28 January 2016

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Subversive Habits: The Untold Story of Black Catholic Nuns in the U.S.

Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans, La., cir. 1899. It is the second order of African American Nuns founded in the United States. (PRNewsFoto/Loyola Marymount University)
Few have heard the epic story of the Catholic church's most hidden members – its black nuns – who faced prejudice both inside and outside of the church.
Although the longstanding practices of racial segregation and exclusion in the U.S. Church kept their numbers statistically insignificant through the 20th century, African-American Catholic sisters pioneered religious life for African-Americans.
Two of these women, Mother Mary Lange of Baltimore, Maryland, who founded the first order for women of color in the U.S., and Mother Henriette DeLile of New Orleans, who founded the second successful congregation for women of color, are the first black women in the Western world to be nominated for sainthood.

Black sisters in the United States founded the western world's first congregations open to black women and girls and waged pivotal battles against white supremacy. They also desegregated scores of Catholic institutions and eventually organized internationally to protest racism and sexism in the Church and the wider society.

Shannen Dee Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will chart the epic journey of black women religious and illustrate how they fought to make the universal Church truly catholic on Saturday, Feb. 13, at Loyola Marymount University at 12:30 p.m.

"For over two millennia, thousands of black women have embraced the celibate religious state in the Catholic church," said Williams, "yet the history of black Catholic sisters remains largely untold. This is especially true for African-American sisters. Anyone invested in a full and honest accounting of the Catholic experience has an obligation to ensure that the lives and labors of black women religious are never erased, marginalized, or reduced to myth."
This event, sponsored by the LMU's Center for Religion & Spirituality, costs $35 and $20 for women religious. Those interested in attending should register by calling 310.338.2799 or email crs@lmu.edu.

SOURCE: Loyola Marymount University

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