Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and the Adrian Dominican Sisters have signed an agreement to endow $500,000 for a scholarship fund honoring Adrian Dominican Sister Jamie Phelps.

The scholarship will provide financial assistance to students enrolled in the advanced degree or continuing education programs in Xavier’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies.

Phelps, formerly Sister Martin Thomas, is a renowned theologian, educator, community leader and scholar who served as the director of the Xavier institute from July 2003 to August 2011.

Adrian Dominican Sister Elise García, the congregation’s newly elected prioress, said the endowment honors “Dr. Phelps’ remarkable contributions to the IBCS, the Black Catholic community and the church at-large.”

She also said in an Aug. 8 statement that the endowment is a means of reparation for the congregation’s “past participation in structural racism and in support of new pathways toward racial justice.”

Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, current director of the institute, said “the sisters’ investment responds boldly to the need for solidarity that engenders right relationships in the Body of Christ.”

She said the institute looks forward to this collaboration, adding that its participants are “immersed in a unique learning environment rooted in critical theological studies that focus on Black approaches, critiques and contributions to systematic and pastoral theologies, ministry, aesthetics and education.”

Phelps was instrumental in the institute’s establishment at Xavier, the nation’s only historically Black Catholic university. She served many years as a member of the institute’s faculty and was associate director for its degree program.

“My life objective is to assist in the inner transformation of the human community by participating in the education of Christians and other religious women and men committed to using their knowledge and expertise for the construction of a more inclusive world by sharing their knowledge and experience of God,” she said in a previous statement.

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Herlinger is international correspondent to Global Sisters Report.