"Too Small a World": Catholic Sisters as Global Missionaries

Location: McKenna Hall, Notre Dame Conference Center

​About the Conference​

Tsaw Cabrini Web

It is a remarkable story: over the course of the last four centuries, hundreds of thousands of vowed Catholic women left their home countries to travel to all corners of the world, where they built and served schools, hospitals, and other institutions, and where they encountered local situations often far different than what they had imagined—experiences that in turn shaped the futures of their orders both at home and abroad. 

In 1887, a future canonized saint, the Italian-born and American-naturalized Frances Xavier Cabrini summed up missionary sisters’ informal creed, writing that “the world is too small to limit ourselves to one point; I want to embrace it entirely and to reach all its parts.” Cabrini, who named herself after another great missionary saint, was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, a congregation that established missions in the United States, Europe, South America, and eventually Africa, Australia, and China. The study of missionary sisters embraces Cabrini’s boundless ambition as well as the practical and cultural constraints that shaped the outcomes of her and others’ journeys. In honor of the centenary of Cabrini’s death, an international group of scholars gathers to investigate the transnational work and shifting identities of Catholic sisters as global missionaries, asking how the study of these border-crossing women, organized into multinational structures, can help all historians enter into the global history of Catholicism.

Sessions begin​ at 12:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 6 with a plenary address in McKenna Hall, and the conference concludes​ on Saturday, April 8 with an optional bus trip to and from the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago (4:30 p.m. anticipated return to South Bend). All panels and keynotes, as well as ​a Friday ​banquet, will take place on Notre Dame’s campus.

Funding for this conference has been provided by the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, Henkels Lecture Series, University of Notre Dame. 



View the symposium schedule here.



The general registration fee is $75. The fee for non-Notre Dame graduate students is $50. Registration is FREE for symposium presenters as well as faculty, staff, and students of Notre Dame, St. Mary's College, and Holy Cross College. Registration is required for anyone wishing to participate in meals or to visit the Shrine.

Continental breakfast will be provided Friday and Saturday morning at the Conference Center. Registrants will also have the opportunity to sign up for: 

  • meals from lunch on Thursday through lunch on Saturday (including Friday's banquet dinner at no additional charge);
  • reception on Friday at St. Mary's College;
  • transportation to and from the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago on Saturday.

Registration is now closed.  Please contact Pete Hlabse (phlabse@nd.edu) with any questions.



A block of rooms is being held at the Morris Inn (located on campus, directly across the street from the Conference Center) for the nights of April 5, 6, 7, and 8. The single or double rate is $169/night (does not include breakfast). Please contact the hotel directly at 574-631-2000 to make a reservation.  When calling, please indicate you are with the "Missionary Sisters - Too Small a World" symposium.