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Professor receives awards

Catherine Owers | Friday, April 12, 2013


In June, Theology professor Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert did something nearly unprecedented: receiving both the Ann O’Hara Graff Memorial Award and the Veritas Award which focus on theological anthropology, fundamental theology and feminist theology and spirituality. 

The Women’s Consultation in Constructive Theology of the Catholic Theological Society of America annually grants the Ann O’Hara Graff Memorial Award, which is named for a notable scholar who demonstrated the intersection of faith, scholarship and experience, Hilkert said.  

“They are especially interested in some kind of woman-defined scholarship … scholarship and liberating action on behalf of women in the Church and in the broader community,” Hilkert said. 

Hilkert said receiving the award was even more significant because she was nominated by her colleagues. Additionally, Ann O’Hara Graff was a friend and colleague of Hilkert’s – Graff also worked in the field of theological anthropology – which added even more significance to the award, Hilkert said.

Hilkert said Graff was very accomplished despite her untimely death and she was honored to receive an award named for Graff.

“She died in her mid-40s, and even by that time she had made marvelous contributions to integrating academic theology of the highest scholarship with people’s concrete lives and pastoral experience,” Hilkert said. “It meant a lot to be honored in her name.”

Previous recipients of the award include Sr. Regina Coll, former director of Field Education in the theology department, who received the award in 1999, and Sr. Jamie Phelps, OP, a visiting professor this year in the theology department, who received the award in 2010. 

The Dominican Colloquium on Higher Education awards the Veritas Award to Dominican scholars who are dedicated to preaching and teaching truth at an institution that is not sponsored by the order, Hilkert said.  

“It reminded me of this tradition that I stand with the Dominican order,” she said. “That has been at the very heart of my own vocation, as a theologian, a teacher, a writer, a preacher.” 

She said one reason she has been so dedicated to the Dominican order is the appreciation for academics alongside faith.

“Another thing I love about the Dominican order, that I think both of these awards represent, is that academic study, not just theology, is considered part of our spirituality,” Hilkert said. “To be recognized both by the Dominicans and my theological colleagues was also very supportive to my own lifetime work as a student and a teacher of theology, and trying to mentor others in that field.”

Hilkert said her time as a Dominican at Notre Dame, a Holy Cross-affiliated institution, has been marked by hospitality and a common understanding of the mission of the University. 

“They appreciate the fact that the Dominican order has a long history of commitment to theological scholarship and scholarship more broadly – the search for truth, wherever it can be found,” she said. “I think there is a great appreciation of the multiple treasures in the Church.”