When the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg founded Marian College in Indianapolis in 1937, they realized their vision of a rigorous, exemplary liberal arts education for women focused on empowering its students to effect positive and enduring change in the world. At a time in our nation’s history when most women were denied the formal educational opportunities available to men, Marian College fostered the development of transformative women leaders. The Sisters’ stated resolve “to do the best that can be done” in building the school informed the institution’s fundamental understanding of its academic mission: “Marian College endeavors to permeate every aspect of its curriculum with the spirit of Franciscan joy, so that its students…may contribute constructively to the home, the Church, the civic community, and the world.” Since its inception, a Marian education developed leaders intent on improving the lives of others. From their strength as a community they provided a model of collaborative, inspiring leadership dedicated to the realization of a more just and equitable world through academic excellence and social responsibility.
This project is a collection of oral histories delivered by numerous Sisters of St. Francis. While discussing their own personal histories, they also provide a deep and genuine insight of life and service "in community", at their convent in Oldenburg, Indiana. The goal of this collection is to preserve their legacy so that it may be applied across curriculums that include models of leadership, service, and international relations.
Note: Interviews were conducted by Professor Mary Ellen Lennon between 2014-2016. Processing of the audio and transcription content was performed by Hackelmeier Memorial Library staff. Loose transcriptions were based on guidelines established by Baylor University. Record bibliographic structure was inspired by the Jefferson Digital Commons First Women at TJU collection. Use of Oldenburg convent images were kindly granted by Beverly Wilson at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center. Photographs were generously provided by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and Marian University faculty member Bill Foley.
Mary Ellen Lennon Ph.D.
In this interview, Sister Noreen McLaughlin relates her experience growing up in New Albany, Indiana, and her vocation to Oldenburg with a specialization in nursing and healthcare. Sr. Noreen goes on to describe her calling to the Sisters' important mission work in Papua New Guinea, beginning in 1960. She provides extensive detail into her (and the three accompanying Sisters) work in issues of cultural sensitivity and exchange, as well as the political and social change experienced and resulting from the Sisters involvement.
This interview was conducted over multiple sessions between August and September, 2014.
Mary Ellen Lennon Ph.D.
In this two part interview, Sr. Ruthann Boyle discusses her calling in high school to the Sisters of Saint Francis by way of encouragement from her family and numerous religious sisters in Beech Grove, Indiana. Her first duty as a sister was to work as a teacher in places such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Montana with the Crow Indians, the latter experience becoming important preparation for her work as a second grade teacher in Papua New Guinea. Sr. Boyle also recalls her time in Papua New Guinea, fulfilling what was once her mother’s dream, working as a Christian missionary helping others in a unique land and culture. She describes how she taught both genders in a society that had significant gender inequality and her job as a curriculum advisor, working with the Huli people to “open their world so they could learn more about God.” In the second segment, Sr. Boyle discusses how she aided in redesigning the sisters’ veils, wrote booklets for postulants, and created new Christian communities through the recruitment of new sisters in Papua New Guinea.