Scranton Alumna Receives Arrupe Award

    The University of Scranton presented its annual Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministry to alumna Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Ph.D., ’93, ’G93, the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, at a ceremony on campus April 11.From left: Ryan Sheehan, J.D., assistant director of The Jesuit Center; Cathy Seymour, campus minister for social justice; Dr. Cummings; Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., president of The University of Scranton; Roy Domenico, Ph.D., professor of history; and Rev. Patrick Rogers, S.J., executive director of The Jesuit Center.
    April 16, 2019

    Three days after the public release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Commonwealth, The New York Times published an opinion column about the findings by University alumna Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Ph.D., ’93, ’G93, the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame.

    The “masterful opinion article captured so well what I and so many other Catholics were feeling in that moment,” said University of Scranton President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., who presented Dr. Cummings with the University’s Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministry Award at a ceremony on campus April 11.

    “(B)eyond the righteous anger channeled in your words you did something more. You spoke to the holiness that yet abides in the church and always will … You also offered words of example for how the church could speak to the shaken faithful and to souls shattered by the sins of abuse and complicity,” said Father Pilarz at the ceremony. He said that her New York Times column was among the inspirations for the University’s formation of the Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation and Hope.

    “We are proud today to shine the light on the magnificent work you have done throughout your scholarly career and, most recently, for the voice you give to us all in a dark hour,” said Father Pilarz.

    A well-respected scholar who has written extensively on gender and the ways in which women have shaped American Catholic history, Dr. Cummings also frequently appears as a media commentator on contemporary events in the Church, such as NBC’s live coverage of the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, and Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States. Her books include the recently published “A Saint of Our Own: How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American” and “New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era,” which won three 2009 Catholic Press Association Awards.

    At the ceremony, Dr. Cummings spoke fondly of her years at Scranton, of the friendships made and of the “transformative” influence of her professors and mentors, such as Susan Poulson, Ph.D.; Rev. Ronald McKinney, S.J.; E. Springs Steele, Ph.D., Stephen Whittaker, Ph.D.; and William Parente, Ph.D. Dr. Cummings also spoke of Rev. Bernard McIlhenny, who admitted her to the University and encouraged her to enroll in its Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program. She thanked him for seeing “something in a 17-year-old girl that she could not see in herself and for guiding her to a place that would teach her again and again how to pay careful attention to the moments when God might be calling her to seek more.”

    “Jesuits, and those who boast about having been educated by them, are not placeholders. We’re not wardens of established norms, but those who continue to ask difficult questions about our world, about justice and peace, and about what it means to be a human being. It was the principles I internalized during my four years here more than anything else that transformed me from a person who hid behind books into a person who writes them; from a girl who struggled to find her voice into a woman who tries to use that voice to amplify the voices silenced in the past and the present by sexism, misogyny and by injustice,” said Dr. Cummings.

    The Arrupe Award is named in honor of the late Very Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983, and is intended to further his vision by recognizing men and women for outstanding contributions in a wide variety of Ignatian-inspired ministries. The University instituted the annual Arrupe Award in 1995.

    The citation of Dr. Cumming’s Arrupe Award reads in part: “Dr. Cummings has dedicated her life to deepening our understanding of what it means to be Catholic and has provided us with an example of how to live up to our responsibility as a Catholic university dedicated to the pursuit of faith and justice and the search for truth.”

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