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Cap & Gown | Remarks: Inauguration of the Billiart Center for Social Justice

Remarks to Cap and Gown Convocation

Sr. Camilla Burns, SND

The Sisters of Notre Dame were founded in 1804 by the French woman Julie Billiart.  Julie had two innate convictions that seem to have been with her from her earliest life and continued to be the beacons that guided her and motivated her through the vicissitudes of life.

The first was her unshakeable conviction that God was good.  Her writings are filled with the phrase “How Good is the Good God!”, “Ah! Qu’il est bon le bon Dieu.”  It was a mantra for her. That saying is inscribed on the cross the Sisters of Notre Dame wear.

From the conviction of the Goodness of God came the deep desire to communicate that realization to others.  She lived in a time of religious and social upheaval and concluded that the most effective way to transform society and communicate the goodness of God was through education.  She was a natural at teaching, starting at an early age by going to the wheat fields at noon and instructing the agricultural workers.

She gave us this grand legacy and encouraged us to continue the work throughout the world with “deep union with God, liberty of spirit, and courage.” We are now in five continents and 20 countries.

Sister Julia McGroarty was a Sister of Notre Dame who was inspired by this legacy and exhibited great courage and liberty of spirit in founding Trinity College in 1897.

Our responsibility in 2013 is to interpret our inheritance for the present moment. In our Constitutions we commit ourselves to continue to search for appropriate expressions of our legacy in each time and place.   Julia McGroarty exhibited this translation of our bequest to the present moment when she said “We are following our old tradition, enlarging our lives to suit the times.”

At this moment in the history of Trinity, we are inaugurating the founding of the Billiart Center for Social Justice.  The Center will explore contemporary local, national and international social and economic issues which affect the lives of women, particularly in the religious and political spheres.  We are under no illusion that this is a new experience for Trinity.  We see multiple examples already existing in the curricula of many programs and we know that it takes place in numerous ways in various classrooms and extracurricular activities.  This Center is a central place that gathers and encourages what is already being done and offers assistance in developing more programs and ideas.  Mary Johnson will now present some of the ways we have begun to concretize the Billiart Center for Social Justice.

For more information about Cap and Gown, students should contact Dean Meechie Bowie at 202-884-9611 or via e-mail at For media inquiries, contact Ann Pauley, Media Relations, at 202-884-9725 or



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