International Sisters in the United States Study

Presentation of the Trinity Washington University/CARA Study: International Sisters in the United States

UISG headquarters, Rome, May 4

The Study in available in English and Spanish

GUIDE for REFLECTION: The guide is intended to be a tool for prayerful reflection and dialogue (English and Spanish)

UISG was very happy to host the Presentation of the Study on International Sisters in the Unites States and the implications for Religious Life throughout the world. More than 70 religious men and women participated, representing Religious Institues, Conferences of Religious, Vatican Dicasteries, Centers of Studies.

Sr. Mary Johnson was the main speaker. She is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Sister Mary is professor of sociology and religious studies at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC.

“The Study of International Sisters in the United States was a wonderful collaboration between Trinity Washington University in Washington D.C, and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. My colleagues Dr. Mary L. Gautier, Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC, Sr. Thu T. Do, LHC and I are very grateful to GHR Foundation for their support for so many levels of this project. We wish to thank, in particular, Kathleen Mahoney, Senior Program Officer, Global Development at GHR. We also wish to thank our consultants with whom we met annually over the course of this three-year study. I am very grateful, too, to Sr. Patricia Murray and UISG for the opportunity to speak to you today.
We were also cognizant of the backdrop of the study. The United States is experiencing a period of vicious anti-immigrant sentiment and action at this time. It is a time of great trial for those
who have come to our country to find a home, and for those who wish to follow the Gospel mandate of welcoming the stranger. These findings will hopefully shed further light on the experiences and gifts of all who migrate.

This study of International Sisters in the United States had these goals:

To use several sociological methods to find as many international sisters as possible in the United States.

To hear the voices of those sisters through surveys and interviews and focus groups, in order to determine the needs of the sisters, and to learn about their contributions and the new life and hope they bring to religious life and the Church in the United States, and to U.S. society.

To publish a book with the qualitative and quantitative data. The length of the book will allow us to give more analysis and reflection on the rich data than research reports or presentations

Today, in this presentation, I will map some initial research findings for you so that you might begin or continue to reflect..”

Read more about her talk 

More photos

A Catholic sister who is in the United States but born in another country is not an anomaly. You can count her among more than 4,000 “international sisters” who are currently in the United States for formation, studies or ministry. She and other international sisters, who come from at least 83 countries spread over six continents, embody the global nature and reach of women’s religious life.

Like previous generations, today’s international sisters greatly enrich the Church, society and women’s religious life. You will find international sisters deeply engaged with people from their own ethnic groups. But you will also find international sisters crossing social and cultural boundaries, engaging with others in ways that are often mutually beneficial. To welcome the stranger is a moral imperative within the Judeo-Christian tradition. International sisters are not exempt from the strains of migration and, in some cases, of separation from their own religious communities for extended periods. Their presence calls us to consider how international sisters have been welcomed and sustained in their vocations and ministries. Of course, the phenomenon of the “international sister” is not exclusive to the U.S. nor is it new. Far from it. Across the globe sisters have and continue to move across borders in service to the Gospel and in fidelity to the charisms and missions of their respective institutes. But new migration patterns are emerging, and new wine needs new wineskins. We wish to thank Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN and her team of researchers who have brought us the “Trinity Washington University/CARA Study: International Sisters in the United States.” This report summarizes initial findings which will be fleshed out in their forthcoming book. We share this report with you with hopes that it will help deepen your understanding of women’s religious life and support your work with and on behalf of women religious.

Kathleen Mahoney – Senior Program Officer GHR Foundation

More photos

Listen to the presentations (audio and video):

  • Sr. Patricia Murray’s introduction (UISG Executive Secretary) and Sr. Carmen Sammut’s introduction (UISG President): click here

  • Sr. Carmen Sammut’s introduction: video

  • Sr. Patricia Murray’s introduction (video): click here

  • Kathleen Mahoney’s introduction (GHR Foundation): audio and video

  • Sr. Mary Johnson’s presentation of the study (sociologist): video

  • Sr. Teresa Maya’s reflection in Spanish (International Sister) and  Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico’s reflection in Spanish (International Sister): audio 

  • Sr. Teresa Maya’s reflection (Spanisha and English): video

  • Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico’s reflection in Spanish: video

Sister Patricia Murray, UISG Executive Director, said some words of welcome: “Good morning, everyone. We are delighted that you have accepted our invitation to be present today when we will use a new study on international sisters in the United States as a starting point for discussion about emerging migration patterns for religious women and religious men and its implications.

We are grateful that so many of you are here today. Gathered in the room today are representatives of Vatican Dicasteries, the Secretary General of the USG, the President and Executive Secretary Of the Union of Conferences of Religious of Europe, Conferences of Religious – US, Italy, Spain, Poland, Slovakia Ireland etc. Superiors General or their representatives from female/male congregations who are members of the two international unions UISG/USG, reps. of Pontifical Universities, various groups and individuals who support or study religious life.

Today we have come together to learn about and discuss a new study which explores the lives of international sisters who are inthe United States, that is, sisters who were born outside of the United States but who are now in that country for formation, studies, or ministry. This is a pattern replicated in other parts of the world.

Our meeting today is actually the second of a two-part launch for this study. Two months ago a similar meeting was held in Washington, DC. Those gathered looked at the study through a particular lens—as a receiving country for many international sisters.

But the study has global implications and so we gather today to look at the phenomenon of international sisters through a broader, wider lens. There is also a similar phenomenon across male congregations. We will look at international sisters, emerging migration patterns and consider the implications for our congregations and the various bodies and organizations that we represent.

This gathering is co-hosted by the International Union of Superiors General and the GHR Foundation. We will start with a few words of welcome from Sister Carmen Sammut, the president of the International Union of Superiors General and Dr. Kathleen Mahoney, Senior Program Office for GHR Foundation and its Sister Support Initiative.”