BY KELLY SWAN | May 17, 2017
“Like the early Sisters of Notre Dame who established Trinity Washington University, [Patricia McGuire] has pursued the mission of Trinity with steadfast courage. She has stayed oriented toward the north star of our mission—faith doing justice.”
These remarks from Dr. Camilla Burns, SNDdeN, distinguished professor of religious studies at Trinity Washington University, at the Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award event highlight both McGuire’s commitment as president to the historical and ongoing mission of Trinity Washington University to educate women who do not otherwise have access to higher education, and McGuire’s embodiment of the mission of Jesuit education since her time as a student at Georgetown Law.
The Holstein Award was established in 2009 to honor individuals nationally each year who have demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
The award’s namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former California Province Jesuit, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social justice, and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ)—the precursor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Previous honorees include Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Chancellor of Loyola University Chicago; Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., President, Catholic Health Association; Rev. James L. Connor, S.J., former President, U.S. Jesuit Conference; and Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., anti-death penalty activist.
At the May 10 event, held in Washington D.C. at Gonzaga College High School, Burns articulated McGuire’s success at Trinity Washington University, founded in 1897—chronicling McGuire’s work as the first lay president of the university, “taking a faltering institution and reanimating it” by expanding upon the original mission, reaching out “to those young women who still have limited access to higher education by opening the doors of Trinity to black and Hispanic women.”
“The Sisters of Notre Dame have always had education as a primary focus of ministry,” shared Burns. “We say the following in our constitutions: ‘We work with others to transform unjust structures and systems as we participate in creating new ways of relating which enables all to experience more fully the goodness of God.’ How applicable this is to Trinity as it works to transform the unjust structures of racism and discrimination in our society and create new ways of inviting others to experience the goodness of God. . . . As an institution, Trinity continues to express our charism because Pat McGuire has embodied it in her own life.”
Brenda Alonso, a Trinity Dreamer Scholar and a member of the class of 2018, shared her experience as a student at Trinity. She spoke of McGuire’s presence in the lives of the student body as a role model and voice for women’s empowerment and equality. “She is a passionate advocate for students,” shared Alonso. “She is committed to making a college education accessible and affordable. She is a fierce advocate for economic justice and social justice. She is a respected leader who is not afraid to speak out on issues that matter.”
Alonso went on to speak of McGuire’s willingness to establish Trinity as one of the first partners with TheDream.us scholarship program. “She had the option to say no, but she said yes. She said yes when TheDream.us scholarship program asked Trinity to be one of their very first partners. She said yes when Trinity accepted us, and she welcomed us into the Trinity sisterhood. She believes in us.”
Patricia O’Brien, SNDdeN, chair of the Trinity Washington University board of trustees, affirmed McGuire as a leader. “Over the years she has developed a national profile and is well respected as a leader in higher education . . . a voice for students who are typically not well represented . . . for accessibility, for affordability, and for what schools need to do to help students whose lives are very challenging to succeed in a college environment.”
Christopher Kerr, ISN executive director, remarked to attendees that “by lifting up the story of Bob Holstein, by celebrating Pat’s leadership and contributions to the good work of justice—you are part of our work,” connecting the shared mission of Trinity Washington University and ISN, at the intersection of faith and work for justice.
Kelly Swan has served as communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.