At the beginning of his ministry in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus announced: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore, [God] has anointed me… sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19).
Celebrating her Golden Jubilee as a Dominican Sister of Peace, Sister Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, recalls that Jesus’ preaching mission is at the heart of the Dominican vocation, a call shared by all of the baptized to bear witness to the joy of the Gospel. For Sr. Catherine that vocation has included ministries as teacher, preacher, and theologian.
A native of Akron, OH, Sr. Catherine attended St. Sebastian Grade School and St. Vincent High School before joining the Dominican Sisters of Akron, OH, now Dominican Sisters of Peace. After earning a B.A. degree from the University of Dayton, she taught Religious Studies and English and served as co-chair of the Religious Studies Department at St. Vincent (later St. Vincent-St. Mary) High School in Akron from 1971-1977.
After pursuing graduate studies in theology at the Catholic University of America (M.A., 1979; Ph.D. 1984), Sr. Catherine joined the faculty at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis as Assistant (and later Associate) Professor of Theology, teaching courses for students preparing for lay and ordained ministries. In 1995 she moved to the University of Notre Dame where she is currently Professor of Theology and teaches undergraduate as well as graduate students.
A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Sr. Catherine has received three honorary doctorates (Providence College, Aquinas Institute of Theology, and Oblate School of Theology) and a number of awards for her scholarship and teaching including Washington Theological Union’s Sophia Award for Theological Excellence in service of ministry, Barry University’s Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence, and the Kaneb and Joyce Awards for undergraduate teaching at Notre Dame. In addition to numerous articles, Sr. Catherine is the author of two books, Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination, and Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today, and co-editor of The Praxis of the Reign of God: An Introduction to the Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx. Currently, she is working on a book titled Words of Spirit and Life: Theology, Preaching and Spirituality.
Sr. Catherine has been invited to preach as well as to lecture and give workshops in Catholic and ecumenical contexts in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa. In each of those different locations, she has discovered a common longing for meaning and hope and a desire to hear the Word of God spoken in a way that addresses people’s concrete lives and concerns. She is grateful that the Dominican Sisters of Peace and their Associates are part of the larger international Dominican family—women and men, lay, religious, and ordained —all sharing a common mission to preach a word of hope and to bear witness to God’s reign of justice, peace, and joy throughout the world.