Holy Cross Celebrates Coeducation Anniversary with Women of Faith Speaker Series

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“Raising Our Voices in Church: Women of Faith Speak” features four theologian guest speakers, including the Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry ’84 on Nov. 15.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at the College of the Holy Cross, the Office of the College Chaplains is hosting an academic year-long speaker series, "Raising Our Voices in Church: Women of Faith Speak," to amplify women’s voices in church.

The College has a long tradition of supporting lay women’s leadership in the Catholic Church, according to Marybeth Kearns-Barrett ’84, director of the college chaplains.

Kearns-Barrett still recalls listening to her predecessor, the late Kim McElaney ’76, preach the homily at the Sunday liturgy celebrating the College’s 10th anniversary of coeducation in 1982. A decade later, in 1992, McElaney became the first woman to lead the chaplains’ office. 

"At that moment, not only did Kim break open the Gospel for me, seeing her preach set me on a path that broke open my relationship with God and my experience of myself as created in God’s image and likeness," Kearns-Barrett said. 

As a way of honoring women’s voices in religion and celebrating the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Holy Cross, the chaplains' office created the speaker series for 2022-2023.

Each of the four session topics — dignity, calling, lament and justice — are modeled after chapters from "This Hear Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation and the Stories that Make Us," a book written by Cole Arthur Riley, who recently served as spiritual teacher in residence at Cornell University’s Office of Spirituality and Meaning Making. Kearns-Barrett said she was struck by how Arthur Riley "illustrates the ways in which through our very lives, our everyday, ordinary experiences, God shows up in the world and speaks to each of us. This is why it is so important that we hear a diversity of voices in church as it helps to expand our relationship with God and what it means to say that God is human."

Arthur Riley, also creator of the Black Liturgies project, kicked off the speaker series in October, focusing on dignity. 

On Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. in the College’s Mary Chapel, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry ’84 will deliver an address focused on calling. Perry is the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, a position that oversees a diocese of 77 congregations in the southeastern region of Michigan. She has been active working to address racial justice, LGBTQIA+ inclusion and gun violence. 

The speaker series will continue with addresses by Natalia Imperatori-Lee, department chair and professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, on Feb. 23, 2023, and Emily Reimer-Barry, associate professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, on March 23, 2023.