Call for Papers: “Too Small a World”: Catholic Sisters as Global Missionaries

Author: Heather Gary

The Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and the Conference on the History of Women Religious are pleased to announce an upcoming international symposium, “'Too Small a World': Catholic Sisters as Global Missionaries" scheduled for April 6-8, 2017, at the University of Notre Dame. 

The Call for Papers is below, and the CFP flyer can be downloaded here. The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2016.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini wrote in 1887 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 both Cabrini’s boundless ambition as well as the practical and cultural constraints that have shaped the actual outcomes of her and others’ journeys. In honor of the centenary of Cabrini’s death, we invite paper and panel proposals on Catholic sisters as global missionaries.

By virtue of their multinational structures, women’s religious congregations offer a particularly fruitful way to study the global history of the church. At this symposium, an international group of scholars will consider the remarkable story of how, 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 in 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.

Scholars are invited to submit proposals for papers that explore missionary sisters from a variety of disciplines and approaches, including history, education, religious studies, gender studies, sociology, and media studies. We encourage scholars to consider global missionary sisters in different times and places, and are especially interested in proposals that explore the following themes: transnational mission; sisters’ understanding of the natural world as they traveled to and lived in mission territory; sisters’ use of changing technology (for example, travel, communication, and medical technology) over time; and the development and recent re-evaluation of the concept of mission.

Individual papers or panel proposals of 500 words, accompanied by a one-page CV for each participant, should be sent to by May 15, 2016. Please direct questions to or 574-631-5441.

Visit for conference information.