More than 300 Catholic women gather at inaugural GIVEN forum (video)

Women listen to Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University's law school, deliver a keynote speech June 8 at GIVEN, a leadership forum for young Catholic women at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (CNS / Bob Roller)

Washington, D.C. — Sister of Life Mother Agnes Mary Donovan says it was a nudge from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation that sparked the flame that would become the first GIVEN forum. The board of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, of which Donovan is the chair, was having its regular meeting a year and a half ago when the sisters began discussing the Hilton Foundation’s suggestion that the group submit a grant proposal for a special project to mark the Year of Consecrated Life.

"We realized then that perhaps we could do something bigger than just ourselves," Donovan told Global Sisters Report. "And with that, we turned to our younger sisters and asked them to help us understand how we might fruitfully engage the youth."

The end result was GIVEN, a full-scholarship leadership forum for young Catholic women June 7-12 in Washington, D.C. More than 300 women from across the country have come to GIVEN, putting down temporary roots at The Catholic University of America. They spend their days learning leadership skills like empathetic listening and how to evangelize in a public forum, and they spend their evenings working on action plans to take back to their communities. 

On the fourth day of GIVEN, Donovan and CMSWR's GIVEN committee chair, Sister of Life Mary Gabriel Devlin, sat down with GSR to talk about the importance of teaching Catholic women to be leaders.

Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is in Washington, D.C., covering the GIVEN forum. She is live-tweeting sessions on her Twitter account, @dawn_cherie. GSR will feature more on the forum next week.

[Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is Global Sisters Report staff writer, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Her email address is The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation also funds Global Sisters Report.]