Vancouver, BC – MARCH 13, 2014 – Saint Mark’s College, the Catholic Theological College affiliated with the University of British Columbia, is pleased to announce that Sister Donna Geernaert, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity–Halifax, will be awarded the institution’s highest honour, the Doctor of Sacred Letters (honoris causa). The degree will be conferred by the Most Reverend J. Michael Miller, CSB, Archbishop of Vancouver and Chancellor of Saint Mark’s College, at the College’s convocation ceremony at Saint Mark’s College Chapel on May 6, 2014, at 6:00 pm.
Sister Donna has had a distinguished career as a teacher, an ecumenist, and as a leader among Women Religious in Canada. In particular, she is being recognized for her long-time leadership role in bilateral dialogues – both within Canada and at the international level – with the Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, and United Churches, as well as interfaith dialogues with the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Council of Muslim Communities in Canada.
Currently serving a second term as Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity–Halifax, Sister Donna has served as vice-president and president of the Canadian Religious Conference; is the President of the Sisters of Charity Federation; and participates in the International Union of Superiors General and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, among others.
From 1984 to 2002, Sister Donna was on the staff of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), where her portfolios were Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations and Issues of Concern to Women. She also served on a number of Canadian Council of Churches committees, including its Governing Board and Commission on Faith and Witness.
Sister Donna has strong roots within Vancouver’s Catholic education community. After graduating from Vancouver’s Notre Dame High School, she joined the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, earning her initial degree at Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University. She later returned to Vancouver to teach in Catholic elementary schools from 1964 to 1969, first at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, followed by St. Helen’s. While on staff at the CCCB, Sister Donna took a teaching sabbatical at UBC, offering courses and workshops on campus and at Saint Mark's College in 1993.
“In a sense we are welcoming Sister Donna back to Vancouver, where her education and her teaching career actually began. In extending this Honorary Doctorate to her, we are acknowledging the importance of Ecumenism and her critical contributions to this mission over the years,” says Dr. Paul C. Burns, Interim Principal of Saint Mark’s College.
Sister Donna has a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario. She is the Chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.
About Saint Mark’s College
Saint Mark’s College, the Catholic Theological College affiliated with the University of British Columbia, offers graduate degree programs to teachers, administrators, health workers, and other professionals; an undergraduate program for aspiring teachers; and certificates in Religious Education, Theological Studies, Pastoral Studies, Catholic Ministry Leadership, and Educational Leadership. The College also provides the academic formation Archdiocese of Vancouver’s program of formation for the permanent deaconate.
Contact: Paul C. Burns, B.Litt., Ph.D., Interim Principal, Saint Mark’s College
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