Scholarly lecture at BenU at Mesa explores nuns’ role in expanding Spanish empire

October 3, 2016

Mesa, Ariz. ~ Empires are not built by man alone.

In her forthcoming book, "Nuns Navigating the Spanish Empire," Sarah E. Owens, Ph.D., professor of Spanish and affiliate professor of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program at the College of Charleston, S.C., brings to light the journey of a group of Franciscan nuns from Spain who traversed the globe to found the first female Franciscan convent in the Spanish empire's Asian outpost of Manila, Philippines.

The book illustrates the role religious women played in early modern travel, colonization and missionary endeavors, and illustrates that the once-vast Spanish empire was not built by men alone.

Owens will talk about her book and the role of Spanish nuns in the colonial era during her presentation, "Spanish Nuns at Sea: A Transoceanic Voyage, 1620-1621," from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 13, in the Community Room of Gillett Hall, 225 E. Main St., in Mesa. The presentation is part of the Visiting Scholar in Catholic Thought lecture series at Benedictine University at Mesa. The event is free and open to the public.

At the College of Charleston S.C, Owens specializes in the writings of colonial and early modern Spanish nuns. Her research has taken her to the archives of Mexico, Spain, Chile and the Vatican. In 2009, she published an award-winning edition of a Spanish nun's travel account called "Journey of Five Capuchin Nuns."

Owens' most recent book, "Women of the Iberian Atlantic" (2012), a co-edited collection of essays that explores the lives, places and stories of women in the Iberian Atlantic from 1500-1800, was named the Best Collaborative Project by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Her current book project is supported by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Owens' teaching interests include women writers of Latin America from the colonial period to the present day. She has taught several courses in the Master of Education program and the Honors College at the College of Charleston.

Owens, who earned a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, is passionate about study abroad and has led College of Charleston students to Spain and Chile.

The lecture is sponsored by Benedictine's Center for Mission and Identity (CMI) and the Spanish program as part of the Visiting Scholar in Catholic Thought Lecture Series.

CMI supports the ongoing development of Catholic social teaching and the Catholic intellectual tradition at the Mesa branch campus. CMI works to communicate a common mission, to provide programming that supports the University's Catholic identity and Benedictine heritage, and maintains that tradition while nurturing a culture of lifelong learning, responsible leadership, social engagement, and religious and cultural dialogue within the entire University community.

Teachers, lay ministers and deacons who attend this lecture are eligible for 1 credit toward recertification in the Diocese of Phoenix.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Tony Cella at (480) 878-6702 or


Benedictine University at Mesa is a branch campus of Benedictine University, an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine was named among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016 by Forbes magazine. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (602) 888-5500, or visit

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