CARA receives grant for four studies, visiting African scholar

Thanks to a new grant, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University will conduct four studies of women religious and host a visiting scholar.

The center will use a $240,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which also funds Global Sisters Report, to perform the research and host the scholar.

The research includes:

• A study of emerging religious institutes in the United States, duplicating and comparing earlier work done 10 years ago;

• A study of the impact of international sisters who are studying at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, including how they contribute to the Catholic identity and mission of the U.S. schools and how their education affects their ministry back home;

• A continuation of the annual "Entrance Class of ... " surveys sent to all women and men entering U.S. religious institutes each year, which provides a snapshot of who is entering religious life today; and

• An annual CARA special report focused on women's religious life and ministry globally and nationally for three years.

In addition, in partnership with the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC), one sister from Africa will come to CARA for six months as a visiting scholar to learn and experience applied research in the church. The collaborative facilitates access to education for women religious in Africa that leads to expansion of the education, health, economic, social, environmental and spiritual services sisters provide. The three-year program will fund one sister per year.

Sr. Jane Wakahiu, executive director of ASEC, said the partnership is the first step in what she hopes will be a future institute to study religious life in Africa, similar to CARA's work in the United States.

"ASEC graduates are serving 26 million people today," Wakahiu said. "But our data gathering practices are inadequate, and data is essential to measuring impact."

"We want to have a conversation, to continue researching the type of the service [sisters] need to administer, not only to collect the data, but to understand it in relation to other congregations within the country and continent," Wakahiu told GSR.

She said one possible area for the sister researcher to explore is how the well-documented membership decline among U.S. congregations can help African congregations understand how to keep their numbers more stable.

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Gaunt, CARA's executive director, said the grant from the Hilton Foundation will have far-reaching effects.

"We are delighted that the Hilton Foundation continues to focus on Catholic sisters as resourceful, efficient, and powerful agents of social change," Gaunt said in a statement announcing the grant. "With the Foundation's continued support we will be able to research the impact of sisters as well as work with sisters from Africa on applied religious research."

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels. The foundation's work extending Hilton's support for the work of Catholic sisters is one of its six priority areas.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. His email address is Melanie Lidman is Middle East and Africa correspondent for Global Sisters Report based in Israel.]