Sister Rose’s Flame of Abraham Award
District 3, B’nai B’rith – (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia)
24 ½” x 8 ⅛” x 7 ¼”
Courtesy of the Walsh Gallery
REMEMBERING SISTER ROSE THERING
Fifteen year ago, the Seton Hall University community and people around the world mourned the loss of Sister Rose Thering, a tireless activist who dedicated her life to fighting antisemitism. Sister Rose came to Seton Hall in 1968 when she was hired by Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, founder of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies, an innovative program that brought priests, nuns, and rabbis together in support of improved relations between the two religions. A native of Wisconsin, Sister Rose joined the Dominican Order at Saint Catherine of Siena Convent at age 16. After taking her final vows, she began teaching grade school students in Racine. She was shocked to find that textbooks she had ordered for her pupils contained passages that were overtly against Jews and Judaism. This inspired a resolve to correct what she saw as a fundamental flaw in church teachings. In 1961, while earning her doctoral degree at Saint Louis University, Sister Rose addressed these concerns in her dissertation which reviewed antisemitism in Catholic texts. The self-study dealt primarily with Catholic teachings about Jews and Judaism, while also emphasizing what was taught about other faiths, ethnicities and racial groups.
Her pioneering work drew the attention of Bishop Augustin Bea, then a Cardinal appointed by Pope John XXIII to tend to ecumenical affairs and Christian unity initiatives. At the time, Cardinal Bea was drafting a statement to be submitted to the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John XXIII in 1962 to ameliorate relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. Sister Rose’s dissertation influenced the Cardinal’s contributions to Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), the final statement on the relationship between Catholics and Jews, which was approved by the Council in October 1965. One of the theologians with whom Cardinal Bea worked with on this document was Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, who brought Sister Rose Thering to Seton Hall. In her duties as a professor, Sister Rose continued her pursuit of understanding and cooperation among Jews, Christians and people of other religious traditions through advocacy and education.
Sister Rose traveled extensively for her work, going where she felt she was needed. In 1974, she presented a menorah to Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. In 1986, she went to Austria to protest the inauguration of President Kurt Waldheim, the former United Nations secretary general, who had served in a Nazi army unit implicated in the deportation of Jews from Greece in World War II. In 1987, she went to the Soviet Union to protest the government’s treatment of Russian Jews.  In 1994, Sister Rose was appointed by New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean to help draft a law that would require Holocaust education in all the state’s elementary and high schools.
Sister Rose Thering’s advocacy earned her many awards and recognitions, including the above statuette awarded by B’nai B’rith in 1975. In 2004, a documentary of her life and work titled Sister Rose’s Passion received an award at the Tribeca Film Festival and was later nominated for an Academy Award. That same year, Thering received the Anti-Defamation League’s Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award, the first woman to receive this honor. Between 1970 and her time of retirement in 2005, Sister Rose organized and led 54 tours of Israel. She believed in building bridges and the importance of learning about Jews, Judaism, and the State of Israel. Sister Rose Thering passed away at her convent, The Siena Center of the Racine Dominicans in Wisconsin, on May 6, 2006. Her work continues at Seton Hall University, home of the Sister Rose Thering Fund which has awarded over 350 scholarships to date to students in the graduate program of Jewish-Christian Studies in the Department of Religion studying the Holocaust and related subjects.
The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make a research appointment.
Postcard: Hanukkah observances at Jerusalem’s Western Wall
MSS 0016 – Sister Rose Thering Papers
Courtesy of The Department of Archives and Special Collections
“Hanukkah Sameach!” (Happy Hanukkah)
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, the holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. This historical event memorializes when a small army of Jews, known as the Maccabees, rebelled against the Seleucid Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes who had outlawed the Jewish religion and defiled the holy temple by installing an altar to Zeus Olympios and sacrificing pigs within the sacred space, an affront to Jewish law. The king’s soldiers massacred thousands during the uprising. When the Maccabees regained control of the temple, they built a new altar to again offer sacrifices in accordance with, halakha, the collective body of Jewish laws that addresses civil, criminal and religious codes.
The postcard image accompanying this post is from the University’s Archives and Special Collections’ Sister Rose Thering Papers, an archive of correspondence, speeches and travel information dating mostly to her time in New Jersey working for the Institute of Judaeo-Christian studies, as well as documents relating to her teaching and scholarly activities. Sister Rose Thering belonged to the Dominican Order which was founded in 1206 in France. She advocated tirelessly in favor of legislation for the teaching of the Holocaust and was an international activist against anti-Semitism. The Sister Rose Thering Fund at Seton Hall University continues her work by fostering understanding and cooperation among Jews, Christians and people of other religious traditions through advocacy and education. Sister Rose Thering founded the fund in 1993 and worked there until her retirement in 2005. Sister Rose said, “To be a better Christian you need to find out where you are rooted. Take a good look at Judaism. Our roots are in Judaism. Jewish people have much to teach us. We must learn from our elder brothers and sisters.”
The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476.
Now these five collections have a new digital resource, the Judaeo-Christian Studies Collections. Portions of each collection are being digitized and made available through this digital collection, and include manuscripts, photographs, pamphlets, correspondence, newsclippings, and other materials. We think this collection will prove to be an invaluable resources for scholars in Judaeo-Christian Studies or in any aspect of religious studies, and will continue to add to the collection. Bridgette, a graduate student in the Judaeo-Christian Studies department, has put a great deal of work into processing these collections, digitizing selected items, and making them available online. Thanks to Bridgette, and to Fr. Frizzell of the Institute for Judaeo-Christian Studies, these materials are now widely available to interested researchers. Check out the collection, and subscribe to the updates to see newly digitized items as they are uploaded!
As part of our efforts to describe all of our collections online, a number of new finding aids have been posted during the spring semester.
Collections from the Archdiocese of Newark that have had new finding aids posted include the papers of three auxiliary bishops, the records of several offices of the Archdiocese, and the records of some related organizations. Collections from University Archives include the papers of a number of past presidents of the University as well as the records of the College of Education and Human Services and the National Defense Language Institute. Manuscript collections include the papers of several important figures in University history as well as documentation on events in the Archdiocese.
The papers of three auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese, Bishop Justin J. McCarthy, Bishop Martin W. Stanton, and Bishop Joseph A. Francis, now have finding aids and catalog records. The Justin J. McCarthy papers, 1936-1959, ADN 0003.004, include the sermons and lecture notes of Bishop McCarthy, who was a graduate of Seton Hall College, Immaculate Conception Seminary, and the North American College in Rome, was the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange, and was a spiritual director of and professor of theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in the 1930s-1950s. The Martin W. Stanton papers, 1957-1977 (bulk 1957-1961), ADN 0003.005, are the papers of Bishop Stanton, a New Jersey native who attended the Immaculate Conception Seminary and Fordham University, where he received his doctorate in sacred theology, and who attended all sessions of the Second Vatican Council; the collection includes correspondence from Bishop Stanton’s time in Rome for the first session of Vatican 2 as well as correspondence on his ordination as bishop. The Joseph A. Francis papers, 1934-1997, ADN 0003.011, are the papers of Bishop Francis, the fourth African-American Roman Catholic bishop and the first ordained in the Northeast, and who was an important figure in discussions of race and religion in the United States; the papers include correspondence, writings, sermons and speeches, photographs, and awards.
Several offices or former offices of the Archdiocese of Newark have generated collections which are now described in online finding aids and in the catalog. The Apostolic Nuncio records of the Archdiocese of Newark, 1950-2000 (bulk 1987-2000), ADN 0031 are the records gathered by the Archdiocese of Newark from communication with the Apostolic Nuncio, who is the top diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the United States and is usually the point of contact for American bishops and dioceses to the Vatican. This collection includes a variety of correspondence as well as materials related to the Rome and Vatican City Project Overview. The Mount Carmel Guild of the Archdiocese of Newark records, 1929-1974, bulk 1929-1937, ADN 0040, documents the activities of the Mount Carmel Guild, a division of the Associate Catholic Charities providing assistance to individuals and families in need that has since been absorbed into Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark; the collection includes materials related to the soup kitchen, ministry to individuals seeking American citizenship, ministry to the physically and mentally handicapped, and social justice work performed by the Guild. The Office of Research and Planning of the Archdiocese of Newark records, 1975-1989, ADN 0063, includes materials related to the work of the Office of Research and Planning, which defines Archdiocesan goals, develops and directs the overall short and long range plans and objectives of the Archdiocese, and develops programs to meet the needs of the Archdiocese. Projects documented in the collection include the merger of Associated Catholic Charities, the office of the Secretariat, Archdiocesan hospitals, ethnic studies, and team ministries. The Vicar for Religious of the Archdiocese of Newark records, 1930-1974 (bulk 1950-1960), ADN 0073, contain the records from the office of the Vicar for Religious, now known as the Delegate for Religious, who serves as the liaison between the Archbishop and members of religious orders in the Diocese; this collection primarily consists of correspondence between the Vicar and members of women’s religious communities on topics including contracts for teachers, ceremonies, canonization of Foundresses of orders, and other concerns.
Organizations related to the Archdiocese of Newark also have collections with new finding aids. The Legion of Decency of the Archdiocese of Newark records, 1954-1978, ADN 0055, are the records of the Legion of Decency, an organization dedicated to determining the moral content (objectionable or acceptable) of motion pictures in the United States, which was later absorbed into the organization that became the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the collection primarily consists of index cards with the titles of films and a rating given by the Legion, as well as some correspondence and documentation related to activities in Essex County. The Fratres in Unum newsletters, 1963-1969, ADN 0057 includes issues of Fratres in Unum, a newsletter created by priests of the Archdiocese for priests discussing social issues as well as local concerns. The à Kempis of New Jersey records, 1984-1997 (bulk 1991-1997), ADN 0082 include records for à Kempis of New Jersey, a women’s charitable organization that hosted speakers and raised money for charity.
The personal collections of several faculty and benefactors of Seton Hall University have recently been made available via new finding aids and catalog records. The William T. and Marie Henderson family papers, 1930-1989, Mss 0008, are the papers of William and Marie Henderson, who were very involved with the University and South Orange communities and who were generous benefactors of the school; the collection includes correspondence and materials documenting the couples’ involvement with various charitable organizations. The Rose Thering papers, 1944-2005, Mss 0016, are the personal and professional papers of Sr. Rose Thering, a sister of the Order of Saint Dominic, professor at the Institute for Judeao-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, outspoken activist in favor of Judeao-Christian relations, and an instrumental figure in the creation of legislation in 1994 mandating that the Holocaust be taught in New Jersey schools; her work was also referenced in deliberations for the Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, a document adopted at the Second Vatican Council that reversed the Roman Catholic Church’s official position on relations with the Jewish religion and people. Her legacy is remembered in the Sister Rose Thering Fund, an endowment created to provide assistance to teachers in taking courses in Jewish-Christian Studies. The collection includes research materials, correspondence, photographs, and other materials. The Miriam Rooney papers, 1930-1965, Mss 0039, are the papers of Miriam Rooney, a lawyer, the first dean of the Seton Hall University Law School (making her the first female dean of a law school in the United States), and a professor of law; the collection includes letters from friends, a diary, photographs, and religious papers.
Two additional collections related to Catholic subjects in the New Jersey region have had finding aids posted this semester. The Collection on the Cause for Pierre Touissaint, 1991-2000, Mss 0036, was created from two separate donations to the Center regarding the cause for sainthood of Pierre Touissaint, who was born into slavery in 1766 in what is now Haiti and moved with his family and master to New York; the collection primarily consists of newspaper clippings describing the life and cause for sainthood of Pierre Toussaint, as well as photographs, correspondence, and mass cards related to Pierre Toussaint. The Collection on Pope John Paul II’s visits to the United States, 1979-1996 (bulk 1995), Mss 0044, documents the visit of Pope John Paul II to Newark and surrounding areas in 1995 through documents, memorabilia, photographs, and other materials, and refers to previous visits the Pope made to the United States.
All of these collections and many others are available for research at the Monsignor William Noe Field Archives and Special Collections Center Monday through Friday, 9-5. Please call ahead to make an appointment to view materials, or visit our web page for more information. Some materials are available online through our Digital Field Archives and Special Collections Center, and the number of digital items available any time continues to grow. Stay tuned for further developments and more fascinating materials from the Vault!