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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 23, 2012
VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Parishes plan events for Black History Month
Eminent thought leaders consider professions in light of Vatican II
St. Benedict’s lends a ‘helping hand’ to orphans
Exhibit recounts the
role of women religious

The 1954 Seventh Grade class (Room 21) with Sister Eusebia Lins, OP, principal, at St. Elizabeth Elementary School, Oakland.
Photos courtesy Domincan Sisters of Mission San Jose
Mother Gonzaga Buehler and Mother Pia Backes (foundress of the Mission San Jose Dominican sisters) with a group of orphans at St. Catherine’s Orphanage in Anaheim in the early 1900s.

For those who don’t believe there is any such thing as coincidence, “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America,” an exhibit chronicling the contributions of religious sisters across America, opens on Jan. 24 in Sacramento, the final stop on its three-year tour.

Women & Spirit

When: Jan. 24 – June 3; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: The California Museum, 1020 O St., Sacramento

Admission: $8.50 adults; $7 students with ID and seniors; $6 ages 6-13

On that date in 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in California. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“The Gold Rush rocketed the population,” said Sister Gladys Guenther, president of the Sisters of the Holy Family and coordinator of the part of the exhibit that tells the story of the sisters in the West. The sisters followed the people to California, providing care for children, education and social service.

Two tours

February 4

Departing from: Old Mission Dolores 300 Dolores St., San Francisco; Off-street parking available in School yard; Bus loading at 8 a.m.; 8:30 a.m. bus departs

Leave Sacramento at 1:30 p.m., back in San Francisco at 4 p.m.

Cost: $45 per person (includes round trip-bus fare, lunch and admission to the museum). All reservations are on a first come, first serve basis.

Information: Andy Galvan at 510-882-0527 or Chochenyo@aol.com, or Sister Angela at 510-624-4592

March 15

Departing from: 159 Washington Blvd., Fremont; Bus loading at 8 a.m.; 8:30 a.m. bus departs

Leave Sacramento at 1:30 pm, back in Fremont at 4 p.m.

Cost: $45 per person (includes round-trip bus fare, lunch and admission to the museum). All reservations are on a first come, first serve basis.

Information: Sister Angela at 510-624-4592
The traveling exhibition is sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Seen in eight cities, the exhibition tells the story of the religious women who built schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters and other social institutions in America over a period of 300 years.

The exhibit includes 70 artifacts from more than 400 sister communities. Highlights include a letter from Thomas Jefferson assuring religious freedom after the Louisiana Purchase, a custom fluting machine for the habits, a three-key box known as a common safe used by the sisters to manage their finances and a medical bag used by the sisters as they nursed both sides during the Civil War.

Things to know

The St. Joseph infant incubator was developed by Sister Pulcheria Wuellner.

The first medical license given to a woman in New Mexico was Sister 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 21 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 at the United Nations, focusing on global issues such as climate change, human trafficking and poverty.

—Source: “Women & Spirit”
In addition to the traveling portion of the show, there is the Local Story, devoted to the contributions of the religious orders of the West. And while they may not have been as many in number as their counterparts in the East, their contributions are many.

“Any one of our congregations could have filled the space,” said Sister Gladys. “I took the leap,” she said. “I wanted to see it happen.”

Among the artifacts from her community, for example, are a picture of children at a day home in the 1800s, and a picture of Rose Kennedy with Sister Miriam O’Gara, who prepared developmentally disabled children to receive First Communion. That work continues with SPRED in the Oakland Diocese, which assists parishes in integrating children, teens and adults with special needs into parish life. Its director is Sister Aurora Perez, a Holy Family sister.

Themes for the local story include: on the frontier; the creation of a safety net; the immigrant church and social justice; California expression in the arts. The exhibit also focuses on the collaboration with the laity that the sisters fostered in their ministry.

“The West Coast never had the numbers of religious that the East Coast had,” said Sister Gladys. “The religious women engaged with the laity in their work.”

Exhibition organizers hope that visitors will see the sisters as the dynamic pioneers who met the challenge of life at the end of the American continent.

“From the very beginning, people weren’t doing what was ordinary. It wasn’t ordinary to take in foundlings, to start kindergarten,” said Sister Gladys.

“God has called us for some purpose: to be of service to families and children in a very concrete way.”

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