Semester Long Investigation Proposal

This semester I am looking to investigate the Little Sisters of the Poor, located in Philadelphia. The sisters are a group of dedicated women who dedicate their entire lives to serving the elderly poor, who otherwise may not be able to afford the care they need. They exemplify the concepts of community and social justice. This topic interests me because it illustrates a life and work that many people could not imagine doing. Nuns also can appear distant or mysterious. This project would show that each one of them is an individual with real world experiences and stories. Beyond the sisters, I see great potential in investigating those within the nursing home, how they got there, and what their respective thoughts are on living there.

My impetus to study this group came about after I saw them “begging” for donations one Sunday after Mass. I may have given them five bucks, but I have no pre-determined ideas about their practices or culture. I have no mutual connections between organization and myself, my family or Saint Joseph’s University. I have not studied this organization in the past and would only do so for the purposes of this class.

In class we talked about how studying this particular group may be sad or depressing.  The sisters care for those at the end of their life and give them final years full of dignity. Certainly there may be some sad aspects to spending time there, but I predict there may be even more happiness and inspiring moments to capture and tell the story of. I am sure some of these patients are seriously ill or incapacitated. This indeed pushes me into an uncomfortable position. But, through that discomfort, a great story may be able to be told. Time will tell, but I see this subject as a risk, a risk that we are encouraged to take.


The risk of topic also lends itself to the risk of presenting in various modes of presentation. At first glance, I can see myself highlighting various patients and using a picture of their face or hand along with an audio track; similar to the shoe-shiner article we studied. I can also highlight the various sisters, their history, and their own story through that same format, or through video and text. Every single person within the building has a story to tell, and I can capture that and tell it through various modes. Through text or graphics I can tell the broader history of the sisters, their wider global reach, tell the story of local Philadelphia sisters who create community, do good work, and serve to provide social justice.

The community within the Little Sisters home does have larger implications that an expert can speak to. I could speak with healthcare professionals, Church leaders, and community leaders that interact with the Little Sisters. Speaking with these kinds of people will highlight the importance of the sisters within the larger community, and the potential need for more organizations like theirs.

Including input from those outside of the Little Sisters would contribute to a wider readership. The large Catholic population in the United States may find this story interesting and inspiring. Those in healthcare may look to this story as an example of how to treat the elderly. The elderly poor themselves may look to this story and become interested in living there. Beyond those groups, I would predict more people would be interested because of its, “good news,” nature. People enjoy reading stories about good things happening in the community: others helping others.

I don’t see myself losing interest in this topic throughout the course of the next few months because it is “good news”. The physical building is filled with energetic sisters and older people on the cusp of death. This topic is important because I think there are tons of stories to be told within the facility, many of which may be told for the final time.


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