By Elizabeth Morales
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
For decades, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have been a driving force for promoting the empowerment of women.
The University of the Incarnate Word’s Women and Gender Studies presented UIW’s “Feminist Tradition: Three Sisters Tell All” on Tuesday, Nov. 1, in the Special Collections Room on the second floor of J.E. and L.E. Mabee Library.
The three sisters included Sister Walter Maher, vice president of University Mission and Ministry; Sister Teresa Stanley, a former congregation coordinator for the order and current UIW Board of Trustees member; and Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a religious studies professor at UIW.
Students , professors and faculty from the Cardinal community gathered to hear the rich history and the stories of the sisters in an inspiring presentation.
The longtime sisters discussed what it means to be a leader and a woman through the lenses of healthcare, mission, and the arts. Throughout the years, the women have held numerous positions of leadership in the various sectors of service, some involving roles within the university.
Maher spoke of her experience of joining the CCVI in 1972.
“I first encountered the sisters in school, when they came to speak to our class,” Maher said. “What stood out about them was the presence they carried when they were with others. It was different to watch compared to other sisters I’ve encountered. Being here, I’ve learned a lot about human dignity and appreciating other cultures you encounter, especially the role of women. They carried major political and religious roles. It honors th e gifts and talents we have to use in a mutual way that is beneficial for our community.”
Being a woman in leadership, however, is nothing new for the sisters. Stanley, a former dean of the School of Nursing (now Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions), has worked and collaborated on the CHRISTUS Health System Board for eight years, and served as a corporate member for an additional four years.
Kirk, furthermore, has served as the peace laureate in the 2013 Global Peace Summit and serves as an officer for Peace and Justice for the order.
Maher, Stanley and Kirk said they have seen other women rise to leadership positions over the years, specifically in health, art and mission, creating new culture for women.
Kirk, who has traveled the world, expounded upon the history of women in religion and throughout the Bible fighting for change and equal opportunities in every social aspect, including religion and education, and speaking on the women she has meet globally.
“There is a sense of risk in a corporate culture as women move in: women in language, women in the Bible, and women in God,” Kirk said. “Salvation is political; salvation is liberal. Building unity leads to embracing love.”
Attendees can continue to watch the importance of women in society through the sisters’ work, but for women like communication arts major Brittany Dieke, their work has a greater significance.
“I believe it is important because through the presentation, the sisters showed that whatever your background may be, and whatever discourse community may be, there is always something better to strive for, there is always a way to advocate for equality,” Dieke said. “I think a great take-away for women — specifically college students — is that even in communities where it seems there are set ideals or rules about something specific, there is always a way to work toward a greater set of future that may be more. I believe hearing these stories from the sisters sets up a whole new standard of feminism, and will personally help me strive toward a better future, and additionally help me to remember that I can continually work on self-improvement with the hope that the world around me will try and do the same.”