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January 2015

Hilton Foundation Makes Major Grant for Theological Leadership Formation and Education of Asian Women Religious

A new $750,000 grant to SCU's Jesuit School of Theology from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will help empower Catholic women religious in Asia to be effective agents of social change.

BERKELEY and SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 5, 2014 —   A new $750,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will help empower Catholic women religious in Asia to be effective agents of social change and to enhance the professional and educational networks that underpin their ministry.

The generous grant was awarded to the two-year-old Women of Wisdom and Action initiative (WWA) of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University (JST), in partnership with the U.S. Province of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity (VDMF).

The WWA initiative began at JST in 2012 through a generous $375,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, which provided scholarship, community and leadership support for women religious in Berkeley and in Asia. At present, six women religious from China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam are completing advanced theological degrees at JST, and have created networks in Berkeley and Asia, including the Women of Wisdom and Action Network (WWAN).

The Hilton Foundation grant will provide funding for:

•    continued support for theological leadership formation and individually tailored spiritual growth and leadership opportunities for international women religious who come to Berkeley;

•    a substantial increase in JST’s outreach to religious communities all over Asia through the WWAN. The funds will assist JST faculty, staff and alumnae to partner in those communities with other theologically educated women leaders to offer workshops, retreats, and ongoing formation programs that will contribute significantly the vitality of congregations and local Churches;

•    the establishment of the Women’s Theological Network of Asia (WTNA) to promote ongoing theological conversation and the exchange of ideas among women theologians all over Asia and beyond. The WTNA will partner with other women-religious leadership groups to initiate local, regional, national and international meetings and conferences, promote faculty exchanges and systematic exchange between organizations for women theologians from around the world.

“This grant will build on our concerted effort to globally connect women leaders with one another and to enhance leadership formation that links practical training and psycho-spiritual formation to a profound theological grounding.” said Julia D. E. Prinz, V.D.M.F., director of WWA.

“We are extremely grateful to the Hilton Foundation for this exciting grant,” said Thomas Massaro, S.J., dean of JST.  “This expanded WWA Initiative enables the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University to take another major step toward our strategic goal of establishing Santa Clara as a national and international leader in theological study.”

Historically in the U.S. and developed nations, women religious have been at the forefront of social change, serving as teachers, nurses, and social workers, and building schools, hospitals, shelters, and other enduring institutions long before women in general had broad rights.

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.  The WWA initiative seeks to connect communities of women religious in Asia with the wisdom and experience of these women religious here in the United States.

About the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
The Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, located in Berkeley, Calif., is a preeminent international center for the culturally contextualized study of theology. Its mission is to inspire and prepare men and women to become leaders in the Church, academy, and society, serving others through a faith that does justice. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, JST-SCU educates and trains Jesuits, religious, ordained, and lay students from across the United States and from 40 other countries for lives dedicated to ministry and scholarship. For more information see

About the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity
The Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity (VDMF), a Roman Catholic contemplative-active Institute of Consecrated Life founded in Spain in 1963, is present in 38 countries around the world and consists of consecrated religious women (sisters), consecrated religious men (brothers and priests), and associated married couples.  The mission of the VDMF is to promote the greatest dignity for all people by empowering individuals and communities to partake in the journey of Christian discipleship through a spirituality rooted in Scripture and Catholic tradition. For more information, see

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $92 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2013. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2.4 billion. For more information, please visit

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121


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