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Saint Xavier University professor receives grant

Avis Clendenen appointed Sister Irene Dugan, r.c. Scholar in Spirituality

Chicago (March 9, 2007) – Avis Clendenen, D.Min., Ph.D., professor of religious studies at Saint Xavier University, has received a grant from the Howard Family Foundation to complete the Sister Irene Dugan, r.c. Legacy Project.

The $75,000 grant allows Clendenen to be appointed the Sister Irene Dugan, r.c. Scholar in Spirituality at Saint Xavier for the 2009-2010 academic year, freeing her from her instructional obligations to devote her time to completing the project.

Dugan was a member of the Sisters of the Cenacle and a mentor to Clendenen, who has carried forward her spiritual and intellectual legacy in print and publication. Clendenen has published two books based on Dugan’s work and vision: Spirituality in Depth: Essays in Honor of Sister Irene Dugan, r.c. and Love Is All Around in Disguise: Meditations for Spiritual Seekers. 

During her time as Dugan Scholar, Clendenen will complete a final book in the trilogy of texts, as well as train others to use Dugan’s methods in workshops, retreats and educational settings and spirituality centers around the country. 

“The Howard Family Foundation is putting this exceptional endeavor in the most capable hands possible. Avis is uniquely qualified for this project, and I’m sure she’ll put her heart in it and capture the essence of Sister Irene Dugan’s spiritual and intellectual legacy,” said Saint Xavier University Provost Dominick Hart.

Sister Dugan was Clendenen’s spiritual and intellectual director for 26 years before Dugan died in 1997 at the age of 87. Clendenen has been organizing Dugan’s papers and audiotapes and giving presentations on Dugan’s unique approach to integrating insights from depth psychology with the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Howard family is familiar with Dugan’s work and has been supportive of it and the University. 

Clendenen said she is looking forward to the opportunity. “I am extremely grateful to Barbara Howard of the Howard Family Foundation for their support of this work and to the Sisters of the Cenacle, who have entrusted me with preserving and perpetuating Sister Irene’s rich and timeless spiritual vision,” she said.

Clendenen joined the religious studies department at Saint Xavier in 1992 and is currently chair of the religious studies department. She has held various positions at Saint Xavier in that time, including director of the Pastoral Ministry Institute.    


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, Saint Xavier University was the first Mercy college in the United States and is Chicago’s oldest Catholic university. Serving approximately 5,700 students at its campuses in Chicago, Orland Park and its Loop location, the University offers 35 undergraduate majors; more than 40 graduate program options in arts and sciences, business, education and nursing; and a variety of program options in continuing and professional studies. Recognizing Saint Xavier’s excellence in education, U.S. News and World Report has ranked SXU consistently among the Best Colleges in the Midwest.

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