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Saint Mary’s receives Lilly Endowment grant

| Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Lilly Endowment Incorporated has made a nearly $527,000 gift to Saint Mary’s Division for Mission, which will be used to fund a week-long theology summer institute for high school girls on the College’s campus. The pilot program will run summer 2016, vice president for mission Judy Fean said. 

DonationsEric Richelsen

According to the Lilly Endowment Incorporated website, 82 private, four-year colleges and universities located in 29 states and the District of Columbia received grants. The four-year grant is specifically intended to help young women in high school develop leadership in their churches and assist in the area of vocations, Fean said. Fean will be the program director of the institute.

“The first goal is to provide an opportunity for high school girls to encounter their beauty within a contemporary theology of creation,” she said. “Also, to assist high school girls to understand and articulate how their gifts and talents relate to others and reveal their desire for communion with God … and to help high school students realize that faith is a gift both deeply personal and inherently social, meant to be shared for the common good.”

Attendees of the summer institute will use Scripture, reflection and service to examine the moral and ethical dimensions of challenges faced by young women today, Fean said.

“We see this as an opportunity for young women to be able to find their voice,” she said. “We also have opportunity for inter-religious dialogue and engagement with other religious traditions, and seeing what that means as our openness to ecumenical relationships.”

Fean said the Voices of Young Catholic Women project last year, in which the College sponsored a campaign for young women to send letters to Pope Francis, brought to light ideas about women’s leadership in the Church, and how society impacts young women today.

“There was the question of, ‘What can that leadership do to support women in the Church?’, and I think that was a reason why this grant seemed like a really good idea,” she said.

The application for the summer institute came together through the collaborative efforts of a wide range of disciplines, including the Dean of Faculty, the Provost, members of the department of religious studies, campus ministry, the Center for Spirituality and the Office of Social and Civic Engagement, Fean said.

For the pilot program during summer 2016, members of the religious studies faculty, campus ministry, the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership, the Office of Social and Civic Engagement, student mentors and possibly community members will serve around 30 high school girls from across the country, she said.

“We will select Saint Mary’s students to be mentors for the week,” Fean said. “We’re preparing leaders through the institute but also offering our Saint Mary’s women the opportunity to be a leader.”

Saint Mary’s has a history of strengthening the leadership of women in the Church, she said.

Fean said Saint Mary’s was one of the first colleges to provide women with graduate degrees in theology.

“When master’s degrees and Ph.D.s were being given in theology, and women were not able to earn one, Saint Mary’s opened a graduate school in theology,” she “We also had what was called a Spiritual Leadership Institute in the 1990s and early 2000s with a holistic approach of educating the heart and the mind, and what it means to be engaged in seeking the truth and seeking beauty and embodying our faith.”

The College educates women to support their passions and make a difference in the world through embracing their vocations, Fean said.

“I think the excitement behind the institute is in providing an opportunity to grow in one’s faith and to respond to what’s going on in our culture now,” she said.

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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

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