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Saint Xavier Seeks to Bridge Differences Among Women

Women studies program wins $15,000 grant

Chicago (May 24, 2005) – Saint Xavier University has received a $15,000 grant from the Sisters of Mercy Agatha O’Brien Ministry Fund for a yearlong ministry program for women sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies program and the Center for Religion and Public Discourse. “Talking It Out: Bridging the Gap Between Majority and Minority Women at Saint Xavier University” aims to address the needs of women, especially marginalized women, living in the community.

“We’re interested in what divides and unites women and how they might speak to each other across common divides, such as culture, social class, religion and race. While acknowledging our differences, we also want to see how we might find common bonds and find new and meaningful ways of connecting with people,” said Gina Rossetti, assistant professor of English and director of the Women and Gender Studies program. Rossetti and Sister Susan Sanders, vice president for University Mission and Heritage, applied for the grant.

Between 20 and 30 women from a variety of ages and cultural, religious and economic backgrounds will be selected to participate in the program. Participants will examine issues common among them through group activities, paired discussion and reflection. 

“We hope that we can bring together women from majority and minority cultures so that together they might work to create better understanding and work toward systemic change,” Rossetti said. “By drawing on university students, faculty and staff and encouraging them with community outreach, we hope to further strengthen SXU’s Mercy tradition by upholding Catherine McAuley’s vision that impels us to work toward social, economic and religious equality.”

“The Direction Statement of the Sisters of Mercy challenges us to address the needs of women and children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged,” Sanders said. “While not all the women with whom we will work are economically disadvantaged, they sometimes do not have the opportunities or the avenues to make use of the university’s resources. We are grateful to the Sisters of Mercy for helping us introduce ourselves.”

The Sisters of Mercy grant comes from the order’s Agatha O’Brien Ministry Fund, named in honor of Sister Agatha O’Brien, superior of the first Sisters of Mercy who arrived in Chicago in 1846. Over the last 10 years, the Sisters of Mercy have awarded 140 grants to various ministries in which their sisters or associates are involved. The funds help local efforts to meet the needs of poor or suffering people, to support “innovative ministries” that respond to contemporary human needs, and to respond to the needs of women, children and multicultural communities.

“The Sisters of Mercy Agatha O’Brien fund gives us the support that we need to begin the formation of small communities of women – our students and their relatives – that address the university’s core values of respect, hospitality and service,” Sanders said. “We are grateful to the Sisters of Mercy for their financial support of new endeavors such as this.”

“Talking It Out,” currently in its planning stages, has also received a $5,000 grant through Illinois Campus Compact’s McCormick Presidential Civic Leadership Fellowship program, designed to engage public work projects through university and community partnerships that address issues and solutions and build citizenship and democracy.