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SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA: A WOMAN FOR OUR TIMES

January 6, 2010 - Sister Nancy Murray, O.P., a member of the Adrian Dominican sisters, will perform in the one-woman play "Saint Catherine of Siena: A Woman for Our Times." The play will be on Thursday, January 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Wege Center Ballroom. It is free and open to the public. The Aquinas Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center and Campus Ministry are sponsoring the event.

Murray grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, in a large family with an interest in theatre. Since acting in Saint Catherine of Siena, she has become almost as well known as her actor brother Bill Murray (Saturday Night Live, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Rushmore, Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers, etc.). After graduating Barry University in Miami, Florida with a degree in drama, Murray returned to her high school Regina Dominican in Wilmette, where she taught drama, dance, theology and was a campus minister for 13 years. She also worked in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago and has been involved in jail ministry. Murray earned a master's degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago.

Murray studied Saint Catherine of Siena in the late 80'sand wondered why Catherine was referred to as "great Kate." She wanted to know how she got to be strong enough to go talk to the pope and to know what drew people to her. The Dominicans updated their foundational texts and showed Catherine to be courageous, feisty, lovable, direct but gentle. Murray studied the texts and, in time, talked with Sr. Kathy Harkins, a Dominican and drama teacher about Catherine which lead to Harkins traveling to Italy to learn more about Catherine's life. Together Murray and Harkins wrote the script which is the basis for Murray's performance. It was first performed in 2000 at Harkins funeral.

Caterina Benincasa was born in Siena, Italy in 1347 and later became a lay member of the Dominican Order. She is best remembered for The Dialogue which contains intimate conversations/prayers she shared with God. She died in 1380 at the age of 33. Catherine was canonized in 1461. In 1939, as World War II was breaking out in Europe, she was named co-patron saint of Italy with St. Francis of Assisi. At the start of the women's liberation movement, she was declared Doctor (exemplar and teacher) of the Church, one of the first women to receive that honor. Her feast day is April 29.

It has been noted that Murray is a passionate, energetic, compassionate and enthusiastic person. Her personality is similar to that of St. Catherine and that similarity is what enables Murray to recreate the passion and vision of this beloved saint with such ease and grace.