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Lecture discusses theology

Kelly Meehan | Friday, April 23, 2004

Saint Mary’s Center for Spirituality presented its 20th annual Madeleva Lecture Thursday night with guest lecturer Mary Ann Hinsdale, who spoke of the role women have played in modern theology.Hinsdale has been a Sister of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Mich. since 1965. She has also taught theology for over 25 years and is currently an associate professor of theology at Boston College. The Madeleva Lectures in Spirituality are named for Sister Madeleva Wolff, past president of Saint Mary’s, and are intended to honor Wolff and her initiative of creating the Graduate School of Scared Theology in 1944 – the only institute of its time to admit women into a Ph.D. program in theology. The lecture, “Women Shaping Theology,” began with an introduction by President Marilou Eldred and Sister Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality. Hinsdale spoke of the influence that women have played in the formation of theology.”I encourage all women to give a voice to the who and what that have shaped us in theology,” Hinsdale said. Hinsdale began her lecture by encouraging the audience to join together in the singing of “Everyday God” to celebrate Earth Day, and the realization that God is present in our everyday physical and emotional life. Hinsdale pointed out it was only 50 years ago that only men were involved in all aspects of theology. Women were rarely professors, yet alone theology professors, said Hinsdale. Hinsdale said many factors have led to women shaping theology. One of the most notable is the influence of women’s Catholic educational institutions. She commented that these institutions frequently graduate strong women, with a long legacy of graduates becoming theologians.Involvement in volunteer organizations, such as the Peace Corps, often results in people “getting bitten by the theology bug” said Hinsdale. The increased interest in theology through volunteer work is often due to increased prayer and community living while volunteering. In her own life, Hinsdale’s interest in women shaping theology was a result of her realization that well-meaning religious practices often seemed exclusive, especially towards women. This caused her to further her education through obtaining her B.A. in theology and German from Marygrove College, M.A. in religious education from the Catholic University of America, a Licentiate in sacred theology from Regis College and a Ph.D. from the University of St. Michael’s College. The future of women in theology lies in the hands of laywomen, she said. An overwhelming 78 percent of today’s women theologians are single or married laywomen. Hinsdale pointed out that this will greatly impact the future of women in theology, for it will be less about the careers of theologians and more about “the word [of God] becoming flesh.”Hinsdale concluded her speech by encourage those in attendance – particularly women – to consider becoming theologians.