Pat ReifThe annual Pat Reif Memorial Lectureship was created in 2002 in honor of Patricia A. Reif, IHM, PhD. A scholar, educator, and activist, Reif taught philosophy and chaired the graduate department in religious studies at Immaculate Heart College. In 1984 she founded the MA program in feminist spirituality at Immaculate Heart College Center. Active in many social justice issues, including domestic abuse, poverty, immigration, welfare rights, and the anti-nuclear movement, Reif co-founded the Interfaith Hunger Coalition and the Southern California Interfaith Task Force on Central America (SCITCA).

The funding of the Patricia A. Reif Memorial Lecture Fund is a joint effort of CGU, the Immaculate Heart Community, the Immaculate Heart College Alumnae Board, the Immaculate Heart College Center, the MSMC Religious Studies Department, and the MSMC Office of the Graduate Dean. The lecture fund is dedicated to advancing the ideals she represented.


20th Anniversary Pat Reif Memorial Lecture

“America’s Real Sister Act: The Hidden History of Black Catholic Nuns in the United States”

Join us for a special talk with Dr. Shannen Dee Williams. For most people, Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act is the dominant interpretation of an African American nun and the desegregation of white Catholic sisterhood in the United States. In this talk, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams will explore the story of America’s real sister act: the story of how generations of Black women and girls called to the sacred vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience fought against racism, sexism, and exclusion to become and minster as consecrated women of God in the Roman Catholic Church. In so doing, she will turn attention to women’s religious life as a stronghold of white supremacy and racial segregation, and thus an important battleground in the long African American freedom struggle.

Shannen Dee Williams, PhD

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dayton. A historian of the African American experience with research and teaching specializations in women’s, religious and Black freedom movement history, Williams is the author of Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, which was published by Duke University Press in May 2022.

Dr. Williams’s research is supported by a host of fellowships, grants & awards, including a Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Fellowship in Religion and Ethics from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, an Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical Association and the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association. She has been published in the Journal of African American History, American Catholic Studies, the Washington Post, America Magazine, and the National Catholic Reporter. A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Dr. Williams also authors the award-winning column, “The Griot’s Cross,” published by the Catholic News Service.

Monday, October 17, 2022 | 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM PDT
Albrecht Auditorium and Live-streaming
RSVP Required
*After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting virtually. Included will be a Zoom link with the event’s passcode. Please save the confirmation email to join the event.

Contact: Janice Poss, Pat Reif Memorial Lecture Coordinator, at for more information.

This event is free and open to the public.

Past Speakers

  • (2021) Valarie Kaur, Revolutionary Love: Seeing No Stranger
  • (2020) Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Chicago Theological Seminary, The Information Apocalypse is Here: Our current technology rewards information that is false or misleading, corrupting thought and debasing society. How can we fight back?
  • (2019) Kim R. Harris, Loyola Marymount University, Welcome Table: Liturgical Justice Through Sacred Song
  • (2018) Kwok Pui Lan, Emory University, Metaphor, Moral Reasoning, and Women’s Protest Movements
  • (2017) María Pilar Aquino, University of San Diego
  • (2016) Ivy Nallammah Josiah, You Can’t Beat a Woman: Violence at Home and Violence by the State
  • (2015) Margaret Farley, Yale University Divinity School, Gender, Sexuality, and Ethics: New Perspectives
  • (2014) Lisa Isherwood, University of Wales
  • (2013) Amy-Jill Levine, Hartford International University for Religion & Peace
  • (2012) Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock, Saving Paradise: Moral Conscience, Beauty, and the Glory of Humanity
  • (2011) Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana
  • (2010) Riffat Hassan, University of Louisville & Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo, Pitzer College, A Praxis of Social Transformation: The Feminist Scholar as Activist
  • (2009) Ivone Gebara, the Brazilian Sister of Notre Dame, Happiness and the Construction of Right Relationship – A Feminist Perspective Feminism & Religious Identities
  • (2008) Venerable Dhammananda (Ven. Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh), Path to Ordination of Women in Buddhism: Challenges and Opportunities
  • (2007) Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School, Scripture and Power: A Feminist Exploration
  • (2005) Musa Dube, University of Botswana, HIV + Feminism in the Global Aids Epidemic
  • (2004) Beverly Jean Wildung Harrison, Union Theological Seminary, New York
  • (2003) Chun Hyun Kyung, Union Theological Seminary, New York
  • (2002) Mary E. Hunt, WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology and Ritual)

For more information contact Janice Poss, Pat Reif Memorial Lecture Coordinator, at