Courtesy of Benedictines of Duluth

Ever since Catholic sisters started arriving in the United States from Europe nearly three hundred years ago, Catholic women religious have performed heroic, thankless, and often uncompensated work that significantly shaped and humanized American culture and society.

 “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” is a touring exhibit that honors these achievements. It premiered at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in 2009, and moved on to Dallas, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Ellis Island in New York. It is now on view at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, through May 22. Rich in detail, the three-thousand-square-foot installation tells the story of how these sisters contributed to America and to the church. It includes exquisite artifacts and a poignant narrative presented in words, photographs, and videos. According to Helen Maher Garvey, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary based in Dubuque, “This exhibit tells the true story, not the Sally Field of Flying Nun or a nun caricature on a cocktail napkin.” Garvey chairs the history committee of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the exhibit’s chief...

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About the Author

Cheryl Wittenauer is a St. Louis writer. She was taught by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.