Peace and Justice in ACCU’s Spring Newsletter

ACCU recently released the spring edition of Update, our quarterly newsletter. Read Update in full here. Peace and Justice highlights include:

University of Mary Students Lead March for Life: In January, over 600 students, faculty, and administrators from the University of Mary led the 2017 National March for Life Rally. After attracting national media attention last year when they were snowbound for 24 hours on the Pennsylvania turnpike when returning from the 2016 March for Life, they were selected to lead the March.

Chestnut Hill College Inspires Students to Pursue College Dreams: President of Chestnut Hill College, Sister Carol Jean Vale, SSJ is working to inspire local high school students in their pursuit of education and help them realize that the dream of a college education can become a reality. Through events such as “King Community Day” where the college invited students to campus for a basketball game and to meet with financial aid and admissions representatives, Chestnut Hill College is communicating the message that college education is not out of the reach of local students. This initiative is part of a wider campaign in northwest Philadelphia, involving the state senator and leaders in local schools, to inspire students to pursue a college education and build community connections.

Carlow University Works to Reduce Gun Violence: Carlow University launched its Social Justice Institutes with a focus on gun violence as the inaugural “Educating for Justice” issue, which will remain the focus through 2020. Social Justice Institutes’ goal is to promote advocacy and create systemic change through faculty research and community engagement.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Students Assist in Appalachia: Students and staff from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College spent a week in rural West Virginia this past fall on an Alternative Fall Break. They joined students from other colleges at Nazareth Farm, a Catholic community that provides service-retreat experiences. The group served the local community by helping homeowners with maintenance and construction.

Saint Martin’s Screens Film Showing Immigration Through a Child’s Eyes: The Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series at Saint Martin’s University recently featured a documentary film screening of Sad Happiness: Cinthya’s Cross Border Journey.” The film tells the story of 11-year-old Cinthya, a child who travels to her parents’ native community in Mexico for the first time where she visited her extended family, many of whom she has never met. The film’s producer, photographer and editor, Sonia De La Cruz is an assistant professor of communication studies at Saint Martin’s. The story illuminates the struggles and desires of families divided between the United States and other countries where children are mobile citizens but their parents cannot leave.   

Catholic Institutions Join Coalition to Improve College Access: Manhattan College, College of the Holy Cross, and St. Michael’s College have joined the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a group of more than 90 public and private colleges and universities formed to improve the college application process for all students, provide substantial support to lower-resourced and underrepresented students, offer responsible financial aid support, and demonstrate a commitment to student graduation.

To subscribe to Update, please email Paula Moore.



An Interview with Global Sisters Report Editor Gail DeGeorge

Gail DeGeorge is the editor of Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter. Given the publication’s commitment to Catholic social teaching and the close ties between higher education and Catholic sisters, ACCU hosted an interview with Gail DeGeorge on the connection between ACCU member institutions and Global Sisters Report.

ACCU: Tell us about Global Sisters Report.  How did the project get started and what are the goals of the publication?

Gail DeGeorge: Global Sisters Report is a website publication of the National Catholic Reporter that reports on and gives voice to women religious who carry out the Catholic Church’s mission of mercy and social justice. Its network of journalists writes about sisters around the world who work against human trafficking, run workshops to help empower women, aid indigenous people against environmental threats posed by mining (including being witnesses at Standing Rock against the pipeline); run clinics in poor communities, and lobby in the halls of Congress and the United Nations for the rights of the marginalized and forgotten. Sisters also write columns for GSR about spirituality; religious life in the U.S., Africa, and Asia; and their missions and ministries. In addition to editors and reporters, GSR has two sisters on staff who work to encourage and develop columns by sisters, edit, and write commentary. NCR had written about the work of women religious since its founding in 1964 and wanted to expand on that coverage. In late 2008, it approached the Hilton Foundation for funding for a special three-year project entitled “Women Religious: Lives of Justice and Mercy.” NCR then received a planning grant in 2011 to research the formation of a dedicated website focused on women religious. The project was funded, developed and then launched in April 2014.

ACCU: Many Catholic college and universities were founded by sisters and continue to have sisters actively involved with campus leadership. In what ways do religious sisters impart the values of their order and of their colleges into the social justice work that they do?

GDG: For decades, America’s sisters, with foresight, determination, and creativity have been building a foundation that will sustain the charism of their order when they are no longer at the helm. These initiatives include developing mission chairs/officers, lay leadership and associate programs, retreats, book study groups that reinforce the values of the order, and even, at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, periodic afternoon teas, bringing staff and faculty together to assess how the Catholic Franciscan mission is being integrated into campus life. One example: Minnesota’s St. Catherine University has created three mission chairs to reinforce each element of the school values: Catholic, Women, and Liberal Arts. In initiating a new governance structure, they wrote a new covenant, developing an educational program for the Board of Trustees and creating a Sponsorship Council made up of four sisters and three lay trustees.

ACCU: What are some of the ways you have seen sisters engage the next generation, such as college students, in their social justice ministry?

GDG: When the mission of the order is woven into the institutional fabric, students notice and participate.  At St. Catherine, sisters have volunteered to become prayer partners with students, who also have the opportunity to work on social justice issues like human trafficking and participate in Celeste’s Dream, a program that allows young adults to experience the mission and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Chestnut Hill College has the 1650 Society (a mission-focused honor society). The school also offers service trips to Appalachia and Tanzania as well as the chance to work with the inner-city poor in Camden, New Jersey.  At Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania, home of the IHM Sisters, students tutor children in West Philadelphia, work at a local food bank and spend time with retired sisters next door at Camilla Hall, among other opportunities.

ACCU: How can faculty in Catholic higher education, especially those involved with peace and justice work, engage with Global Sisters Report? 

GDG: Check out the Global Sisters Report website, encourage students to do so, and sign up for e-mail alerts!  The website is clearly designed for various social justice themes – environment, trafficking, migration – and the search tool allows for more in-depth searches. Also, join in the discussions on Global Sisters Reports’ social media pages on Facebook, Twitter (@sistersreport), and Instagram.  We also have a feature “Notes from the Field” in which young adult volunteers – usually through Catholic Volunteer Network but also those who intern or work with sister congregations – write blogs. These are excellent examples of young people living out the Church’s social justice and service mission.

ACCU: In what ways can the news and stories shared by Global Sisters Report inform the way that Catholic colleges and universities, including students, campus ministers, mission officers, and administrators, work to promote Catholic social teaching principles?

 GDG: Sisters are on the front lines on a variety of social justice issues. They serve people who are affected by government policy decisions, funding cuts, and environmental crises. Their autonomy often allows them to be more outspoken than priests and other clergy in advocating for social change. Many, for instance, actively incorporate Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si, into their work. Sisters in Africa are seeking common ground between their missions with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Their voice is vital to include in discussions about — and efforts to carry out — Catholic social teaching principles.

Students at Chestnut Hill College Experience Charism of Sisters of St. Joseph

Each year, Chestnut Hill College welcomes a group of students a week before new student orientation to participate in community service together through a program called LENS (Leadership, Engagement and Service).  The program is designed for students to learn more about the mission and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who sponsor the college . This year, the students volunteered at St. Joseph Villa, a healthcare facility that provides care to laity and retired sisters. The students were moved by the sisters’ stories of life-long service to the Church.

Ryan P. Murphy, an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the facilitator of the service program, reflects on the experience of bringing students into living the sisters’ charism of service and reflection on the Global Sisters Report. He explains his hope “that my students recognize that the mission and charism are not clever add-ons, but something we live authentically as carriers of the Sisters of St. Joseph legacy in a sponsored institution.” Read his full reflection here.

Laudato Si Release: Act

Earlier today, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical letter, Laudato Si.  We at ACCU are sharing resources and best practices to help our campuses pray for commitment to care for creation, learn about the encyclical and our call to stewardship, and act upon our beliefs to work for the common good.


ACCU member institutions have acted upon their call to care for creation through a number of sustainability and environmental justice initiatives.

  • The Catholic Climate Covenant, with support from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, have produced Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration (PDF; 3MB).  Through mission-based initiatives, the Toolkit offers practical suggestions to inspire individuals, families, schools, parishes, and dioceses to follow the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change’s St. Francis Pledge.
  • 29 Catholic colleges and universities have taken the St. Francis Pledge, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant, committing to living out the value of care for creation through reflection, action, and advocacy.  These campuses include: Aquinas College (MI), Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, College of Saint Benedict, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Lewis University, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, Mercyhurst University, Mount St. Joseph University, Neumann University, Rosemont College, Saint Anselm College, Saint Francis University, Saint John’s University (MN), Saint Joseph’s College (IN), Saint Mary’s College of California, Saint Michael’s College, Salve Regina University, Seattle University, St. Thomas More College, Stonehill College, University of Notre Dame, University of Portland, Villanova University, Viterbo University, and Xavier University.
  • The Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University lives out a core tenet of the university mission.  The Center has undertaken a number of initiatives, including supporting faculty and student research through fellowships.  Dr. Trileigh Tucker, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Seattle University, and one of CEJS’s first Faculty Fellows, developed a teaching resource on environmental justice, compiling syllabi, assessment methods, and foundational documents used frequently in courses on environmental justice.
  • Benedictine University in Illinois has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the state to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the campus cafeteria and other buildings.
  • In spring 2015, Cabrini College held a conference, “Faith, Climate, and Health”, to examine how climate change affects the health of the most vulnerable citizens.
  • At the University of Portland, professors Dr. Russell Butkus and Dr. Steven Kolmes, teach a course entitled “Theology in Ecological Perspective”, exploring Catholic and Christian teaching and environmental science.

Read more ways ACCU member campuses have undertaken sustainability initiatives on the ACCU website.  Check back frequently as we will post new updates and ways that ACCU campuses react to the Laudato Si to the blog!