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 Spreading the Habit

To support the role of Catholic women religious in China, India, and Vietnam, the Henry Luce Foundation has awarded a four-year grant of $375,000 to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

The grant will fund a pilot program enabling a small group of Catholic nuns to pursue advanced theological degrees at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. Graduates also will receive support from the worldwide network of Jesuit institutions and missions when they return to their home countries.

“We are extremely grateful to receive this grant, which allows us to establish relationships and build the infrastructure for a most promising initiative,” said Thomas Massaro, S.J., dean of the Jesuit School of Theology. “Our faculty are especially enthusiastic about building up the worldwide Church by expanding opportunities for excellent theological education to religious sisters in underserved communities in Asia, where the potential for supporting positive social change is extraordinarily high.”

In Asia, vocations to religious life are flourishing, but due to poverty or politics there are few venues for advanced theological training or spiritual leadership development. With the education that will be funded by the Luce grant, some nuns or sisters will be able to become educators in their own countries, such as at a new theology center for women in Pune, India.

Other graduates will be better prepared to support important changes to their modernizing societies. Historically in the U.S. and developed nations, women religious have been at the forefront of social change, serving as teachers, nurses, or social workers and building schools, hospitals, shelters, and other enduring institutions long before women in general had broad rights.

“We are delighted to be supporting this initiative, which addresses the theology program’s interests in fostering links between scholars and religious leaders in Asia and the United States, and in preparing women for ministry,” said Lynn Szwaja, program director for theology at the Henry Luce Foundation.

“This is a great contemporary example of the positive multiplier effect that Jesuits have always pursued in our educational ministries,” added Massaro.

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