to Ellis Island on Oct. 19 to view the “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” exhibit.
The moving exhibit tells of the contributions of religious communities to life in the United States for almost 300 years. The exhibit continues there until Jan. 22, 2011.
It is sponsored by the History Committee of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It does a phenomenal job of showing the depth and breadth of the contributions made by women religious.
The special web site dedicated to this exhibit offers videos, photos, teachers’ guides and an abundance of information that should not be missed. If you cannot make it to Ellis Island before the end of Januray then you must click on this link.
And if you have made the journey, it is still worth reading more. It is hard to take in all of the information presented at the exhibit. The women religious have done so many incredible things.
For example, the display notes that women religious:
- The St. Joseph infant incubator was developed by Sr. Pulcheria Wuellner
- The first medical license given to a woman in New Mexico was Sr. Mary de Sales Leheney.
- In 2005, approximately one in six hospital patients in the U.S. were treated in a Catholic facility.
- During the Civil War, the Sisters of the Holy Cross staffed the first U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USS Red Rover.
- More than 600 sisters from twenty-one different religious communities nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers alike during the Civil War.
- In the founding days of Alcoholics Anonymous, Sister Ignatia Gavin of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine successfully advocated that alcoholism should be treated as a medical condition.
- Catholic sisters established the nation’s largest private school system, educating millions of young Americans.
- More than 110 U.S. colleges and universities were founded by Catholic sisters.
- Since 1980, at least nine American sisters have been martyred while working for social justice and human rights overseas.
- Since 1995, numerous congregations have participated as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations, focusing on global issues such as climate change, human trafficking, and poverty
Sister of St. Joseph Judith O’Connell, vicar for religous for the Diocese of Springfield, organized the Oct. 19th pilgrimage.
She noted that the Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ) also were sending two bus loads of sisters, associates and friends on Oct. 30 to meet with other Sisters of St. Joseph to see the exhibit.
The Oct. 19th pilgrims represented members, friends and associates of the Sisters of Providence, Felician Sisters, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph and the SSJs.
A feature on this trip will air on Real to Reel on WWLP-TV 22 at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4th.