West Side Sisters

rosaryThe Sisters of St. Mary of Namur have lived and served in the West Side of Buffalo since 1887.  Many of the current sisters joined as teenagers and have lived their whole lives as part of this religious community.  As nuns, their lives have been defined by their gender and yet they have had chances to stretch beyond their generation’s gender roles.  Jonathan David Lawrence’s presentation, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 26th from 1—2pm in Ketchum Hall, will include video clips from interviews with the sisters and commentary on changes in their ministry, their neighborhood, and our wider society. Sister Patricia Brady, SSMN, will join us for a discussion after the film.

On their website, the Sisters explain their origins in 19th century Belgium and how they came to live and work in Western New York:

“From the origins of our congregation in Belgium, a missionary call sounded in the hearts of the members. This led Mother Claire to send the early sisters from Belgium to forge new beginnings in immigrant communities of America in 1863. Our first ministries brought us to Lockport, NY, north of Buffalo where teaching became our primary work. Five sisters arrived from Belgium to establish Catholic schools within the flourishing immigrant community of Lockport.”

In the 20th century, the mission of the Sisters focused largely on poverty and social justice issues in the city of Buffalo and beyond. They now have ministries in several southern states, and have expanded to Africa, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Lawrence’s lecture promises to provide a window into a way of life that most of us are completely unfamiliar with and show how these women are working to serve their community. Prof. Lawrence has been a faculty member in the Religious Studies and Theology Department at Canisius College since 2005.  He is interim pastor of a United Church of Christ Congregation and recently served as president of Buffalo’s Network of Religious Communities.  He conducts ethnographic research on Buffalo’s diverse religious communities and is developing a web archive on the topic.

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