On Wednesday this week, we celebrate Founders Day, the moment each year when we gather to remember the courageous women who worked so hard to establish Trinity for our education and enjoyment today. We have a festive picnic on the front lawn at lunch time, the seniors dance the traditional maypole circle, and we then gather in a formal convocation to reflect on the meaning of the work of our Founders, the Sisters of Notre Dame, in the achievements of our students today.
This year’s Founders Day comes at a moment of grave challenge for American religious sisters. The population of religious sisters in America is declining and aging rapidly — from a high of nearly 200,000 in the early 1960′s, just about 55,000 women continue to be vowed religious today, with an average age of 75. The aging population of religious women have great healthcare and eldercare needs, but they must support themselves on their own. As is also true about Catholic colleges like Trinity, most Catholic congregations and universities do not receive financial support from the Church, we are “tubs on our own bottom” financially, and this is particularly true for the orders of nuns.
Perversely, even at this time of challenge for the aging sisters, the Vatican has picked this moment to launch, in the words of the ever-irreverent secular media, a “nun crackdown.” Seems that some religious women, in the eyes of some bishops, have been dallying with “radical feminism” and other liberal ideas like care for the poor, social justice, etc.
News flash to the bishops: it’s too late! The real radical feminist nuns did their deeds a long time ago! Over the last century, these wild-eyed radicals created vast systems of elementary and secondary schools, more than 100 colleges and universities, and the largest group of healthcare systems in the country.
Such radicals, these women!
Consider the work of Trinity’s Founders, Sisters Julia McGroarty, Sister Mary Euphrasia Taylor, and their sisters. Undaunted by the fact that they (a) had no money and (b) faced charges of heresy from men who believed that educating women was sinful, these brave Sisters of Notre Dame persisted in the founding of Trinity in 1897 — and just look at the radical influence that Trinity has had on its students, families and the world since then!
Let’s raise our voices in a chorus of what the work of the Sisters of Notre Dame means to us! Please offer comments by clicking on the link below, or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will post your comments this week.
And let’s give thanks for our Founders and the Sisters of Notre Dame!
Watch: Sister Teresita Weind, SND, Congregational Leader, “Radical Gratitude”
Read: The Trinity Sisters