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Mount to Host Region's Only Installment of National Exhibit on the History of Catholic Sisters

Feb. 14, 2011 -- Starting in June, Mount Saint Mary’s University presents the only Southern California installment of the exhibit Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America, which tells the story of women religious who played an important but unsung role in shaping the nation's social and cultural landscapes.

Sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, this free exhibit chronicles the 300-year history of sisters in America through an unprecedented gathering of rare artifacts, documents, photos and videos that honor these women of action, justice and faith. "We are thrilled to be at MSMU with its history of the tremendous contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph to education in the city of Los Angeles," says Sister Helen Garvey, BVM, who formed a committee of historians, artists, writers and representatives from the Smithsonian Institution to plan the exhibit. The Exhibit was conceived by Bob Weis Design Island and produced by Seruto & Company.

"We wanted to tell the untold story of Catholic sisters who have been often portrayed as cocktail-napkin personalities, the Flying Nun, that kind of thing," Garvey adds. "We wanted to give an accurate picture of their contributions to health care, education and social services that helped to shape this country."

Sister Karen Kennelly, CSJ, who served as the 10th president of the Mount from 1989 to 2000, also worked on the exhibit. As one who has extensively researched U.S. sisters' history, she is proud of several artifacts the exhibit discovered, including a letter from President Jefferson. The presidential correspondence with the Ursuline Sisters in New Orleans "is the earliest presidential interpretation of the guarantee of religious freedom protected by our country's founding documents," Kennelly says.

MSMU President Jacqueline Powers Doud saw the exhibit at the Smithsonian in January 2010. Even though the exhibit was being shown exclusively at major museums, Doud persisted to include the Mount as the exhibit's only Southern California venue. "As a Catholic College founded by women religious 86 years ago, and serving primarily women, we are the beneficiaries of the vision of one of those brave and wise groups of women," Doud says. "Mount St. Mary's made education accessible to women when few earned college degrees and has continued its mission of opportunity for many traditionally underrepresented students in higher education. We represent one of the fruits of Women & Spirit."

The exhibit opens to the public on June 19, 2011, and closes Aug. 14 in the College's José Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, 12001 Chalon Road in Los Angeles, CA 90049. The gallery opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Sunday, and from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. The gallery is closed on Mondays. More information: 310.954.4525.

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