Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives: Why Are We Here?

By | September 11, 2019

Well, good evening. We’re actually going
to start on time, which is a wonderful thing. Welcome to Envisioning the
Future of Catholic Religious Archives. I’m Carol Coburn, professor
of religious studies and women’s studies
at Avila University. I’m very pleased to be a part
of this conference, where we’re going to discuss and formulate
the important collaborations among historians, archivists,
and religious leaders because what we’re
going to do here is going to be pretty amazing. We’re going to vision the future
of Catholic religious archives. I’ve heard people talk we’re in
a crisis or this is happening or that is happening. And I want to thank Boston
College, and particularly Christian and [? Malachy ?]
for all their work to pull us together
on the advisory board and make this happen. We’re actually going to
move forward on this. I came to archival research
on Catholic sisters in 1990 with Sister Martha Smith,
CSJ, and my colleague at Avila University. And ultimately, we
coauthored, Spirited Lives– How Nuns Shaped Catholic
Culture and American Life. Over the last three
decades as a historian, I’ve been fortunate to work
in many Catholic religious archives and with religious
leaders, particularly of women’s congregations. From these amazing experiences,
I’ve learned a few things. First of all, all
archival information is potentially
informative and important. Qualitative and
quantitative information from religious archives,
particularly when integrated together, provide a richer,
nuanced, methodological approach to analysis
and context. This is really what
brought me into this. As a historian of American women
and American social history, there was a huge void
in the scholarship in terms of the
contributions and the life experiences of women religious. Preservation and access
of congregational archives define and document their
importance and significance to the historical record. This also allows us to challenge
the traditional stereotypes and invisibility of
sisters’ and brothers’ work, both inside the
church and outside, in the larger
American narrative. And we’re going to be talking
about work within archives. We’re going to be talking
about US experience. We’re going to be talking
about global pieces to this, or universal
aspects of this experience. So keep that in mind. We’re going very macro
here, very big picture. As a historian of
apostolic women religious, I’m acutely aware
of how American Catholic sisters have
existed within the mainstream of American life through
schools, hospitals, and social service
work, even when sequestered in convent living
situations prior to Vatican II. Sort of a contradiction of
isolation and immersion, these activities provided
sisters with understanding, really, the nuances of
the real-world situations. In the post-Vatican II world,
women religious became more cognizant, if not comfortable,
in collaboration with each other and laywomen and men,
both within the auspices of the church and in
larger secular endeavors– local, national, and global. Collaborative activities include
peace work, social justice, health care,
immigration, poverty, among other systemic and
institutional inequalities. Long before internet
global networks existed, religious congregations
of men and women functioned as living
networks, which have only expanded and increased as
the technology has allowed all of us to know more people,
places, events in the world. So here we are. Consequently, the title
of this conference, Envisioning the Future of
Catholic Religious Archives– it’s an important title. But maybe the subtitle
is even more important. After that colon, there
are three words, “a Working Conference.” We want to tap into the
resources and expertise of some of the most important players
in preserving, accessing, and communicating the
lives and work of religious and their contributions to
the church and the nation. So that includes
everyone in this room. That’s what makes this
conference different from most professional conferences. Yes, we hope you listen and
take notes and ask questions, as you would in
other conferences. But more importantly,
we want to empower you to engage in the
thinking, reflection, and creation of the steps
on how to move forward. You have already begun to
do that with your comments on your applications and
from initial pre-conference assessment of concerns. This was a survey that
some of you– many of you, probably– filled
out months ago. And you’ll hear more
about that tomorrow. The program planners
and advisory committee had two main goals. And I’m going to take some
notes from the website here because the
goals are very clear. And these are not my words. I’m pulling them together
for you to hear again. The first goal–
to bring leaders of religious
communities, archivists, and historians together to
seek and identify solutions to the issues that communities,
including those coming to completion, are facing and
preserving and providing access to their archival legacies. Second, to assess and
articulate common needs shared by religious archives as they
plan for the future, developing strategies and resources
to meet those needs so that the stories
and contributions of Catholic religious
communities may be appreciated, understood, and valued by
scholars and society at large. This conference provides
an integrated forum in which congregational
leaders, archives practitioners, and scholars come together
and participate not just as active listeners, but
as creators and visionaries to move these goals forward. Coming together, we
will discuss strategies to position the rich
documentary history of Catholic
religious communities for long-term preservation,
discoverability, and research. We will do this in
a myriad of ways. And this is also
somewhat unique. Not all conferences
have these components. Basically, we’ll have some
formal presence presentations, as you’ll see this evening and
at times tomorrow, question and answer panels, small
and large discussion groups, thematic focus groups,
which we call lightning rounds. The conference planners
and participants will document our individual
and group ideas, strategies, and potential solutions. We’ll either be recording
those by hand, in written form, or electronically. Ultimately, a
white paper will be produced after the conference
for national dissemination. For those of you not familiar
with the white paper, it’s a written
authoritative document that fully informs the
reader about a topic, combines expert
knowledge and research, and provides solutions
or recommendations on a particular
problem or issue. Therefore, what we create
here in the next three days and the subsequent white paper
will provide understanding, strategies, and
potential solutions for a variety of
interested audiences, sort of a best practices
type of document for future preserving, accessing,
and communicating the past, the present,
and the future work of religious congregations,
their archives, and the scholars who come
to tell their stories. So what I’m going to do now
is introduce our first panel. And we’ll begin. And we’ll let them get all
of us started this evening. We have three experts to share
their experience and expertise to help us begin our integration
of thoughts and ideas on envisioning the future. The work of this panel began
almost three months ago, when we began
emailing each other, sort of set up an
email communication, to share perspectives,
ideas from the historians’ perspective, an
archivist perspective, and the perspective
of a religious leader. From the very beginning, we
want to integrate and see these issues in a holistic way. Through email conversations,
we combined our ideas and decided to focus on
three important aspects of the discussion on
Catholic religious archives. These are not definitive. But in all our
conversations, we came up with three areas
that kept reoccurring again and again from either of–
any of the three perspectives. One has to do with
issues of preservation, another with accessibility, and
the third with communication. That certainly includes
dissemination and the scholars’ contribution to this. This panel hopes to set the
stage for the integration of ideas and the
collaborative aspects that make this conference
unique and to, hopefully, inspire and challenge
all of you to vision the future as we go forward. Now let me introduce
them very briefly to you. I know you have your
programs and notes. But I’m going to introduce
all three of them. And then I will sit down. And they will come
up, one at a time, and share their
thinking with you. And that way, if I
introduce them all at once, then you won’t have
to see me traipsing up and down the stairs. When we’re finished
with the third panelist, they will come up here
and each have a mic. And we want to open it up
to a Q&A. As the audience, you have two mics in
each aisle here that you can come up and use and– to ask questions so everybody
can hear everything, because sometimes, these
things are hard when you don’t have mics to use. So that will be our process. I want to first introduce
Sister Ginger Downey, who’s a current member
of the leadership team for the congregation of
Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. She serves the congregation
as general secretary and has been a member of
the congregation since 1986. She has a bachelor’s degree
in sociology, master’s degree in theology with an emphasis
in liturgical studies from St. John University. She’s done parish work on– as a director of
religious education, pastoral associate
in catechetics, and served at the– as the
liturgist for the Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State. She co-founded Faith on Fire,
an adult formation ministry. Our second presenter
is Jennifer Halloran. She is currently director of
the Maryknoll Mission Archives, where she has worked
for the last decade. She’s a certified
archivist with 19 years experience in the field who has
a master’s of library science and information science
with a concentration in archives management
from Simmons College. Prior to her current position,
she worked on the photo archive as a photo archivist in the
Maryknoll Mission Archive and archivist at IBM
corporate archives and as project activist
for History Associates. She’s also published a
couple of recent papers, both in gathered fragments. One is called “A
Missioner’s Call– Sister Mary del Rey Danforth.” The second– both were in 2016– her paper is called
“Maryknoll Mission Archive– Shepherding Maryknoll’s
History Through Time.” Our third presenter
is Maggie McGuinness. She has been a
professor of religion at La Salle since 2006. Prior to that, she was on the
faculty at Cabrini University for 20 years. With James Fisher, she co-edited
The Catholic Studies Reader from Fordham and is author of
Neighbors and Missionaries– A History of the Sisters of
Our Lady of Christian Doctrine. And she is also author
of Called to Serve– A History of Nuns in America,
New York University Press, which, by the way, won the
Catholic Press Association’s award for general excellence. She and I go way back,
from the beginning of the Conference on the
History of Women Religious. So we’ve known each other a long
time through that organization. She’s currently– I
told her she was crazy. But you’ll understand
why I said that. She’s co-editing three different
volumes related to Catholicism in the US and working on a
book entitled Katharine Drexel and Her Sisters– The History of the Sisters
of the Blessed Sacrament. So please welcome our panelists. [APPLAUSE] Good evening. I drew the short straw, or
maybe I drew the long straw. In May 2009, the traveling
exhibit Women and Spirit– Catholic Sisters in America,
opened in Cincinnati. And for the next three years,
it toured the United States. This exhibit was a
remarkable resource for providing education on
the life of women religious and their contributions
to the United States from 1727 until the early 2000s. It made a huge impact, drawing
more than one million visitors. The Leadership Conference
of Women Religious sponsored and produced
the Women in Spirit– Catholic Sisters
in America exhibit. However, it recounted
the contribution of, relatively, a small
number of congregations of women religious. The exhibit was dismantled
after a permanent home could not be found, although there is a
DVD available from the LCWR. I mention this
because it illustrates that there is an interest to
know about women religious and to hear their stories
from their own voices. I firmly believe that if stories
of congregations, both men and women, are not preserved,
the history of Catholicism in the United States– and for those in Canada,
I had dinner with them– in Canada, as well, or
wherever, will be incomplete. It has become more evident to me
in the last six years, the time that I have been in
congregational leadership, I have found much
from my archivist, realizing that the story
of my own congregation will be lost if it is
not actively worked at to collaborate with others to
have our history preserved. Every congregation has a
unique charism and unique way of expressing that charism
through their ministry and their life. My congregation did
not have institutions. Rather, we were in places
where many others did not want to go, serving an
unrecognized population. We lived among the people. In the early days, it
was the poor Hispanics in the Southwest part of the
United States, mainly rural. Later, we lived in the barrios,
where there was poverty, or in areas where
there was relatively small Catholic populations. The formation of the
sisters was instructed to meet both the temporal as
well as the spiritual needs of the people. In addition, many
congregations like mine did not learn how to
talk about themselves. We were not good at bragging
about what we had done or recognizing our
accomplishments. It was often seen
as fault humility. And everything should be done
for the greater glory of God. Did you notice that in
the church this afternoon? It was up there in Latin. It’s one of the few
things I know in Latin– or in my community, we often
stressed, all for Jesus through Mary. Therefore, many events
and our accomplishments were not always documented
well, if at all. I believe that
our footprint will be lost if we do not
find ways to collaborate with others to tell the story
of our women and the impact they had in catechetics and
ministry with the Hispanics and informing and being with
the grassroot organizations that have gone on to become national
or internationally recognized. We are but one
small congregation. And I truly believe
that this is the truth for many congregations. Future planning is what leaders
of congregations are doing. And we are doing it
in a time of change. Pope Francis talks about
it being an epic of– it is not an epic of change. It is a change of epoch. Therefore, we are keenly
aware that one of our tasks is to preserve the past
so that, in time, it will tell the story of a brave
group of pioneering women who did great things in order
that others might experience the reign of God. This is the foundation
which the next generation of religious men and
women will build as they move into an unknown future. As I pondered the three
elements of this conference– leadership, archivists,
and [? historian– ?] I came to understand that
these three areas have to work together to find new
ways to preserve our history, to tell the unique
story of religious life in the United States
and Canada, and begin to uncover the larger,
more complex reality that is the very fabric
of Catholicism, not only Catholicism in the
United States and Canada, but how we have
influenced the world. One of the responsibilities
of leadership is to care for its members. I would also add that
leadership is also responsible to make sure that
those who have gone before us are also cared for and
that their contributions to religious life, the
Catholic church, and the world are not lost. Along with this, I believe that
it is important for leaders to understand how
important it is not only to support the archivist,
personally and financially. It is the leaders
that make the decision about whether the
budgetary dollars go. So leaders need to realize
how important archives are. But we also need
to encourage them. We need to have conversations,
both the leaders and the archivists
together, so that we can decide what are
the important aspects and the essentials of
the congregations that need to be preserved, what is
the story that we want to tell. Then from there,
it will be easier to determine what is
important to keep. We all know that we
can’t keep everything, although we have a few
sisters who have tried. [LAUGHTER] I really liked Father
Charles’ little poem or prayer at the end because we all know
there are some people that think we should keep
absolutely everything, and yet we know we really can’t. And some stuff we have
to really admit really isn’t worth keeping. We recently had a
sister die who thought that we should keep every one of
her very unfocused photographs. [LAUGHTER] Once the framework
is formed, the story can be told in the voices of
those who actually lived it. It is also important
to realize what a valuable resource
the archivist can be as we try to outline
the different aspects of congregational history
or to illustrate patterns of behavior. I have not been in
the congregation as long as other members. And I have to rely on
the historical data that is found in our archives
to help lay out timelines. I ask our archivist to help
me get information about what happened and
when so I can try to understand their
circumstances and the context. This gives me a
better understanding of a particular decision and
some of the background story so that it makes more sense. I am fortunate that the early
leadership teams, the ones that were before me, saw the value
in having a professional with a passion for history and
the capacity for organization. I find having a
professional archivist who has an understanding about
not only what to keep, but also how to
preserve it, invaluable to my role in leadership. I’m sure my archivist
would really love it if I wouldn’t ask
for so many back histories and leadership minutes. I also see the
connection to historians who have an interest in
certain historical periods or facets of history. They are the ones
that take a broad view and weave together
the contributions from different congregations,
showing what religious men and women have done
in a variety of ways with a variety of issues. These historians need the
help to have the access to congregational archives
to have the ability to work with primary
sources in order to do their own scholarly
research, which will allow for more objectivity
in creating fuller and a more complete picture. An example is Hispanic ministry,
something my congregation has been about for nearly 100
years, yet many historians and academics may not have
ever heard of my congregation. So how do we network
together so that we can piece the universal story
together so it is not lost? It is my hope that this
conference will connect these three groups
together so that a fuller story of the history of the
Catholic church in the United States and in Canada may be
written, and maybe someday, our contribution to
the rest of the world. And maybe at least some
may find of interest in generating research. The archivist is
the point person in finding the
pearl of great price that could be the next
doctoral dissertation or bring to light a valuable
contribution that may not yet be widely known. I believe that each of
these three perspectives represented here hold
a piece of the puzzle. When put together, the
authentic and fullest picture of the church emerges, one that
none of the three disciplines can do alone. Congregations make history by
the ministry their members do or did. Archives preserve
the history by making sure the artifacts, whether they
be the written or spoken word or the shoes of a saint, are
kept and maintained with care. Then the historians
research and can help to make known
the story in ways that are accessible
to anyone who wants to learn more
about men and women who worked to build the
foundation of the church, not only the church, but
also the larger contribution that religious life has made
to society and the world. Men and women
religious have been a part of making
history, not necessarily with the rich and powerful
or in the boardrooms, but in the grassroot
movements, the places of poverty and social
justice, and advancement of human dignity. And as Father said tonight,
this is the story of religious. And this is the story that is
worth telling and retelling. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Good evening, everybody. I’m very excited to be
here for what is truly a unique opportunity,
to have everyone who is part of a record’s
lifecycle in the room– creators, caretakers,
and users– so that we may
listen to one another and work together to serve,
each in our own way, American Catholic and world history. My job this evening
is to place before you the archivists’ point of view– our concerns, our struggles,
and our joy in our work. As part of the
advisory committee, I reviewed the survey
responses and applications for this conference. My colleagues in this room
represent the full spectrum of archives, from nascent
to mature programs. Collectively, we are the
fulcrum on which this movement to preserve and provide access
to American Catholic history rests. It’s a heavy burden to
try to shoulder alone. One of my great hopes
for the next few days is that the archivists
come to feel less alone, more supported, understood
by their colleagues in the archival realm, by
the leaders whose history and legacy they care for, and
the researchers who they assist in their academic endeavors. I also hope that our
discussion and problem solving, as recorded in
the future white paper, will provide solace and
guidance for the future, to our colleagues
in each area who could not be with us this week. I must confess that I
am ill-equipped to tell every unique archive
story in this room. And in the interest
of full disclosure, I must tell you that my
institution is certainly a mature archive, in existence
for more than a quarter century, well
supported by leadership and used by researchers
from around the world. I want to share some of the
Maryknoll Mission Archives story not in a
self-congratulatory manner, but as a way of illustrating
some of the challenges we all share, that you may see
some aspects of your archives or future archives model
reflected in our experience. In 1990, at the recommendation
of an archives consultant, the leadership of the
Maryknoll fathers and brothers and the Maryknoll
sisters made the decision to bring together under one
roof and managed by one staff both of their archives. Previously, the society
and congregation had been independently
maintaining almost 80 years of their respective histories. The collaborative
Maryknoll Mission Archives brought together 160 years of
Maryknoll’s foreign mission work. In 2001, Maryknoll’s
third major expression, the Maryknoll Mission
Association of the Faithful, joined the department. Today, in addition to
those three stakeholders, the archives also houses
the records of the Maryknoll affiliates, the Religious
Task Force on Central America and Mexico, and the United
States Catholic Mission Association. Leadership’s vision of one home
for the entire Maryknoll story has proved to be inspired,
greatly benefiting their budgets as well
as internal and external researchers alike. Since its inception,
the archives program has enjoyed strong
support from leadership and more than adequate
budgetary resources. Over time, staffing has evolved
from a mix of society members, sisters, and laity to
today’s configuration of four full-time laypersons
and one society member. Over the last five years,
we’ve answered, on average, just over 600 reference
requests annually. We have a website,
which allows us to share finding aids
for our open collections as well as information from the
collections through our blog. Archives materials
are highly used by all aspects of the society
and congregation, especially the marketing,
communications, fundraising, and mission education segments. We are fortunate
to have academics and other external
researchers interested in our collections
who have utilized them for various books, articles,
films, and other projects– so quite an enviable position
we find ourselves in. But in many ways,
we are not set apart from the universal challenges
each archivist in this room faces. Collaboration is
tricky since everyone has a financial interest. We are one staff,
technically employed by three organizations,
not just one. We must be very aware of how we
apportion our time and effort, working on each
group’s collections, and that our public relations
efforts, online or through exhibits, are balanced
and inclusive. When I meet with the
archive’s leadership liaisons from the society, sisters, and
lay missioners each quarter, I must be mindful of having
made progress for each and able to articulate that
progress in a manner not laden with archival jargon. Then every six years,
when leadership changes, I have the responsibility
of explaining what the archives does and why
it is important in the hope that the new group
will continue to agree. The collaborative
nature of the project can also complicate
relationships with other departments, who
tend to forget that we serve more than one organization
and our time and efforts are split in many directions. Being a mature archive
with established policies and procedures has not made
us immune to the challenge of identifying and
collecting pertinent records from the organizations. “You don’t really want
that stuff, do you,” is a common response
during conversations about departmental record
transfers and donations of personal papers. That mindset makes us fear
what might be destroyed, yet we do not have the agency
to compel people to send their records to the archives. Our best hope is an ongoing
education and re-education process for people whose
primary job focus is not records management. Collecting personal
papers from missioners can also be delicate. Some see them as a contribution
to the greater mission story. And others prefer to
be struck from history. The latter is truly sad,
but must be respected. We recently had a
sister who told us she destroyed her early
journals, as she did not want those youthful writings
to define her legacy. The archive staff
mourned what might have been in those
writings, but ultimately had to respect her decision. The records that do successfully
make it into the archives then post challenges
of sheer volume and complications of
formats and technology. In 2008, the society
closed what was then called their photo
library and transferred the contents to archives. This collection alone, one of
many other image collections, is estimated to include well
over a million unique images. In 2014, another
storage facility on the society’s
property was cleaned out. And an audio visual collection
of almost 3,000 unique items came to archives,
containing every format, from film reels to
digital beta tapes. These two Maryknoll’s are
examples of complicated groups of records that archives
must puzzle over how to responsibly cope
with while considering the impacts on the organization,
possible researchers, the materials
themselves, and history. What can we responsibly
do within our limitations is the question we must
return to in each case. While archivists are still
coping with the preservation and access issues
of formats past, we are also increasingly
pressed by the needs and desires of technology-centered
today and tomorrow, which present
themselves in many ways. First, there are the
born digital files that we all have been
creating, sending, copying, and almost never
assessing and purging for at least a few decades. Technology has made creation
and storage very easy and cheap. So the volume
increases exponentially over those handwritten
or typed documents housed in a file drawer that
runs out of room quickly. For example, take these
two groups of records– handwritten letters,
penned and received by a Maryknoll missioner
in the field in the 1960s, and the email box of
that same missioner from the first decade
of the 21st century, filled with email chains
with multiple recipients and a web of separate,
but related, answers, file attachments, and
undeleted advertising, all in file formats
that may not be viable after the next decade. Now ask me which set of
records I would prefer to be responsible for
appraising, organizing, describing, and providing access
to into the foreseeable future. Then there is the
growing expectation that archives have resources
to convert all their records to digital files and
that those files will be made publicly available. On-site and remote
researchers and visitors are often dismayed to discover
that 99% of our collections are not available
electronically. And at this time,
there are no plans to systematically
scan the collection. In the Google-centric
world in which we live, old-fashioned page-turning is
no longer the preferred research method for many. What I believe people
fail to understand are the costs associated with
such a digital conversion project, the associated
access concerns, and the question of who is going
to store, maintain, and migrate those files long-term. Onion skin paper makes
feed scanning impossible. Photos need metadata
entered by a human being. Individual files must be
housed in a system that makes them searchable. Would the scan stand up as an
official document if needed? By providing unfettered access
to our records on the internet, we will have effectively lost
control of who uses them, and how. What for most people is
just a simple question, why don’t you scan it, is
a very complicated issue for archivists, who must
carefully consider the details and risks of such a project. Once, a visitor to the
archives was incredulous that the records
were not online. He reached into his pocket,
pulled out a dollar, handed it to me,
and stated that it was a donation toward
rectifying the problem. [LAUGHTER] For me, he represents those
who cannot understand the deep implications and challenges
posed by electronic records. Not only are the records we deal
with increasingly born digital, but also how we connect with
the world outside our walls has moved definitively
into the virtual realm. I think for many archivists,
this outreach method is technically difficult
and often takes a backseat to the more pressing issues of
preparing records for research and keeping up with
daily reference requests. In our case, we
have a site that is in need of a technical update. But it must wait for work
on fundraising and vocation segments, today’s pressing
issues, to be complete. What we are lacking are
meaningful virtual connections with the research
community at large. Perceptions about who
we are and what we do complicate our work as well. If I was paid every time
someone within the organization or visitors said to any of
the staff some variation of, I don’t know how you do
what you do, I’d be crazy, I don’t think any of us would
ever have to work again. Among certain segments
of our colleagues, we continue to
fight the perception that we are
glorified file clerks and that formal master’s
degree-level training is not truly necessary. As much as I love
being an archivist, I sometimes wonder if a title
like Information Manager or Information Professional
would make a difference in how others see us. Of all the challenges
in our work, technology has certainly
placed the most emphasis on the fact that archivists
now, more than ever, need engaged
partners in our work. We need leadership
partners who will help shape what access
to their records looks like and provide
needed support and validation for archives’ initiatives. We need technology partners who
will bring skill sets from web development to database and
electronic records management to be in conversation with
us as we navigate collection management and outreach. We need research
partners who will help us identify and connect
with groups and resources to make our collections
and services known. In return, we will continue
to do our very best to meet and balance the needs
and concerns of all groups who contribute to and utilize
the records in our care. I have only scratched the
surface of the concerns that we archivists have. And I hope that you
have seen yourselves reflected in part of the
liturgist mission archives experience. I hold the same
fears and concerns for the long-term future of
Maryknoll’s recorded history as part of the American
Catholic experience as you hold for your
institution’s collections. As archivists, I think we can
become too myopic, concerning ourselves narrowly
with only what falls in the realm of
how we execute our jobs, not why we execute them. I am blessed with three
young women on the archive staff who see the broader
picture that we are here to serve. Each day, we care for
the enduring legacy of Maryknoll missioners, like
Father Vincent Capodanno, a Navy chaplain who volunteered
for duty in Vietnam– he was killed in
the line of duty, ministering to the spiritual
needs of his Marines; the Maryknoll
sisters, who founded the first fully integrated
health center, Queen of the World Hospital,
in Kansas City, Missouri; Father John Romaniello,
affectionately known as the “noodle priest,” who
used a simple machine and relief food supplied by
Catholic Relief Services to feed starving refugees
in Hong Kong beginning in the second half of the
1950s; and Sister Bernadette Yoshimochi, who was born
in Japan and, in 1942, was working in
Monrovia, California. Instead of returning to the
safety of the sisters’ mother house, Sister Bernadette chose
to enter the men’s [INAUDIBLE] internment camp with
Sister Susanna Hayashi to serve her people for
the next three years. For them and for all
Maryknoll missioners, the Maryknoll Mission Archives
thanks the researchers, who have respectfully,
intelligently, and compassionately
told their stories. We need you to help
us continue our work, drawing attention to this
important segment of Americans and the wide and
deep impact they have had on American
life and world history. May all of us in this
room work together to ensure that the impact of
American Catholic religious is not lost to time and neglect. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Good evening. So I think most
of us in this room are familiar with the
ancestry.com commercials that want you to buy a DNA test,
the ones where the guy thought he was German. And they even wore lederhosen. But he’s found
out he’s Scottish. And so he’s wearing kilts now. So I’ve not taken the DNA test. But I do know a few things
about some of my family members. And a few months ago, when I was
looking at some census records from the 19th century, I
happened to look up my great grandmother, [? Katherine ?]
[? Morrissey, ?] who lived her entire life in and around
Warren, Rhode Island, about 50 miles south of here. And I know that [? Katherine ?]
married Michael [? Hanley, ?] and that they had five children,
one of whom was my grandmother. But what I didn’t know
was something that appeared in the 1870 census. [? Katherine ?] [? Morrissey, ?]
age 14, was a millworker. And I think about
that all the time now. And I think about
the fact that that’s what those people on
Ancestry want to know about. It’s not about kilts. It’s about [? Katherine ?]
[? Morrissey ?] and who their family members were. And I’ve been asked
to talk to you tonight about where historians fit
into what we will be discussing over the next couple
of days, but not from the perspective
of DNA tests from the perspective
of Katherine Morrissey. And in a way, it’s a little
hard to talk about this because there are so many
different ways to look at it. But I want to give it a try
and say a little bit about this from the perspective
of the three themes that our panel has decided
are important, the themes that Carol mentioned
at the beginning– preservation, accessibility,
and communication. So preservation– so when
you come right down to it, historians are just
more intense versions of those people trying to
write their family histories. We’re looking at a bit
of a larger picture. And in this case, the
picture is the history of women and men religious. And this is where archives
comes into the story because it is through the
material that you have preserved about your past
that we come to understand the history of your congregation
and how it fits into the larger histories of religious
life, religious history, especially Catholic,
but if you are devoted to call the midwife,
you know that there are Anglican nuns out there,
too, social history, women’s history, the history
of professions, and the list goes on. Why would anyone write
a history of education that didn’t discuss Catholic
sisters or brothers? But they do. And it’s up to people like me
and my colleagues in this area to set the record straight. So to set the
record straight, we have to know that there
is material out there to tell the story. And as a trained historian,
I understand the reasons why I do not and
should not have access to current personnel
files, legal documents, financial records. I get all of that. But in at least one
instance, a file that I don’t think I
thought was very important turned out to be
incredibly helpful. When I was writing the
history of the Sisters of Our Lady of
Christian Doctrine, congregational leaders
and I agreed on what sources were accessible to me. The sisters who are
remarkably generous not only with their time
and their willingness to share documents, to say
nothing of their prayers, by the way, but in
recounting stories about individual sisters
that had been handed down over the years. And one day, a sister told
me about a Sister Claire, long deceased, who other
members of the community did not find very pleasant. And in fact, she told
me that the kids who hung around the congregation
settlement house in Lower Manhattan once
called a local funeral home and told them Sister
Claire was dead, and they should come
pick up the body. [LAUGHTER] She was very much alive. So a little bit
later, I’m looking at files of deceased
sisters, not personnel files. But some of the files were
just a list of assignments. Some had greeting cards
and letters in there. Some of us are savers. And some of us are throwers. And in Sister Claire’s file, I
found letters from her parents telling her that she
had ruined the family by entering religious life. When she entered the community
during the Depression, she had left a job that was
allowing her to contribute to the family finances. And that stream of
income was now gone. And they were disowning her. And she had written her
family a letter that was returned to sender
unopened that she had kept for all those years. I did not open the letter. I so wanted to, but I didn’t. What does all that tell
us about Sister Claire? About the sacrifices
families made when their daughters and
sons entered religious life, about the strength of
someone’s vocation. So if congregations
don’t save something, we can’t ever know about that. One more example
about preservation. As Carol said, I’m
currently working on a history of Katharine Drexel
and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and trying to move
beyond the very traditional riches-to-rags story and
focus on her work and the work of the congregation. And I happened to ask the
archivists at Catholic U a couple of months ago if
there was anything related to Drexel and the SBS
and the CUA archives. And about a week
later, I got an email. Yup, they did have some
material related to Drexel. A lot of it was tax stuff. But one thing in the email
really jumped out at me. And I quote, “The Mission
Helpers of the Sacred Heart records, currently
unprocessed, includes a box of correspondence between
Drexel and Mother Demetrius of the Mission Helper sisters.” So I turned my grades in
and headed down to DC. And I didn’t know very much
about the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. And I didn’t know what
would be in those boxes. But it turned out that Drexel
and her biological sister, Louise, funded several
of their apostolates because they had
gotten interested in the congregation’s work. And I really got a good
sense of how Drexel worked. In one series of letters,
Katharine and Louise are questioning a plumbing bill. The Mission Helpers say
their plumber thinks it’s a perfectly reasonable bill. The Drexel sisters say, nuh-uh,
their plumber doesn’t think it’s very reasonable at all. He thinks it’s too high. And it goes on– 6, 8, 10 letters. Their plumber offers to go down
and take a look at the pipe. [LAUGHTER] I also uncovered an example
of inter-congregational cooperation from the late
19th and early 20th centuries. Drexel occasionally asks the
Mission Helpers, for instance, if they can accept a child
at one of their apostolates. So the moral of the story, and
please don’t tell my husband I said this, is
save your stuff– [LAUGHTER] –not your unfocused
photographs, but your stuff. So accessibility–
as a historian, we want to be, really, able
to access your material, the appropriate material. And all of those working in
the area of women and men religious that I know, and I
think I know a lot of them, want to do the right thing. And it’s really hard
sometimes to get your work done when people
are suspicious of your motives and intentions. Just ask any 11th grader. They’ll tell you that. And when historians–
when we don’t gain access, sometimes the full historical
account doesn’t emerge. And I have to admit that
sometimes, I’m puzzled by this. And so maybe another
way to think about this is in the form of a question. What are you afraid of? Is there information
in your archives that might reflect negatively,
at least in your mind, on your religious congregation? Probably. Does it change the narrative? Maybe. Does it take away from
the good that’s been done? No. I’m just starting to read a
book with the title Jefferson’s Daughters– Three Sisters, White and
Black, In a Young America. Does looking at Thomas Jefferson
from this vantage point change how we think about him? I think so. But are we going to
throw out the Declaration of Independence, shut down
the University of Virginia over this? I hope not. So do the archives of
religious congregations contain information
related to mother generals who were not the best leaders,
examples of racism, stories or incidents that today’s
sisters, brothers, and priests might be a bit
embarrassed about? Sure. But at some point, we all
have to trust the process. The truth has to win
out, whether you’re writing about Thomas Jefferson
or the apostolates sisters, not the truth presented
in the National Enquirer. But the truth is presented in
Jefferson Daughters or Penny Lernoux’s history of
the Maryknoll sisters. So third, communication–
to state the obvious, we all have to communicate
with each other. When I began looking at
Katharine Drexel and the SBS, I communicated pretty
much exclusively with the lay archivist,
who shared information with her supervisor
at the time, who is a member of the congregation. I don’t really know
what I told her. But I have to assume
that she writes reports that contain stats and
information and all sorts of things about what
work gets done in there. Now that those archives are
housed within the Philadelphia archdiocesan archives and
administered by that staff, I presume that they
will let the members of the congregational
leadership team know what’s happening
with those archives. I do want to know the sisters. It’s not an authorized history. And so I don’t really
need their approval. But I would certainly
like their blessing. When I was working on the
Sisters of Christian Doctrine, I got to know a lot of members
of the community very well. And when you get to
communicate like that, the stories that you
get are just priceless. You can’t beat those stories. During breaks in
archives, I really appreciate being able to
share a particular finding with an archivist. The story of Sister
Claire would never have happened if
one of the sisters hadn’t stopped in
to visit me one day. When I was working
in the SBS archives, I mentioned to the archivist– I said, it looks to me
like St. Katharine Drexel was a Republican. Of course she was,
she said to me. She had a lot of money. [LAUGHTER] I was like, yeah. You got a point. She said, and one more thing. She was really mad when they put
a federal income tax law in– she said that– because it
meant she could give out a lot less money. One example from my
own work about how a lack of communication
caused a bit of a problem– as I was working on my
book, I published an article on the Sisters of
Christian Doctrine in US Catholic Historian. I didn’t think much about it. Couple of– the archivist and
some of the leadership team knew I was writing it. One part of the story
of this congregation, and I think a lot of you in here
will be able to relate to this, is that at one point, a pastor
wanted two sisters working in a parish to be replaced by– with two others, the
reasons of which I don’t– did not understand
or know about. Since the time frame for this
event was the late 1970s, the leadership
team was no longer having that kind of
process take place. You don’t talk to the
bishop about this situation. They told the pastor,
you talked to us. Long story short,
the sisters wound up withdrawing from that ministry. And another congregation
took over their work. Because of my experience
in working in this field, I knew that that story
was not a big deal. But some members
of the congregation took exception to
what I had written. And I was summoned, and I
use that word deliberately, to a meeting with the president
and a couple of members of the leadership team. Who gave you access to
those files, they asked? And I had to figure out
a way to say, you did. [LAUGHTER] But fortunately, several
members of the community had been reading drafts
of my chapters all along and smoothed things over again. And it all worked out. One final thing– if someone
is going to use your archives, you have to be prepared
to see your name in print, whether it’s in books, journals,
conference programs, or blogs. And even though we are
not out to get you, you might prickle at some
of what is said or written. None of us are perfect. And if historians and archivists
communicate and archivists communicate with congregational
leaders and so on and so forth, this should all work
reasonably well. And the story should
get out there. So to conclude, this is
about more than ancestry.com and kilts. It’s about [? Katherine ?]
[? Morrissey. ?] It’s about history and making sure that the
historical account is correct. Historians want to
take on that task. But we need your help. Your archives, your
story, will help us all to better understand
what happened and why. And in the end, that can
only be a good thing. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] We’ll give them a minute
to get to their chairs and their microphones. And as a reminder
to the audience, we have two standing mics
almost on the front row here, but in the aisles. And so thank you very much
to all our presenters. Those were great. And I appreciate it greatly. You see the
integration, I think. You hear it, in many ways,
from a different perspective. But you see how it
all fits together. Do we have questions,
comments from the audience to all the panelists,
one of the panelists? Don’t be shy. Walk down and–
so that you can be heard so I don’t
have to repeat it because this is a big enough
room where I probably would need to repeat the question
if the person isn’t speaking into a mic. So don’t let that
intimidate you. Yes, sir? I don’t need to be walked down. It’s too hard. OK. For Miss [? McGinness, ?] why
did the Blessed Sacraments [INAUDIBLE] to Philadelphia? And is that a problem? It was their choice. I think they have
sold the mother house and the property on which
the archives were located. And they were going to be in
a lot more smaller quarters. And so they needed a place. [INAUDIBLE] or
LaSalle or Villanova. Or Xavier. An educational place
that would be more focused on making available
research [INAUDIBLE].. Well, so I heard somebody
down here say, why not Xavier? And I’m not sure why not Xavier. That’s a really good question. And I don’t think Xavier is
sure why not Xavier, honestly. But as I understand
it, they called the Philadelphia archdiocese
and archives were moving. They were moving to a new
building, a better facility, better HVAC and all that stuff. And the sisters were interested
in working out an arrangement. And it worked out. They could have explored other
places, not just Catholic. Temple, for instance, has
a huge urban archives. But their decision was made
to go with the archdiocese. And I’m not part of the
leadership team here. So I don’t know why. I can just say that from
the leadership perspective, it’s sometimes very
difficult to find a place that will accept them. And you’ve got to realize
that there’s the archives that is the public stuff. And then there’s
also all the paper that is the personnel files. And there’s also all a private
and then a secret archives that is undisclosed. So it may be a couple
of different things that caused that. And it could have been
that other places weren’t willing to have it,
which is, unfortunately, becoming somewhat of an
issue as congregations, especially in the United
States, become smaller. There’s a number
of congregations that are looking for places
to put their archives, but also their artifacts. Drexel had a lot of artifacts. I will say one thing, that
the place the archdiocese was moving their archives
was a school that had closed that they had rehabbed. And so there’s just
a ton of space there. It might have just been
as simple as cubic feet. Yes? Mine is more of a
comment than a question. But it’s a question of
sensitivity and archives and access. I work for the USCCB and for
the Catholic News Service. And we have worked
in conjunction with the Catholic Research
Resources Alliance that we have digitized the
National Catholic Welfare Conference news feeds from 1920. And we’re working to
get them up to 1985. Sometimes, you’ll find things
that don’t reflect well on the church. Sometimes, you’ll find
things that reflect very well on the church. And for people to
be afraid to allow access because of things
that have actually happened is a shame. So I’ll just say that you have
to take the good with the bad and to provide
access because that is the factual history,
the evidential history, of the church. And so these are
freely available online at
TheCatholicNewsArchive.org. And more and more of
the diocesan newspapers in this country and in
Canada are participating in this newspaper campaign
to make this available– so just wanted to let
folks know about that. Thank you. My question’s for Ms. Halloran. You talked about
educational efforts within the Maryknoll sisters. I assume that’s within however
the company is organized. What sort of educational
efforts have you gone through with your sisters
or with your government or with anybody else? It’s done sort of in pieces. So of course, there’s
ongoing leadership education. Every time you
meet with them, you bring topics that
are going on, things you want them to be aware of
so that there’s the leadership education at that level. Then, fortunately,
the Maryknoll sisters, when they’re home on renewal– they make a stop at the archives
part of their being home. So we work very hard to not
only ask them for things, but to show them
what it is we’re doing with their
things, who has been in to use them, how these
things are being utilized, who’s interested. And that seems to make a
great difference to them because so often, they’re
like, eh, it’s just my stuff. Nobody cares. But especially when
you can demonstrate that people are
interested in using them, that’s really been– that’s been a great help. And then we try to sneak it in. When you’re dealing with
especially departments, sometimes it can be
really hard to get them to have a formal
meeting to sit down and talk about their records management– we try– or when they’re
asking for something that they think we should have. And you get in there. Well, if you had sent
it to us, we’d have it. We don’t make this
stuff up whole cloth. You have to give it to
us in order to be able for us to return it to you. So yeah, we kind
of do it sneaky. It’s kind of like
guerrilla education. But that seems to work
the best, actually. Does that help? Yes, it does. Good. Sure. So along with the issue
of sensitivity of records, I’ve heard in some circles that
the records really cannot be accessed because somebody has
to come in and identify them item-level or a certain
way before they are made accessible. So I guess my question
to the historian with the archivist present is– there has been a
lot of discussion about the problems
with the finding aid. So what are your thoughts
on the way archivists have organized the records? And do you think
that, as a historian, there’s another option? I’m just throwing
this out there. Well, it depends
on the archives. And it depends on
the finding aid. And some are more
helpful than others. But I think what you
always need in conjunction with the finding aid
is a conversation with the archivist. There’s nothing like going
into the Maryknoll Archives or whatever and having
Jennifer be able to say, well, you might be interested in this,
which a historian might not have even known about
or wouldn’t have even thought it was there. So finding aids are great. They’re kind of the
first line right when you start to look for stuff. And they’re more or less
hope helpful depending on the finding aid and depending
on what you’re looking for. Yeah. I will piggyback on
what you were saying. I think that the conversation
is the most important part, especially when
you have, like we have with a collaborative
collection– we have a researcher that may
have found one piece online through a finding aid. But then when they start talking
to us, we go, hey, by the way, did you know that they
were also doing that or were missioned
in a certain place? And maybe you want to
look at that component. Finding aids are a nice start. But it’s the archivist who’s
looked at every piece of paper. They know what’s in that file. They know how to
make the connections. And I think that with
the historian being able to explain
where they’re headed, we can often help shape that. I’m asking you this question
from a research perspective. Who was it who was asking
you about the USCCB? It just sparked it. Sometimes, people–
whenever there are studies done where
people are interviewed, the people who are
interviewed often feel betrayed by what’s
written because they have a very deep sense of
where they were going with what was being asked about. And they think they’ve told
all this very careful stuff. And then somebody
uses it for purposes other than the ones in
which they were talking or they don’t get cited
that much and somebody else gets cited. So I can imagine that– so maybe this is a
question partly for Ginger as much as the others– that I can imagine easily
that the people form a congregation who
commission something to somebody who is not a
member of that congregation and doesn’t quite get it, by
whatever definition of “get it” there is– that that would be
a common experience of somebody outside being the
archivist or the historian. So I’m just wondering,
is that common? Is it different when it’s– the archivists and historians
of religious orders– are you more
careful about what’s going on in the religious order
that you’re keeping records of, and so forth, or does my
question make no sense at all? [LAUGHTER] No. It makes sense. It definitely makes sense. We’re thinking about how
to– where to start with it. Where do I want to start? Well, I can just do simple one. We’re just– commissioned
a book to tell the last 50 years the congregation from
the five living presidents. And it’s being
written by someone not of the congregation. And so what the
leadership team decided was that each of the presidents,
because they’re living, have the opportunity
to read their chapter and to make critiques on the
accurateness of what this said. They don’t get to edit it. So that’s what we’ve done. I think with deceased
sisters, we would have– the congregation
would look at what we wanted to have said,
what was the period we’d look at, and really try
to set some guidelines and then hope for the best. That’s terrible to think. But I think– and read it. And I think for us, we will,
the leadership– there’s three of us– we will read each
chapter after the presidents do and then make our
own final decision. But I think somebody has
to have that position. If the person’s alive, I would
hope that we would always let them at least
read their part to make sure that they
did get what they said or the nuance of it. I can say, working
with sisters who have been responsible
for writing histories of their mission areas,
they’re the one in charge. They’ve been appointed
by leadership to do it. That is not always
smooth sailing. They will finish it. And it goes out to the other
sister in the congregation. And the next thing you hear is,
well, we need to make an edit, or she said this or she said
that or we don’t like that. So I think no matter
who’s writing it, the person has a point of view. Maybe they got an ax to grind. Maybe they don’t. And I don’t think, until
you get into that writing process and the
conversation process with the person who’s using
the records and writing it, that you really start to
get a feeling for what that person is doing. And they can still
blindside you in the end. But what’s the
other option, don’t let anybody write anything? I was just thinking that a
few years ago, a congregation asked me to take a look at
a draft of their history that they had been writing. It was kind of a group effort. And it had kind of been
put down and picked back up and put down and picked back up. And they handed it to me. And they said, well,
would you read this? And would you give us
your thoughts on it? And would you keep in mind that
four of the people on this team are English teachers– in other words, be very
careful what you say about verbs and adverbs here? In a way, you just have to– it’s like any work we do. In the end, we
hope for the best. We told our last president–
one of our presidents is an English teacher. And we said, you
don’t get to edit. Right. We were very– we had
some very strict things. We’ve had fights about
how do you format it. One sister looks at what
somebody else did and goes, oh, you didn’t
follow the format. You need to get a professional. That’s why we went outside. If I could just comment, because
I’m on both sides of the aisle because I’m an archivist
and a historian– and I really think the key for
the archivists in this story is really to develop a trust. And one of the things that,
in working with people who used our collections and when
I was a monk at St. Anselm and when I helped out
the Sisters of Mercy in Chicago in writing
their history– there really is a bond that
has to develop between– an intimate bond
that has to develop between the congregation and
the person writing history. And I think people are very
much aware that they don’t want to embarrass the community. For example, at
St. Anselm, there was great contention
in the ’20s. And one of the monks laid
in wait with a baseball bat to get the [INAUDIBLE]. Now, that story had to be told. They didn’t have
to say his name. But that incident and
the contention that occurred in the 1920s
really shaped that community and how it saw into the future. So I think you have to– there’s ways to do it that you
don’t divulge people’s names. But you have to
share because it’s part of how a community
grows, how it evolves, and how it sees itself
and basically what it is going to embrace. And I think that’s critical. But I think that the– I think one of the things that I
was struck with the application process and the survey is
that all the archivists and leaders– they rely
on personal interaction– is critical in this– in our profession as
religious archivists. And I think that’s what
we have to highlight. And how do we develop
that to move forward? Thank you. I have a background that
is a little bit different. And I’ve worked at The
National Archives for 20 years. So accessibility is a very
interesting conversation between myself and myself
as a religious archivist is the sense that
there is a certain– I think there’s certain
drop-dead date where you can release records, personal type
of interaction of the sisters– and because it tells the story
of the decision-making process and it tells a story of– sometimes of compassion
and sometimes like they had to make a hard decision. And I’m wondering if, as
leadership and as archivists, and maybe as a historian,
how, because these files contain letters back and
forth between the sister and the province superior
saying this and that and that kind of thing– but the sisters are
dead more than 50 years. And everybody in the
letter is considered dead. And so I’m wondering
if there can be a certain discussion in
the historian’s perspective because some of those
records are very unique and they talk about
a story of a people and how compassionate
sisters were and how compassionate
the people who were going through this process are. So if you have these sets of
files that are separate in this kind of fashion, how do you
join it together to get a fuller picture of that person who–
sister or brother or priest, or how do you get the fuller
picture of the congregation itself as it moved through– from the 19th century
into the 20th century in the 21st century? I know this is a tough
question because I– we’ve had a panel on it at
[? ACWY. ?] And we just– I’m constantly trying to figure
out a way to deal with this. Now, I also deal
with oral histories. So that sent, I said, Sisters,
you can put a deadline– you can put a– when do you want this open
type thing for research because some of those stories
tend to be much more personal and actually reveal
things that are not in the actual, official records. So just two things– and I don’t
want to open the oral history can of worms. But for historians,
we’re very governed by institutional review
boards and all kinds of things in what we can do. And so that’s sort of
beyond our control. But when I talked to you
earlier about Sister Claire– none of that good in the book. But what that did was it helped
me to understand that community better. It wasn’t a book of stories. It was a historical account. And so in the end, you’re
kind of picking and choosing and hoping that
what you put out is a good, complete,
balanced picture of it. Yeah. Access is a tough thing. I work in a– what is essentially
a private collection. There can be access– it’s a policy. But it’s more like guidelines. And just because someone is
dead or something happened 50 years ago does not mean
that there are not still high sensitivities within the
community about that issue. So then my job becomes
to basically take the temperature– how do you feel about this– and work toward–
as an archivist, I want to work toward as
much access as possible. But I also fully understand
that I am not the final say. It’s not my history. It’s not my records. So I can help guide, shape,
talk, bring awareness that maybe it’s OK. Maybe this isn’t as
dire as you think it is. I can also control
really vetting who’s coming in, looking
at who these people are. Do you have a solid background? What are the types of things
you’ve written before? And that gives you
clues as to who. So from my– where I sit,
I feel like the archivists’ responsibility is to understand
who wants to use it and why and to understand
the sensitivities or be able to ask the
question of the congregation or the society and say, can
we come to some middle ground here where we can tell some
of this story, but, of course, being mindful that
it still is yours? I think from
leadership, it would be, and I can only talk from
my own perspective– but I think the why is
always really important. Why do you want to know this? And what’s the greater good? And I think it just go
looking, fishing for something? Our church has a lot of
people that, I think, go fishing for something. And so my question
would be, why? And I would rely
on our archivist. I would rely on– I think your idea of taking
the temperature is really good. Is this going to
cause a lot of unrest with the sisters or
brothers or priests? And– but to go
deeper into the why. I think it’s really interesting
that a lot of the conversation is revolving the whole
time around sensitivities in some way, either
about research ethics or about the
sensitivities of sisters when their records are used. And because it’s an
opening session, where we’re trying to consider themes
that are going to occupy, possibly, a white
paper, I would love to see this staying
as one of your themes if it works through
the three or four days because you’ve given
answers, particularly in your last answer,
for example, where with congregations
that I’ve worked with, if they saw those written
down, they would nearly be more reassured. In Ireland, when
congregations don’t want people to
use certain things or have access to certain parts
of the records, they will say, people will use this as
another stick to beat us with. And these would be
sisters who would say, the rest of my community
are too old and too weak and they are hurting too much. And I can’t do this
because it will be distorted or manipulated. So what– I suppose
what I’m suggesting is that is a legitimate
response, even if it’s not a convenient response
for those of us who want to use the records. But it is around sensitivities. And it’s also around knowledge. And sometimes I say to
sisters, the history will be written, anyway. But you may not be still here
to be part of the process. So if we could somehow
capture and answer that satisfactory and
helpful to religious around this that
communicates, in some way, a message those historians and
researchers and archivists are responsible and caring, it comes
right back to your question, what are you going
to do with this? But it’s also around
the question, who cares? I think around who cares,
and also around trust, I think we’ve said that– I think that’s really– if we could trust people. And that would be my– I think you’re right. Sensitivity is something. Yeah. And then I think the
broader action becomes– it’s about communication. Are you talking and
are you listening, is the archivist
talking and listening, is the leadership
talking and listening, not necessarily in that
order, in a very open way, and not just immediately
putting up a wall that says, no? I think, too– and
with my trust thing is I think it’s important that
the sisters’ or the brothers’ or the priests’ story be
told from their voices. And if we have historians
and archivists who can help us tell
that story, then we will be a part of the history,
which I think is the goal. We just have to find ways
that help people to be comfortable with the story. And sometimes, that’s hard. But I like the idea. Jim’s been trying– and then
the gentleman in the center. And that will be our last
two because we’re doing well, but we’re just about
time to go here. I’m Jim Carroll. I’m actually a historian. First of all, I think that the
importance of this conference is we’ve been talking
a lot about communities and dioceses and that. But there are also
numerous communities– Oblate Sisters of
Blessed Sacrament we talked about a
little bit earlier– that have three or four members,
a very interesting history. And what will happen
with their records, because I doubt that
the archives in places like the Dakotas would have
the resources that Philadelphia would have? And as a matter of fact, I’ve
been in a lot of archives– Maryknoll. I’ve been in archives. I’ve been in Sisters of
the Blessed Sacrament. And only one time
did I ever really get any sense of even minor
push-back or sensitivity. All I’ve really
encountered is cooperation. Now, I have to say that
that’s been fairly universal. My question to all
three of you is this. As a historian, you have an
obligation to your profession to tell the story– in other words, to
use the sources. Obviously, you don’t attack. Place it into context. I’ve had a lot of recent
experience on things like child care,
which has become a very controversial issue. That’s a societal issue,
not just a church issue. It would just happen to be
an issue that some church members were involved in and
has become very sensitive. But eventually,
the story has to be told based on your best read of
the sources and the documents and your own sense of context. And sometimes,
that’s going to hurt. And it’s going to
hurt whether you’re talking about civil
society, state institutions, or religious institutions. So I think sometimes
in telling the story and in communicating a
past, you don’t want to. But if that’s where
the sources bring you, sometimes that’s where
you have to write. That’s what you have to report. And I think that’s one of
the problems with church, past church– was the
whole idea of glorifying everything and covering over
any sort of wart or blemish. Now, I think it
doesn’t happen often. But it has happened
once or twice in my career, where I’ve had to
write something that was based on my reading of the sources. And that, of course, can
be challenged as well. I don’t know if you
want to comment on that. OK. Our last question? I just wanted to make a pitch
for a more global approach, coming from the University
of Aberdeen in Scotland, where, of course, we have many
of the same challenges as you here in the US. And I’ve heard Canada
thrown in a few times. Thank you for that. I’m also Canadian. But, I’m sorry, I
can be very loud– I can’t get there without
making everybody move. But I’ll be very,
very loud, which is we should push for
a more global approach. Many of the archives
and materials that tell the story
of congregations here in the United States or in
Canada are often held overseas. Rome is the most
obvious example, but by no means the only one. University of Notre Dame’s
just done an excellent project and guide to archives in
Rome related to America. But unless this gets attacked
on a basis beyond simply the United States and a
walk-on role for Canada, we’re going to find, I think– this is the Canadian chip
on the shoulder here– [APPLAUSE] I think we’re going
to find we have all the same set of problems. Our materials move
across borders. The Catholic Church is
nothing if not transnational. It’s true of its archives. So I hope that we
can, as we move along in what is necessarily a North
American approach– that just remember these issues exist. And then we can try
and bring them in. There are people in Australia
and New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, who are
trying to pursue some of the same challenges,
just to throw that out there as a “don’t forget about us.” [LAUGHTER] Well, thanks to our panelists. And join me in giving them
one more round of applause. [APPLAUSE] We’ve had a great kickoff. So everybody, get some rest. And we’ll be back at
it in the morning. Thank you.

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