By: Kristen Whitney Daniels

Archivists and leaders from across the U.S. and Canadian Federations of the Sisters of St. Joseph.Last week archivists, historians, and leaders convened on the Boston College campus to discuss the major issues surrounding Catholic archives across the world. Meeting from July 11-July 13, the "Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" conference gave various groups a chance to exchange ideas and best practices while stressing the importance of preserving the future of Catholic religious.

According to the conference committee, this type of conference is a first of it's kind for Catholic religious archives. The conference included presentations, discussion groups, and break-out sessions that helped tailor the conference to each individual's concerns and interests. Note-takers were present at each session and table during break-out sessions to ensure that unique ideas were recorded. The conference's main goal was to be a "working conference," allowing archivists, historians, and leaders ample opportunity to use their expertise to spark new conversations surrounding a variety of topics.

One of the most important and central questions posed during the conference came from Kathryn Oosterhuis, archivist of the Mercy Heritage Center of the Americas. During her presentation, Oosterhuis posed the question "What do we want our legacy to be?" Continuing, she reminded the audience that archives are a key part of religious communities' enduring legacy.   

Mary Kosta (In Canada), Sr. Mary Rita Grady (Boston), Sr. Jane Behlmann (St. Louis- Carondelet) and Virginia Dowd (Brentwood) talk best practices.The conference included plenty of input and participation from the Sisters of St. Joseph family from both the U.S. and Canada. Attendees were first greeted by Carol Coburn, Ph.D., the director of the CSJ Center for Heritage, Spirituality, and Service at Avila University. Lisa Gibbon, archivist for the Congregation of St. Joseph, hosted a lightning round about the creation of collaborative and charism-based archives.  Coburn also spoke during the lightning round offering her perspective on the importance of congregational and community histories.

Members of the CSSJ family also in attendance were: Sr. Jane Behlmann, archivist for the St. Louis- Carondelet province; Virginia Dowd, archivist for the Brentwood congregation; Sherry M. Enserro, archivist for the Springfield congregation; Sr. Mary Rita Grady, archivist for the Boston congregation; Sr. Patty Johnson, director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph; Mary Kosta, archivist for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada; Adonna Thompson, archivist for the Martha Smith, CSJ, Ph.D. Archives and Research Center, which houses the U.S. Federation's archives; Kathleen Washy, archivist for the Baden congregation; and Kristen Whitney Daniels, the assistant director of the U.S. Federation.

In the coming months, the conference hopes to release a "white paper" regarding best practices for Catholic archives. Using the notes from the discussion groups and presentations, conference committee members will utilize the input "to flesh out a national, even global strategy for preserving and providing access to the precious archival heritage of Catholic religious congregations and communities," according to conference staff. The white paper is expected to be available to the public following its release.

[Kristen Whitney Daniels is the assistant executive director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph]