In October 2016, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, received a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for a research and to host three African women religious over three years as Visiting Scholars. ASEC is partnered with CARA to recruitment the sister scholars and engage them in research opportunities, including over one week at its Scranton, PA, office.
Sr. Bibiana M. Ngundo, LSOSF, Ph.D., arrived in the US in January to begin her six-month term as the inaugural CARA Visiting Scholar. Sr. Bibiana is faculty and chairperson of the department of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. She has published research on African culture, religious, religious life, and the interaction of culture and religion.
ASEC welcomed Visiting Scholar Sr. Bibiana, LSOSF, Ph.D., during the week of March 6 to 10, 2017. The week offered a space for collaborative exchange between ASEC Staff and Sr. Bibiana, as a sister scholar. Sr. Bibiana worked closely with staff to offer perspective on the implementation of the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) and Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) programs. She also offered key recommendations to hone ASEC’s evaluative surveys for delivery to women religious in Africa.
Reflecting on her visit to ASEC headquarters in Scranton, PA, Sr. Bibiana commented,
"My entire experience here at ASEC has been that of friendship, growth and understanding and knowledge. I have come to understand so much about ASEC that I didn't know before."
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Support for the Visiting Scholar program fulfills ASEC’s goal to disseminate research on and by Catholic Sisters in Africa through its Research Initiative. ASEC’s role in the Visiting Scholar program is recruit the sister scholars utilizing its network of partner colleges, universities, and conferences of women religious in the 10 countries it serves, as well as to host them for one week and offer emergent opportunities for research.
“I am adding to my knowledge in terms of research because the place I teach there is emphasis on research, on teaching and community service and so, research is one of the areas I really emphasis at the university and ASEC is also entering into it, and so I am particularly interested in research,” Sr. Bibiana said of her experience.
Scholarly research on Catholic women religious in Africa is sparse and there are significant gaps in the literature. It is the vision of ASEC, CARA, and the Hilton Foundation, that more sister scholars in Africa can expand opportunities for sisters in academia and increase understanding of their unique experience. Already, Sr. Bibiana is sharing her skills with sisters studying at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and standing as an aspirational figure to sisters on the campus.
“I read their projects, I read their research, even if they have their directors. They bring them to me, I read for them, I help them. I give them suggestions. They ask me questions even on academic life,” she explained.
Sr. Bibiana will continue her term at CARA through July 2016, and a new visiting scholar will selected for January 2017. ASEC will continue working with CARA to support the program through 2019 and plans to continuously engage alumnae in research on the project.
Sr. Bibiana also contributed a chapter, “Indigenous African Women’s Religious Congregations: Their Foundation and Impact on Evangelization in Kenya with Reference to Nyeri Archdiocese” to ASEC’s 2015 publication Voices of Courage: Historical, Socio-cultural, an educational Journeys of Women Religious in East and Central Africa.
Learn more about the Visiting Scholar Program and other ASEC research initiatives.