Candidate presented by Mr. Thomas MacKinnon, Chief of Staff, President’s Office
Sister Miguel Conway, B.V.M., has been Co-Director of the Working Boys’ Center – A Family of Families (WBC) in Quito, Ecuador since 1967. WBC is a Catholic institution serving more than 400 families annually at three locations in Quito. Founded with the objective of creating, developing, and strengthening moral values by means of changes in attitudes and behavior, WBC helps families with programs of formation and social assistance. WBC’s goal is that families will be united in their Christian commitment, financially independent, and have access to education. WBC serves young people and their entire families, making it a unique agent for social change. The program stresses ten important areas of life: loyalty, personal formation, family, religion, education, economy, work, recreation, health, and housing. Participants have weekly meetings focused on personal formation and strengthening families. Each member participates two hours daily in activities that strengthen and serve the community.
The results of the work of WBC and Sister Miguel are tremendously impressive. Over the past 45 years, WBC has graduated more than 4,800 technicians in many different specialties, all of whom have become agents of change in society. In the city of Quito, more than 6,000 families and 30,000 individuals have moved beyond poverty thanks to the work of the Center and Sister Miguel. Graduates and their family members have changed their way of life and their worldview thanks to participation in the WBC and their education in Christian values. They are agents of sustainable human development, bringing prosperity to their families and their communities.
External studies have shown that WBC participants go on to get jobs with additional responsibilities and, consequently, higher incomes. Graduates who worked previously as domestic workers or construction laborers are now working as automotive mechanics, sales persons, metal workers, and in the printing industry. 46 percent of WBC program participants have not completed elementary school at the time of joining, and 85 percent go on to finish elementary school and career or technical studies. 75 percent of WBC graduates complete additional training and earn a diploma.
Sister Miguel was born in Boone, Iowa, the third of eight children. She was educated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary through grade school, high school, and college. She entered the Sisters of Charity in 1956, earned a degree from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and taught high school mathematics from 1960 to 1967. Inspired to serve abroad by her sister Judy, a Peace Corps volunteer, in 1967 Sister Miguel welcomed being missioned to the WBC, founded by Rev. John J. Halligan, S.J., where she has served ever since. Father Halligan received an honorary degree from Marquette in 1989.
Sister Miguel has made a tremendous difference in the lives of countless young people and their families, and has done so with humility, selflessness, and good humor.
Because of her loving devotion to children, her steadfast solidarity with the poor and marginalized, and her life’s work of caring for others, Reverend President, I hereby recommend Madre Miguel Conway of the Sisters of Charity for the Marquette University degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.