The Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious (ACWR) is commemorating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year. As part of this celebration, Ursuline Sister Emma Cecilia Busam will be recognized Aug. 29 as a founding member at ACWR’s 2015 Triennial Meeting in Pittsburgh.
Sister Emma Cecilia founded the modern archive for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in 1983, following a 38-year career as a teacher and principal. In 1991, she also became the archivist for the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., creating its first archive as well. She continued in the dual role until 2001, when she retired from the Mount and devoted her full attention to the diocesan archives. When she retired from the diocesan position on Feb. 15, 2011, Bishop William Medley changed the name of the archives to the “Sister Emma Cecilia Busam Archives.”
When she accepted the archives role at the Mount, “I was told to learn how to do it, and do it right,” Sister Emma Cecilia often says. After contacting the state archivist for advice in 1983, she applied for and received a $20,000 grant to begin organizing the Mount’s archives.
Also in 1983 she began her affiliation with the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and in 1994, that group honored her with the Sister M. Claude Lane Award, for her significant contribution to the field of religious archives. It was during an SAA meeting in 1989 that discussion of forming an archives association for women religious began. Sister Emma Cecilia was glad to help and became one of the five founding members of the Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious.
“We asked all the communities of women religious in the country if they would make a donation to get us started, and to see if their communities wanted help in starting an archive,” Sister Emma Cecilia said. “We got good response. We sent all sorts of information to their communities.”
ACWR was established on Sept. 1, 1990. The first officers were installed in 1992 and the first conference took place in 1994. Sister Emma Cecilia served as president of the group in 1995-98. More than 200 religious communities are now members, Sister Emma Cecilia said.
“We had our first meeting Dec. 7-9, 1990, in Wichita, Kan.,” Sister Emma Cecilia said.
Sister Emma Cecilia recalls traveling around the country to help communities begin archives, including in Victoria and Houston, Texas. Nine other living sisters who joined ACWR in 1990 or 1991 will also be honored at the Aug. 29 event.
Sister Emma Cecilia is serving in her 72nd year as an Ursuline Sister. She attended the 20th anniversary conference of ACWR in 2010, but said she won’t be making the trip to Pittsburgh this year.
She continues to volunteer with other sisters in the Mount archives, filing the deceased sisters’ records and whatever else the archivist, Heidi Taylor-Caudill, needs done. She is proud of the work she’s done with ACWR through the years.
“My favorite part is the knowledge that history is being preserved for future generations,” she said.