Monika Hellwig (1931-2005), was an internationally known theologian who traveled the world lecturing to promote a Catholic, ecumenical, and inter-religious vision. Hellwig was born in Brelau, Germany. Her mother was a noted Dutch sculptor. In 1935, the family moved to Holland because her grandparents were Jewish and Hitler’s rise to power became an imminent threat. When Germany invaded Holland in 1939, Hellwig, together with her two sisters, was sent to foster care in Scotland under the auspices of a Jewish-Catholic humanitarian organization. Hellwig’s father had been killed by the Germans shortly after arriving in Holland. The three children were reunited with their mother in the Netherlands, in 1946, although the latter died two days after their meeting. Hellwig entered the University of Liverpool at age fifteen, receiving a law degree in 1949 and a social science degree in 1951. Wishing to combine her two passions, social work and theology, Hellwig entered the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries as Sister Mary Cuthbert with the intention of serving a mission in India. As it happened, the society sent Hellwig to earn Master’s degrees in theology at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.; South Asian studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and linguistics at the University of Oklahoma. In 1963, Hellwig was sent to Rome as a correspondent at the Second Vatican Council. She was one of few women allowed such an opportunity. In 1965, Hellwig requested and obtained a dispensation from her religious vows so that she could pursue her intellectual goals. She returned to Washington, D.C., in 1966, to earn a doctoral degree in theology from the Catholic University of America. A prolific author, Hellwig wrote over two dozen books on Catholic theology and education. She was visiting lecturer at eleven universities around the world, received thirty-two honorary degrees, and fifteen named awards, including the John Courtney Murray Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America in 1984; and the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, Award for outstanding contribution to Catholic higher education by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Hellwig taught theology at Georgetown University for eighteen years from 1967, and was president and executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) from 1996 until 2005. Moved by an article about children in need of adoption, in the Washington Post Magazine in 1971, Hellwig would also become the single, working mother of three adopted children.
Monika Hellwig died on September 30, 2005, in Washington, D.C.
Transferred from American Catholic Colleges and Universities, via Joseph G. Stankavage, Director, Operations and Human Resource Management, Association of American College and Universities, December 2005.