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Women faith leaders honored by Interfaith Council

An event at Washington Hebrew Congregation on March 31 sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington honored Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and other women in the inaugural Women Leaders of Faith recognition program. From left to right are Reba Carruth, Kathryn Colton, the Rev. Carole Crumley, Sister Carol Keehan, (unidentified man who accepted award on behalf of Fitrah Muhammad), Rabbi Susan Shankman and Shehernaz Verahrami. (Photo by Pat Zapor)

Sister Carol Keehan, the now-retired longtime president of the Catholic Health Association, was among women honored March 31 for their faith-based work by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington.

 In a program held at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Sister Carol, a member of the Daughters of Charity, was applauded for her long service in health care administration. Her career included a nearly 15-year term as president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association and in leadership of Providence Hospital and Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Hospital in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and of Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, Maryland.

The event capped the Interfaith Council’s Women Leaders of Faith month, which featured virtual programs on the intersection of faith, gender and leadership. Sister Carol and other honorees were presenters during those programs earlier in the month. Also honored for their work were: Reba Carruth for her leadership as a member of the Baha’i’ faith; Kathryn Colton, a longtime leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Fitrah Muhammad, executive producer of “Study Al-Islam” and an active member of the Nation’s Mosque; Rabbi Susan Shankman, on the staff of the Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Shehernaz Verahrami, a former president of the Zoroastrian Association for Metropolitan Washington.

In a keynote address March 31, another honoree, the Rev. Carole Crumley, one of the first women ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church, summarized her spiritual journey. Beginning with her childhood in a small-town Baptist church in Tennessee, she said, she felt a call to service, but it took her eventual encounter with the Episcopal Church to know how she wanted to live out that call. The Rev. Crumley eventually became the first clergywoman hired full-time at Washington National Cathedral and went on to serve as senior program director of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.

Her light-hearted telling of her history touched on the challenges she and the other honorees faced as women in male-dominated roles. That included what to wear to an early gathering of Episcopal priests, when manufacturers of clergy attire had not yet accommodated their new customer base (“pearls,” she decided) and what title she would use in a church where priests are referred to as “Father.”

 “I gave up,” on a more formal title, she said. “Just call me Carole, it’s my baptismal name.”

Among the Women Leaders of Faith recognized on March 31 by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington were Kathryn Colton, the Rev. Carole Crumley and Sister Carol Keehan. (Photo by Pat Zapor)

 In a round-robin conversation among the honorees, the other women talked about how they had learned to work around institutional sexism and lead their communities. Verahrami told of immigrating from India as a child and being enrolled in Immaculata Preparatory School, where she said she was one of the first non-Christians and immigrants in the now-closed Washington, D.C., Catholic school. Because she was “embraced” by the faculty and students, Verahrami said that empowered her to explore and embrace her own faith.

Concluding the discussion, Sister Carol said that like the other women had described, she learned to listen to the “intuitive voice” telling her what direction she should go with her life and career. “That voice, that intuitive voice, is God’s voice,” she said.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is the former president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Health Association)