Celebrating Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, a pioneer missionary of the Society of the Sacred Heart, who came to St. Charles, Missouri, from France and founded the first free school west of the Mississippi in September 1818.

Spirituality Forum – Keynote Speakers

Catherine Mooney

Catherine Mooney
Lives That Matter: Philippine Duchesne and Solidarity Across Frontiers

Philippine Duchesne crossed frontiers of many sorts, including frontiers that brought her face-to-face with people who were apparently “other” than she. The events of her life and her own writings indicate how she negotiated boundaries that separated blacks, mulattoes, whites and Amerindians; poor and rich; the enslaved and the free. The events of Philippine’s life and her own writings poignantly illuminate her diverse relationships: the spirituality that grounded them, the blind spots that obscured them, the strategies that strengthened – and sometimes stymied – them. The gospel call that “all may be one” perhaps seems elusive in our very divided world. How can we build solidarity across the borders that separate us from “other” lives that matter? Philippine shines a light on our path.

Catherine Mooney holds a bachelors in history from Saint Louis University; an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School; and a M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in medieval history from Yale University. She has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia; the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was also co-coordinator of the Gender Studies program; and Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has received research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harvard Divinity School and the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, New York. She has served on the boards of the Society for Medieval Feminist Studies and Monastic Matrix. While living in rural Argentina during its military dictatorship and “Dirty War,” she worked as a human rights advocate and taught in a seminary for campesino catechists and base community leaders.

She is currently an associate professor of church history in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. In addition to teaching and lecturing in universities and at scholarly conferences, she offers presentations and workshops in various pastoral venues and is active in several human rights efforts. Her teaching and research interests include medieval saints and hagiography, mysticism, Christian spirituality with special attention to Franciscan and Ignatian spiritualities, and women and gender in Christian history. She is editor of Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and Their Interpreters (University of Pennsylvania 1999). She is author of Philippine Duchesne: A Woman with the Poor (Paulist 1990; Wipf and Stock 2007), which has been translated into Japanese, Bahasa Indonesia and Korean. Her most recent book is Clare of Assisi and the Thirteenth Century Church: Religious Women, Rules and Resistance (University of Pennsylvania Press, fall 2016). She is author of numerous articles on figures such as Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola.


Gerardette Philips, RSCJ

Gerardette Philips, RSCJ
Crossing Religious Frontiers: Discovering Anew the Interior Life

In crossing religious frontiers, Philippine preserved the religious truth of her own tradition. This gave her the zeal to gain knowledge of the tradition of the people she met. In doing so, she discovered anew the meaning of the interior life. She helped people placed under her care to form themselves in the love and knowledge of the Lord in a manner that was not merely conceptual, but also effective.

Failure, though she felt, her human enterprise in a “new country” was brought to fulfillment by her wisdom and method both operating together. The Tibetans convey this lesson by the following parable: two men were both trying to get to the City of Nirvana, but neither of them could make much headway because one was blind while the other was lame. They decided to join forces; the lame man climbed on the blind man’s back and pointed out the way (this is Wisdom) while the man who had sound legs (this is Method) carried his companion along the road. This sets the pattern of every spiritual life; all the rest is but a matter of variable circumstance and detail.

Philippine let Jesus point the way (Wisdom), and she discovered Him anew as she followed (Method) Him in the hearts of all whom she met. She let the Interior Life capture her as she waited upon the Lord by day and by night.

Gerardette Philips, RSCJ, has lived and ministered in Indonesia since 2000. Gera received a bachelor’s in special education from the Jamia Millia Islamic University in New Delhi, India, and a master’s in special education from the SNDT University in Mumbai, India. She completed her studies in theology at Jnana-Deep Vidyalaya in Pune, India. She holds a master’s in Islamic philosophy and mysticism from the Islamic College for Advanced Studies (London) and Paramadina University (Jakarta), and a doctorate in philosophy from Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat (STF) Driyarkara (Jakarta).

Gera is a lecturer in the faculty of philosophy at Parahyangan, Catholic University, and in the department of religious studies in the State Islamic University, Bandung. She has worked as a counselor at Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta and as a lecturer in psychology at Paramadina University in Jakarta. She has also been a lecturer in western and eastern philosophy and mysticism at the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, Paramadina University. Gera has also served as consultor to Pope Benedict XVI in the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, through the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims.

Gera is the area director for the RSCJ in Indonesia and director of formation (director of novices and director of the professed of temporary vows). She is also a leader in the intercongregational formation program in Bandung, Indonesia.


Priscilla Solomon, CSJ

Priscilla Solomon, CSJ
All My Relations: Circle of Life

Some of the Indigenous spirituality I would like to address is the interconnectedness and interdependence of all creation; the relationship of Indigenous Peoples to the land and water; and our sense of responsibility to the land and the water.

Pope Francis speaks of “integral ecology” and the call to conversion in our world today, a vision which connects very deeply with Indigenous spirituality. Indigenous Peoples have a deep sense of the interconnectedness of the physical and spiritual worlds as well as awareness that the earth is our home only for a time. We are entrusted by our Creator to care for it, not only for ourselves but for all living beings and for future generations. Every living being, and especially every human being, has a purpose on this earth, which we need to be free and courageous enough to carry out, as Philippine Duchesne was. Today, Indigenous peoples struggle with the destructive influences of both the colonization process and globalized economies, especially the extractive industries, which frequently challenge the Indigenous sense of the sacredness of all creation. At the same time, reconciliation is becoming a key aspect of our spirituality.

Priscilla Solomon, CSJ, is a Sister of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie who works in the Faith and Justice Office of her congregation. Her work has focused on Indigenous rights, right relations, healing and reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and Settler Peoples in Canada, as well as on ecological justice issues and to a lesser degree, human trafficking awareness and poverty.

She is Ojibway,* which is part of the Anishinabek Nation. She is one of the 10 living children of Elders Eva and Art Solomon. She grew up in Killarney on the Georgian Bay. She learned much of her Aboriginal culture from her parents and her sister, then later from other elders and teachers.

She has contributed an Indigenous voice and perspectives to a variety of faith-based justice organizations, particularly since the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was set up to address the Residential Schools abuses. She has been involved in the responses of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Religious Conference, and Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives’ to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The commission identified the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for the work of reconciliation, calling upon all segments of society to respond. She also works with Sister Eva Solomon in the Western Assembly of Catholic Bishops’ Building Bridges program, which is focused on Indigenous inculturation and interculturation of faith. Her Aboriginal spirituality, her CSJ spirituality and the new cosmology have all helped her to see the interconnectedness and oneness of all life on this precious blue planet that we call “home.”
She has trained as an elementary school teacher, a spiritual director and a counselor for which she holds a master’s in pastoral counseling. In June 2011, she received an honorary doctor of letters from Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario, for her involvement in justice work.

* Originally one people, or a collection of closely related bands, the Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi are members of a longstanding alliance called the Council of Three Fires.