Sister Catherine ‘Kit’ Collins ’54, 1937-2010 R.I.P.

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Sister Catherine ‘Kit’ Collins ’54, 1937-2010

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The following Alumnae Profile of Kit Collins, RSCJ ’54 appeared in the Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart Fall 2009 Très Bien magazine.

Visionary RSCJ

“Kit Collins is a visionary,” says Sister Georgie Blaeser, RSCJ at the Society of the Sacred Heart’s Sprout Creek Farm. Georgie worked with Sister Catherine “Kit” Collins ’54 (Manhattanville ’58) in 1988 on the Sacred Heart Network Social Justice Service Project and on many significant projects for the Society of the Sacred Heart, provincial and international, since the late 1960’s. “I have a very special place in my grateful heart for what was wrought in me as a student at Sacred Heart, and for today’s wonderful leadership at the school,” says Kit.

A Religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart since 1960, Kit is an enthusiastic scholar and teacher whose passion for collaboration among the Society, the schools of the Sacred Heart, and the poor and marginalized gave birth first to a national and international Sacred Heart Network and a decade later to the Center for Educational Design and Communication. With boundless energy she continues to meet head-on the challenges and needs of a contemporary world with the idea that unity, communication, and love strengthen a commitment to social change.

“A World Profoundly Changed”
“The old order changeth, yielding place to the new,” wrote Kit’s classmate, Susan Keane ’54, in a 1969 alumnae newsletter. In the wake of The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, convened in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, the Society of the Sacred Heart sought a change in their community and in their schools that would allow them “to be of real service in a world that has been profoundly changed.”

The Vatican’s response to the social, political, and cultural changes that were shaking and shaping the world was to “scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel,” wrote Sister Catherine Baxter, 1978-1989 Headmistress at Newton Country Day. To respond more fully to the contemporary and challenging needs of the world, “our religious congregation undertook a serious examination of our present reality in light of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat’s original inspiration: to remain true to the essentials of a Sacred Heart tradition and to make these a vital force in American education and culture today.”

It was an evolving process that spanned two decades and invigorated the educational mission articulated in 1880 by St. Madeleine Sophie. To begin the great work of developing and shaping one such “vital force,” a Network of Sacred Heart Schools, the Interprovincial Board of the five United States provinces asked Kit, then Director of Education of the Washington Province, to be the first National Coordinator of Sacred Heart Schools. A former teacher and curriculum director at Eden Hall in Philadelphia and Headmistress at Stone Ridge Country Day in Washington, DC, Kit was a strategic initiator. She would steer this ship of renewal for the next twelve years.

A Network is Born
At the time of the “Stuart Conferences” (1969-1974 held in Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, and at Newton Country Day), uniformity and relationship among the Sacred Heart schools in the US was dwindling. To map a collaborative educational set of goals and criteria, Religious, lay educators, and later trustees, probed the question, “What makes a school a Sacred Heart school? Independent but never isolated, every Sacred Heart school needs to feel the strength of belonging to a larger whole, of sharing principles and values, broad purposes, hopes, and ambitions.”

Kit’s role was to build a team of administrators who had their “feet” in all parts of the country. In reflecting the geographic, social, and economic diversity of the 19 cities with Sacred Heart schools, this team would create a cohesive association of 22 schools marked by the distinctive spirit of the Sacred Heart and embraced by administrators, faculty, trustees, alumnae, and students. A challenging mission!

With courage, contemplation, cooperation, vision, communication, and faith, the idea that each Sacred Heart school would be energized by the collective presence of the others gave rise to the Network of Sacred Heart Schools. The formation of a Network of 21 independent schools resulted in a document that would define the scope, vision, and central characteristics of Sacred Heart education.

Five Sacred Heart Goals
In 1975, the new Network of Schools of the Sacred Heart in the US committed itself to Five Sacred Heart Goals and criteria that would guide the schools to implement programs to support the Goals. A shared process of evaluation held the schools accountable for living and growing according to the Goals and Criteria. This framework to which Sacred Heart Schools adhere addresses: personal and active faith, a respect for intellectual values, social awareness that impels to action, the building of community, and the fostering of one’s gifts in an atmosphere of wise freedom.

The Network team next set out to build a Network Board, Provincial teams, financial structure, and a wide range of programs and activities that would enhance the Goals and Criteria. Network programs and conferences continue to offer professional and curriculum development for administrators and faculty, leadership training for students, and social action projects that have particular emphasis on the needs of the poor and marginalized. The latter spawned the Network Social Justice Service Projects which bring together Sacred Heart students from across the country to project sites in a dozen US cities. Thousands of Sacred Heart Service Project participants enjoy the lasting friendships of their experiences. In summer 2009, thirty Newton Country Day students traveled to 11 cities to participate in Network Social Justice Programs.

Social Activism with CEDC
In 1984, the “Visionary” Kit moved on to another collaborative project established by the US Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart. For the past 25 years, Kit has been the Director of the Center for Educational Design and Communication in Washington, DC.

“The CEDC energetically and creatively serves the Society and more than 150 under-resourced organizations, small and global, that are committed to social justice, such as worldwide Spirituality for Kids, Avaaz, Africa Faith and Justice, Mentor’s Inc, and the National Coalition for the Homeless. The CEDC attended and worked on behalf of Center for Concern at the first UN/NGO Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and right here in DC for Bread for the World,” says Kit.

A resource for educational, technical, and communication facilitation, the Center provides consultation for project development and conference rooms and accommodations for under-resourced groups. CEDC offers video, auditory, web design and development, print design, and production to give partners cutting-edge opportunities to integrate their strategies and stories with their communication needs and goals. Designed as a cooperative relationship, the aggressive pace of project development, technological improvement, and burgeoning social justice issues and needs continues to gain momentum. For Kit, the work at the helm is supported by a young, enthusiastic, and highly talented team. “The team yields non-stop, creative, challenging, and transformative outcomes for so many outstanding organizations,” says the globe-trotting educator, administrator, and dynamic challenger of the “Energizer Bunny.”

Kit works to give voice and visibility to those who have been denied – the dispossessed, victims of economic injustice, and the oppressed – and to link their poignant and devastating stories to public consciousness. She has had her “feet” in all parts of the world: Africa, the Philippines, Europe, Pacific Rim countries, India, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Her trips involve consultations, seminars, lectures, task force planning, training workshops, and visits to educational ministries.

“The charism of the Society of the Sacred Heart is to make known the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” said Kit in the Society’s Winter 2009 publication Heart. Her vision and energy with the CEDC and earlier with the Sacred Heart Network, emanates from this charism. “It is a challenge to put people into responsible relationship with one another through media,” she said in an earlier interview. “We always ask: ‘Who are we trying to connect? Who are we trying to reach? How can we do that with care and faithfulness? How can we hear the voiceless?’

“We try in small ways to make visible what is invisible and to raise voices in a culture of silent complicity,” she said. “The greatest privilege and blessing of all is to work with people, who by the vitality of their faith and their energy plant hope.”

A Liturgy of the Resurrection for Sister Kit Collins was held in the CEDC Chapel on March 23, 2010.

Sister Catherine “Kit” Collins
Born, Boston, MA  –  April 14, 1937
Final Profession  –  July 20, 1966
Died, Washington, DC  –  March 18, 2010

 

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