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St. Catherine University awarded $3.3 million Hilton Foundation grant to honor Catholic Sisters

St. Catherine University will lead the launch of National Catholic Sisters Week in 2014.
St. Catherine University will lead the launch of National Catholic Sisters Week in 2014.
Photo from St. Catherine University files.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded St. Catherine University $3.3 million to launch National Catholic Sisters Week as part of Women’s History Month 2014 to bring visibility to the contributions of women religious.  The grant will support a variety of activities over three years.

St. Catherine University plans to inaugurate National Catholic Sisters Week in 2014 with a variety of events on its St. Paul campus, and introduce the Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) National Productions team, who will be creating a documentary about women religious that will premiere during Women’s History Month 2016.

St. Catherine’s proposal features a student-led initiative to chronicle oral histories of a diverse array of women religious, employing digital story-telling tools and techniques. These histories will “live” on a central website and be promoted through various social media channels.

The project will engage St. Kate’s students and their counterparts at Catholic universities across the country in creating high-quality films and narratives to document and celebrate the profound impact of women religious on the social, spiritual, economic and political life of the United States.

Other aspects of the initiative include developing curricula for middle school, high school and college-age young women, and sponsoring several events to bring together young women and members of religious congregations.

In addition to St. Kate’s faculty, staff and students, the University’s initiative will draw extensively on collaborators and resources from around the nation including:

 • Catholic colleges and universities;

• Religious communities of women across the nation;

• Leadership organizations focused on religious life;

• Existing archives at colleges and universities founded by congregations of women religious, and special collection archives at universities such as Marquette and Notre Dame; and

• Communications, marketing and digital media professionals.

“Fostering meaningful relationships between college-age women and accomplished American women religious will be a powerful inspiration for some to consider religious life,” said Andrea Lee, IHM, president of St. Catherine University.  “This ambitious project will offer students deeply meaningful work and the opportunity to learn digital and communication skills that will serve them well in the future. Most importantly, it will provide opportunities to interact in significant ways with women religious whose lives and ministries command respect and spark enthusiasm to ‘go and do likewise.’”

“The Hilton Foundation’s vision is to create a movement that ignites a national awareness around the lives and profound contributions of Sisters, inspiring girls and women to be open to a potential call to religious life,” said Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, program director of the Catholic Sisters Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “Launching National Catholic Sisters Week in conjunction with Women’s History Month will leverage the respect of an already nationally recognized campaign to highlight a unique and spirited band of women.  We have confidence that St. Kate’s will deliver a long-lasting successful campaign that engages the wisdom, imagination and zeal of many partners in generating a national ‘buzz’ around Sisters.”

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

 The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. Following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $83 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2012. The Foundation's current assets exceed $2.2 billion. 

Sep. 20, 2013 by Julie Michener

See also: Arts, Catholic Identity, Leadership, Students