October Workshop: Racism and Restorative Justice in Catholic Institutions
On Saturday, October 10 we held our second restorative justice workshop. Dr. Shannen Dee Williams (Villanova University) and Sr. Melinda Pellerin (Springfield) discussed racism within Catholic institutions, historical truth telling, and practical reparations necessary to move forward. This workshop also discussed antiracism work within the Charism and attendees left with a concrete and historically informed plan of action.
Speakers: Dr. Shannen Dee Williams (Villanova University) and Sr. Melinda Pellerin (Springfield)
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert Lepage Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University. A historian of the African American experience with research and teaching specializations in women’s, religious, and black freedom movement history, Williams is completing her first book, Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, with Duke University Press.
Dr. Williams’s research been supported by a host of fellowships, grants, and awards, including a Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Fellowship in Religion and Ethics from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, a Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical Association, the Huggins-Quarles Award from the Organization of America Historians, and the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association. Her work has been published in the Journal of African American History, American Catholic Studies, America Magazine, the National Catholic Reporter, the Catholic News Service, and Religion Dispatches.
A public advocate for Catholic historical truth telling and reparative justice for slavery and segregation, Dr. Williams received the Mary Magdalene Award from the Southeast Pennsylvania chapter of the Women’s Ordination Conference in 2020 for her intellectual work in helping to amplify the voices of black Catholic women and girls in church history. In 2018, Williams received the inaugural Sister Christine Schenk Award for Young Catholic Leadership from FutureChurch for using history to foster racial justice and reconciliation in religious congregations of women.
Sr. Melinda Pellerin
Sister Melinda Adrienne Pellerin, the oldest daughter of Mary M. (Melancon) Pellerin and Robert Pellerin Jr. deceased, was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sr. Melinda has a BA in History and Social Sciences with a minor in secondary education, a Masters in Educational Technology and will probably be resuming her certificate in Addiction Counseling in the fall at Westfield State University.
Sr. Melinda is currently a Pastoral Minister at Holy Name Parish in Springfield and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was a Chaplain at the Women’s Jail in Chicopee, Mass. As a public school teacher, Sr. Melinda received numerous awards, including the Distinguished High School Teacher Award in 2003 and was Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 2004. She was also responsible for an interdisciplinary project “African American History and French Culture in the Ivory Coast” that was presented to Massachusetts’ U.S. Sen. Kennedy, superintendents across the country, and their grant is now located in the U.S. Library of Congress.
Sr. Melinda is a vowed member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph since October 2019 and is the first Black vowed member of the congregation. She is most proud that she is a member of the National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) as a board member. Sr. Melinda lecturers on African American History, the contributions of Black Catholics in the church, and topics related to Black Lives Matter (BLM), and racism in America. She has also presented and lectured on a number of subjects related to race in American society and the positive effects of technology on inner city public schools.
In 2004, she contributed to a book called Why We Teach by Professor Sonia Nieto for educators, Chapter four. The Chapter highlights who influenced her vocation to teach. In July 2019, she also gave a presentation for the Diocese of Bridgeport titled “Race and the Catholic Church.”