Dedication of the Helen Boyle Memorial Archive in Honor of Joan D. Chittister, OSB

The Helen Boyle Memorial Archive in Honor of Joan D. Chittister, OSB is now open! It is located at Mercyhurst University in the Hammermill Library. Among the displays of photos and archival materials are copies of the 50 books authored by Sister Joan and a number of her hand-written journals. The room also includes a 70 inch screen to allow for an interactive experience. Dr. Mary Hembrow-Snyder, Director of the Center for Mercy & Catholic Studies at the university explained, “The screen allows guests to view information about Sister Joan’s books and her blogs and even watch videos of her lectures.” Oblate Jo Clarke visited the archive room and shared, “This is incredible. The interactive screen is amazing. It is technology at its best and very easy to access. The entire room is just beautiful.”

As part of the day of dedication, the first talk of the Joan D. Chittister Lecture series at Mercyhurst was given by Tom Roberts, editor at large of the National Catholic Reporter. “I felt the weight of the request to be the one to give this inaugural talk,” he said. “I met Sister Joan in 1997. She is an author with numerous awards and honors. She is a world traveler. She has stretched the imagination regarding the image of God . . . . from God as a trophy to God as cosmic unity and everlasting light.”

Following Tom’s talk Sister Joan offered brief remarks. She first expressed gratitude for Helen Boyle in whose memory the archive is named. “Helen Boyle was a visionary . . . . a saint of our times . . . a bridge builder who seeded my future . . .” she said. “Everything we do changes the future, not the past. We all have a responsibility to do this.”

In explaining why an archive is so important Sister Joan was clear: “Life must be lived forward but we can only understand it backwards . . . an archive holds the key to the imagination that drove [the work] it preserves and the results that evolved.” She expressed her gratitude for the archive as well: “Thank you ─ that a woman’s history be kept for women ─ that we might seek what they sought and do it better [for] an archive exposes . . . . the lighthouse and the hermit cave where old ideas are kept and new ideas can begin.”

Sister Joan’s archive is a collaborative effort of Penn State University, Mercyhurst University and Mount St. Benedict Monastery. The Eberly Family Special Collections library at Penn State is the chief repository of Sister Joan's material with both Mercyhurst and Mount St. Benedict having permanent archive rooms with access to Sister Joan’s books, articles and memorabilia for study, research, enrichment and inspiration. “This three-way partnership that we share with Mercyhurst and Penn State is a unique way to present and share Joan’s literary achievements with a broad audience,” said Sister Anne Wambach, prioress. “Nothing could please us more than to bring this dream to fruition and to celebrate the giftedness of a woman we call sister ─ a woman who embodies a vision of peace and justice that inspires and challenges all of us to do the same. Thank you, Joan!”

[Click on the arrow to view a picture slideshow capturing celebrative moments of the archive dedication festivities.]

Jacqueline Esposito (Penn State University Archivist) explains the purpose of the Joan D. Chittister Archive in a video by Dana Massing, produced by Matt Mead, both of Erie Times News.

Sister Joan Chittister responds to the dedication of the Helen Boyle Memorial Archive in Honor of Joan D. Chittister, OSB in an interview with Paul Wagner, WICU/WSEE news reporter.

Read the News Article by Dana Massing, Erie Times News, highlighting the archive dedication.