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Recognition for 27 valiant, capable and just women

Years ago there was a reading in the missal that began, "Who shall find the valiant woman?/Far beyond the uttermost coasts is the price of her." Taken from Proverbs 31, it was read at a Mass for a saint described as a "holy woman, not a martyr." Now those lines are translated as "The truly capable woman/--who can find her?/She is far beyond the price of pearls."

The Catholic church and the nation have been blessed with an abundance of such women -- women such as Sr. Lauria Fitzgerald, the focus of this week's cover story. Call them valiant, capable or holy -- or call them "Women of Justice," as Network chose to do in announcing that it had found not one but 27 such pearls.

In celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding, Network, a religious social justice lobby well known on Capitol Hill, honored 25 "Women of Justice," chosen from more than 80 nominated by Network members. The women -- 15 religious and 10 lay women -- have performed a variety of ministries for at least 10 years. For good measure, the lobby also honored two Network founders.

Sister of Charity Louise Akers described the honorees as "part of a broad movement of women who are organizing -- building coalitions, speaking out, speaking up, speaking in solidarity with one another, demanding to be heard, knowing that our own experiences and perspectives contribute to the total picture of what society and church are and could be."

Alphabetically, the "Women of Justice" honorees, with their cities and ministries, are:

  • Barbara Bader Aldave, San Antonio, civil rights, death penalty abolishment, legal education.
  • Donna Bivens, Boston, anti-racism work, race, class and gender analysis.
  • Sr. Monica Cahill, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Chicago, Network founder.
  • Mercy Sr. Petra Chavez, San Francisco, immigrant and refugee rights.
  • Sr. Marie de Paul Combo, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas City, Kan., civil rights, peace, justice in Central America.
  • Benedictine Sr. Patricia Crowley, Chicago, homelessness, social services.
  • Vickie J. Deutsch, Milwaukee, homelessness, especially among the mentally ill.
  • Shelley Hall Douglass, Birmingham, Ala., civil rights, homelessness, peace.
  • Sister of St. Joseph Claire Dugan, Providence, R.I., Network founder.
  • Delia R. Gomez, El Paso, Texas, immigrant and refugee rights.
  • Sister of Notre Dame Gail Grimes, Apopka, Fla., rights of migrant workers and the rural poor.
  • Ursuline Sr. Valerie Heinonen, New York, peace and corporate responsibility.
  • Mary Hussmann, Columbia, Mo., homelessness, peace, civil rights.
  • JoAnn Kane, Silver Spring, Md., affordable housing.
  • Dominican Sr. Mary Jordan Langenhennig, Baton Rouge, La., crime prevention, community organizing among Native Americans and poor people.
  • Franciscan Sr. Rose MacDermott, Essington, Pa., civil rights, social services, corporate responsibility.
  • Dominican Sr. Joseph Mary Mahoney, Blauvelt, N.Y., housing and services for children and adults with special needs, immigrants.
  • Maryknoll Sr. Anna McAnany, Maryknoll, N.Y., peace, Filipino rights.
  • Sister of Charity Regina Murphy, New York, peace, corporate responsibility.
  • Sr. Mary Nerney, Congregation de Notre Dame, New York, criminal justice system, family abuse victims.
  • Bonnie Neumeier, Cincinnati, community organizer for the homeless, substance abuse, empowerment of women.
  • Mercy Sr. Benvinda Pereira, Biloxi, Miss., health services for the rural poor.
  • Dominican Sr. Maria Riley, Washington, civil rights, women's issues.
  • School Sister of Notre Dame Jacqueline Toben, St. Louis, criminal justice system, transition programs for ex-prisoners.
  • Kathleen Tomlin, Minneapolis, legislative activism on behalf of poor people.
  • Sister of St. Joseph Judy Vaughan, Los Angeles, housing, justice for people affected by war.
  • Jessica M. Wormley, Roslyn, Pa., youth activism on behalf of the poor.

The ministries of these women bring healing to some of the places where the body politic hurts most. This is a list to ponder, perhaps to post on a bulletin board or refrigerator. These are women to watch, to emulate, to pray with and for.

National Catholic Reporter, April 25, 1997