Kathryn Sullivan

Birth: May 17, 1905
Profession: February 8, 1937
Death: September 22, 2006

Sister Kathryn Sullivan, RSCJ, a pioneer of modern Catholic biblical renewal and the first woman to be accepted into the Catholic Biblical Association, died Friday, Sept. 22, at Kenwood Convent of the Sacred Heart, Albany, N.Y. She was 101,

Sister Sullivan, one of five children of Albert J. Sullivan and Alice Ward Sullivan, is a native of Philadelphia. She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1928 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Manhattanville College and a master’s degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned a doctoral degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1937.

Sister Sullivan taught in Sacred Heart schools in Philadelphia, Detroit, Newton, Mass., and New York City. She returned to Manhattanville in 1938, then a woman’s college operated by her religious order, to begin a long career as professor of history and religion and, later, research professor in Sacred Scripture.

As a woman entering the field of biblical studies in the 1950s, an era when the field was largely the province of priests, Sister Sullivan was a pioneer. Women were not admitted to advanced degree programs in Scripture studies, so she studied privately under Msgr. John E. Steinmueller, founder of the Catholic Biblical Association.

Sister Sullivan co-authored numerous works on Scripture with Fr. Steinmueller, then went on to produce a long bibliography of books, articles and translations in biblical studies on her own. Her works included some of the first Catholic biblical manuals and textbooks of the second half of the 20th century. She was a founding editorial board member of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and of The Bible Today.

In 1958, she was elected vice-president of the Catholic Biblical Association, becoming the first woman to hold a major office in that organization. From 1967 through 1988, she taught in Catholic seminaries of Philadelphia, New York and Rome. As Catholics were becoming more interested in reading the Bible following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), she was invited to speak at institutions all over the world. She was a member of more than 30 professional organizations.

Among her many awards, Sister Sullivan received the Edith Stein Award for significant accomplishments in Jewish-Catholic relations and five honorary degrees from institutions including Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, and Holy Cross University, Worcester, Mass.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4100 Forest Park Avenue, Suite A, St. Louis, MO 63108.