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Benedictine Sisters Elect 16th Prioress

The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago elected Sister Judith Murphy, OSB to serve as the monastery’s 16th Prioress for the next four years. While a prioress election may not normally make the news, it offers a window into the lesser known history of Catholic women’s leadership that has flourished in monasteries and convents across the globe and is becoming an increasingly powerful network for social change. “Catholic women’s leadership is rarely discussed but it has been critical in shaping church and society,” said Sister Judith Murphy, OSB, the newly elected Prioress. “It is an honor to be part of a monastic tradition where women’s leadership is not only valued, but has been a reality for approximately 1,500 years of Benedictine history. Today’s women religious, living in collaborative communities, carry those collegial principles into their work from which the local church and society benefit.” Sister Judith is a key example of how Catholic women have risen to high levels of leadership, while remaining rooted in principles of collaboration and diversity. For twenty years she served at St. Scholastica Academy as teacher, dean, principal, and president. In 1996 she helped found the first Cristo Rey school in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. This success of the school’s work with low-income students led to the founding of two other Cristo Rey schools in the area and others around the country. She served as principal until 2001; she was later invited to serve as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University. She returned, working with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as part of its Chicago High School Redesign Initiative to create smaller, better-serving schools in the public system. It was this collaborative effort between CPS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other foundations that resulted in significantly higher graduation rates. Most recently, she served as Consultant for Board Formation in the Catholic Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools. There, she helps create diverse school boards to ensure solid business practices support Catholic schools. “Throughout my years of ministry as a Catholic woman, I have learned that women’s equal leadership—and equal leadership from a diverse range of people—is key to successful outcomes not only in education, but in church and society.” Sister Judith’s term will begin in June. Congratulations, Sister Judith!

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