History - Mary's Pence



Our Founding Story


The idea for Mary’s Pence was born in 1987 at a prayer meeting in the Chicago home of Patricia Crowley. The extraordinary contributions of Catholic women doing the work of the church among the forgotten poor of the Americas was being discussed. Two Catholic sisters who were present shared frustration about not getting a grant they had requested from the diocese to fund their active and successful prison ministry while a priest had received a substantial amount to start a new program. The women lamented, why couldn’t the priest have been given a small part of the larger amount? Judge Sheila Murphy stated, “What we need is a Mary’s Pence,” a play on Peter’s Pence, the Pope’s annual church collection for the poor.

Mary’s Pence founder, Maureen Gallagher, OP, who was present at the meeting, describes a mystical experience she had while cleaning her house the following weekend. As she vacuumed, she prayed out her frustration, imagining all the bishops and cardinals who refused to help women in ministry standing before God. Each one was asked by God “Why did you do nothing to help women minister?” and then they were banished. Then Maureen found herself before God, who asked, “What did you do to help women minister?” Maureen said, “I’m a woman, I couldn’t do anything.” God asked again, “What did you do?” Maureen then knew Mary’s Pence needed to be formed and that she would be the one to do it.

A note about our Catholic roots

Our founders rooted this work in the values of Catholic Social Teaching, and it remains our foundation today. However, Mary’s Pence is independent of the Catholic Church. Our work addresses the ongoing and emerging concerns of women in the Americas, and we are blessed by the people of all faiths and those of no faith who engage with us. There is no criteria that any of the organizations we fund be faith-based, and we do not ask. We gratefully embrace the diversity of the whole Mary’s Pence community – board, staff, grantees, ESPERA women, and supporters.

Mary’s Pence Logo and Name Explained

Our Founding Board

  • Maureen Gallagher, OP, Founding Coordinator
  • Kaye Ashe, OP (1930-2014)
  • Carol Coston, OP
  • Edwina Gateley
  • Janemarie Luecke, OSB (1924-1987)
  • Amata Miller, IHM
  • Sheila Murphy
  • R. Muschal-Reinhardt (1933-2013)
  • Rosemary Radford Ruether
  • Mary Luke Tobin, SL (1908-2006)
  • Yolanda Tarango, CCVI
  • Margaret Traxler, SSND (1924-2002)
  • Teresita Weind, SNDdeN (1942 – 2024)

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