Sisters Endow Chair in Theology at St. Michael’s
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto have donated $2.5 million to establish a Chair in Systematic Theology at St. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto.
“Our gift to St. Michael’s is intended to convey our continuing commitment to Catholic post-secondary education,” said Sr. Margaret Myatt, CSJ Congregational Leader, pictured at right with Margaret O’Gara.
At St. Michael’s celebration of the inauguration of this Chair at the York Club on September 28, Sr. Margaret quoted from an early account of the beginning of St. Joseph’s College which described the endeavours of the Loretto Sisters, the Basilian Fathers and the Sisters of St. Joseph to achieve equality for women in education: “… permission was given by the University in October 1911…to have lectures given at St. Joseph’s and Loretto Colleges. The priests taught religious knowledge, ethics and logic; while English, French, German and Latin were taught by the Sisters… as late as the 1920s it was not considered feasible for ‘the weaker sex’ to study psychology or systematic theology.”
With the closing of St. Joseph’s College, the Sisters sought a way of maintaining this long-running CSJ partnership with the University of St. Michael’s College and the concept of this Chair offered that opportunity.
“This moment in history will continue the legacy of our Sisters who in the early 1900s established our ministry in postgraduate education. Which ministry, by the way, is actively continued today by Professors Ellen Leonard and Mechtilde O’Mara,” she said.
President of the University of St. Michael’s College, Dr. Richard Alway, was quoted in a press release as saying, “We are so pleased by this extraordinary act of generosity on the part of the Sisters. Through this gift, they have chosen to continue, in a new way, to make a major contribution to this University in an area of the highest importance for our future and for the future of the Church.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto played a leading role in gaining access to University of Toronto degrees for women and in the integration of women and men students at St. Michael’s. Sisters contributed as students and professors at the Toronto School of Theology.
The first professor to hold the chair will be Catholic Theological Society of America president Margaret O’Gara. In an article in the Catholic Register of Sept. 30, 2007, Ms. O’Gara said, “I’m very struck that they (the Sisters) have decided to use their resources this way. This is really a commitment to this faculty.”
All photos by Steve Frost, Frost Photographic