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Saint Mary’s play to honor former College president

| Friday, February 28, 2014

This spring, Saint Mary’s Center for Spirituality (CFS) will sponsor the 2014 Spring Lecture series “Witnesses to the Love of God: The Leadership of Catholic Women Religious,” which will feature scholars from across the nation throughout March 6 to April 8.

The lectures will be complemented by an original play memorializing the life of Sister Madeleva Wolff, Gwen O’Brien, Saint Mary’s director of media relations said.

“Sister Madeleva was a visionary, an educator, a medieval scholar, a poet and a woman of deep spiritual conviction,” O’Brien said. “In her 27 years as president she put those gifts to good use leading Saint Mary’s to national prominence as a premier Catholic liberal arts college.”

This season marks the 50th anniversary of Wolff’s death. In preparation for the semi-centennial, students in associate professor of English Laura Haigwood’s writing proficiency course last semester wrote essays about the life of the College’s former president.

The College’s drama department will also contribute to the lectures’ commemoration of Wolff’s life. Susan Baxter, a senior lecturer in communication studies, asked her students to write dramatic monologues about Wolff, which she used to create a 90-minute play, O’Brien said.

“I am so grateful to Laura Haigwood and Susan Baxter for their tremendous work on this project,” CFS director Elizabeth Groppe said. “Susan in particular has spent many long hours on the play composition and production.”

Baxter also drew heavily from memories submitted by alumnae, actual quotes from Wolff and research by Gail Porter Mandell, a Wolff biographer and professor emerita of humanistic studies, O’Brien said.

“Gail Porter Mandell writes in her biography, ‘Madeleva: One Woman’s Life,’ that Sister Madeleva would never have developed her many gifts without the example of the female role models she found in the convent, the literary world and the Catholic tradition,” Groppe said.

This year’s lecture series intertwines the College’s historic example of women’s leadership with that of contemporary religious female figures.

“The play, ‘Madeleva: A Play in Several Voices,’ will bring Sister Madeleva to life for a new generation of young women, for whom she is a model of a woman of prayer who surmounted many challenges to become a distinguished scholar, poet, educator and leader in both Catholic higher education and the life of religious communities of women,” Groppe said.

The play will take place Thursday, March 20, at 7 p.m. in O’Laughlin Auditorium. Tickets will be free for Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Holy Cross, Indiana University South Bend and Bethel College’s students, faculty and staff. Otherwise, tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens.

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