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Lay Women Study at Pontifical Universities


By Lay Centre Staff

As part of the 35th anniversary of The Lay Centre, a new series of interviews will recognize and celebrate in particular the achievements of our alumnae worldwide, by highlighting the impact of the formation and education they received in Rome. They will share their insights gleaned from their diverse professional paths and on the evolving role of lay women in the Church and not only.

Thanks to two lay women, Dr. Donna Orsuto and Mrs. Riekie van Velzen, The Lay Centre first opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1986, as a residence for lay students enrolled at the pontifical universities, institutes and athenae in Rome.

To launch the series, in September, we will have an exclusive interview with Dr. Linda Ghisoni, who is under-secretary for the Lay Faithful at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life since 2017. Dr. Ghisoni studied and taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The 11 alumnae who agreed to take part in the series are representative of the 150 lay women who have passed through our doors. They will reflect on the challenges they faced and opportunities they have had. They will also consider an area of most pressing concern in their field of study or profession. We see this series as an important contribution to the ongoing dialogue about the role of laity in the Church and in the world.  The series is designed for participants to read on their own time and at their own pace. The interviews and reflections will be sent out by email starting September 20. Click here to register.

We hope this series will encourage new generations of young scholars to follow in their footsteps.

Our alumnae:

Dr. Lynda Robitaille – Canada (Pontifical Gregorian University: 1986-90 & 1991-92) - Canonist. Dean of theology at St. Mark’s College. Vice-president/president elect Canon Law Society of America. 

Dr.  Ana María Celis Brunet – Chile (Pontifical Gregorian University: 1992-93 & 1994-95) - Canon lawyer. Associate professor, Law Faculty, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Director of the Center for Law and Religion at UC.

Dr. Sandra Keating – U.S.A. (Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies: 1993-95) - Professor of theology at Providence College in Rhode Island in Catholic theology, Islam and world religions.

Catherine Stevenson, M.D. – U.S.A. (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas: 1994-95) - Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, teacher and supervisor at Baylor College of Medicine, and the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Houston, Texas.

Dr. Lejla Demiri – Macedonia (Pontifical Gregorian University: 2002-04) - Chair of Islamic Doctrine at the Center for Islamic Theology, University of Tübingen.

Mrs. Anna Abraham – New Zealand (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross: 2009-11) - Lecturer in theology and pedagogy at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Mrs. Laura Ieraci – Canada (Pontifical Gregorian University: 2011-2013) - Journalist and communications professional at the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Part-time university instructor. Founder of AVIVA Media & Communications.

Janette Ann Cortés Núñez, M.D. - Mexico (Pontifical Gregorian University: 2013-15) - Psychiatrist specialized in liaison psychiatry. Attending psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital of Morelia.

Ms.  Rebecca Cohen – U.S.A. (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Pontifical Gregorian University, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies: 2013-16) Program and research specialist in the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Ms.  Claudia Giampietro – Italy (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas: 2015-18) - Canon lawyer. Project officer at the Office of Care and Safeguarding of the International Union of Superiors General, Rome.

Dr. Susan Mulheron – U.S.A. (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross: 2017-18) - Canon lawyer. Chancellor for canonical affairs at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

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