As a student at Convent High School, Barbara Dawson'66, RSCJ, remembers walking into single-room occupancy buildings in San Francisco's Mission District to deliver food to the hungry. That served as a foundation, she says, for a life dedicated to advocating for the poor and marginalized.
Fifty years later, the newly elected Superior General of the International Society of the Sacred Heart, is doing something that she believes is critical to the emerging future of Sacred Heart education: She is talking to high school students about how they see the future.
Weeks before moving to the Society's international headquarters in Rome, Convent & Stuart Hall students, faculty and administrators welcomed Sister Dawson back to campus for a big send-off and to learn about her new role.
After joining a high school Mass, Sister Dawson met with nine juniors and seniors from student-run publications over lunch. She told them about her career as an immigration lawyer and educator and fielded questions from the curious group.
"I don't have the opportunity to talk to students that much," she says. "What was impressive is the way they are connecting, parsing and thinking about what the goals and criteria mean."
In the afternoon, Sister Dawson gave a presentation at a Children of Mary meeting. "Those kids know way more about Sacred Heart education than I did when I was here," she told the group, which was established by Sacred Heart founder St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, to enable alumnae to continue their religious formation through prayer and service work.
At the end of November, Sister Dawson will leave for Rome where a full General Chapter agenda awaits. But first, she needs to learn how to work with her leadership team. "We don't speak a common language," she says, about the group of women from Democratic Republic of Congo, France, India and Mexico. "I need to learn Italian and brush up on my French," she adds.
Sister Dawson has never been one to shy away from a challenge. "The Society of the Sacred Heart belongs to all of us," she explains, adding, "we just need to make sure everyone has a place at the table — and Convent & Stuart Hall students are a part of that."