Mary Schmidt Lecture, 2023
The Uncommon Faithfulness of Henriette Delille
Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, Ph. D.
Theologian Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, from the Department of Theology and the Program in African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College, will present “The Uncommon Faithfulness of Henriette Delille” during the 2023 Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture at Seton Hill University. The lecture will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 13, 2023 at Cecilian Hall in the Administration Building. The lecture is free and open to the public.
The life of Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans, Louisiana, will be the focus of the lecture. Henriette was born a free woman of color in 1812 and, despite obstacles, she founded the second Black religious order in the United States. Her deep faith led her to reject social expectation and centered on building a congregation of women religious dedicated to caring for the sick, helping the poor, and instructing both free and enslaved children and adults, in the name of Jesus Christ and the Church. The Sisters of the Holy Family, building on the legacy of Henriette Delille, have expanded their ministries in education, healthcare, social service, and pastoral ministry for more than 175 years. In 1921, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill volunteered to provide a teaching school for the Sisters of the Holy Family when Jim Crow laws prevented the sisters from continuing vital educational ministries for children of color throughout the South. This relationship blossomed into a 100-year long friendship of mutual respect and collaboration.
Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, Professor emerita, taught in the Department of Theology at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where she earned her a Ph. D. in 1991. Dr. Copeland is an internationally recognized, award-winning writer and scholar. She is the author, editor, and/or co-editor of eight books including Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Religious Experience (2018), Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being (2010), and The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille (2009), as well as 135 articles, book chapters, and essays on spirituality, theological anthropology, political theology, social suffering, gender, and race. In the current 2022-2023 academic year, Professor Copeland serves as the Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at Saint John’s University, Queens, New York.
In 2004, Archbishop Alfred Hughes of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, appointed Dr. Copeland to the Theological Commission established to evaluate the writings of Venerable Henriette Delille.
Dr. Copeland explains Mother Henriette “exemplifies what it means to live a life of faith through freedom and solidaristic service to others, by striving to realize the radical potential of grace to live in uncommon faithfulness.”
The Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture Series is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and Seton Hill University in order to support the Catholic identity of Seton Hill University; engage the Sisters of Charity and Seton Hill University in learning and dialogue on timely topics of social and environmental justice with global impact; and develop an understanding of Catholic Social Teachings and how they pertain to this dialogue.
Sister Mary Schmidt, SC, served as president of Seton Hill from 1971 through 1977. She also taught in the English Department at the University for more than 20 years and served as executive vice president and the director of Alumnae Relations.
Seton Hill University, Greensburg, is a leading Catholic coeducational liberal arts university founded by the Sisters of Charity and embracing students of all faiths. Seton Hill offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the Natural and Health Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, Business, Education and Applied Social Sciences and Humanities and is committed to educating its more than 2,000 students to “think and act critically, creatively and ethically as productive members of society committed to transforming the world.” As a national leader in incorporating mobile technologies into teaching and learning, Seton Hill also supplies graduates with the skills they need to adapt to whatever careers they choose. For more information on Seton Hill’s academic programs and technology initiatives, please visit www.setonhill.edu or call 1-800-826-6234.