Sister Gayle reached another milestone

Sister Gayle reached another milestone in her life last month. In May Sister Gayle Lwanga Crumbley completed her dissertation and received her doctorate of Education in Leadership, (Ed.D.) from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. For many years the College of St. Thomas was an all-male college seminary. Good Shepherd Sisters in St. Paul were the first women to graduate from the College of St. Thomas. Today the University of St. Thomas is operated by the Diocese of St. Paul Minneapolis. I interviewed Sister Gayle to learn more about her achievement.

What was the title of your dissertation?
A Dream Deferred: A Study of the Detrimental Effects Associated with a Lack of Legal Status and Denial of Post-Secondary Education to Undocumented High School Graduates.

Why did you choose this topic?
This topic fit the charism of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. We work with persons on the margins of society. Unauthorized students/immigrants that were brought into the United States when their parents entered the country illegally are marginalized persons. Some of my study participants were infants when they were brought into the country.

They grew up and were educated in our school system and in some cases they were not aware of their illegal status until they tried to go to college. What a shock to find out you don’t belong to this country and you know nothing of the country you came from! One study participant from Malaysia said she could not speak the language if she had to return to Malaysia. This is a social justice issue that fits into our congregational chapter directives.

What were the challenges and rewards of this undertaking?
The main challenge I faced was being focused. I throw myself into whatever I am doing 100%, so I did do some research when I was missioned to the National Advocacy Center; however, I let my work there overtake me and although we worked on the issue, I did not do very much work on the dissertation.

Another challenge I faced when I finally began to do the research was that my data became dated when President Barack Obama signed an executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The order allowed unauthorized people under the age of 31 to receive a social security number, a work permit, and in some states a driver’s license.

Since 2012 those that qualified and applied have been able to come out of the shadows. I had to go to the Internal Review Board and ask to do more interviews, so I could update my data.
I guess the reward in finishing my dissertation is that I hope the story of young unauthorized students has been told in a way that moves the hearts of the American People to do something to provide a permanent and just solution in favor of all unauthorized persons who entered the country when they were minor children.

Why was obtaining a Ph.D important to you?
Not all doctorates are Ph.D’s, there are also applied doctorates in a specific field, an applied doctorate is not a lesser degree. The degree I received was a doctorate of Education in Leadership, (Ed.D.). The difference between a Ph.D. and an applied doctorate is that a person with a Ph.D. will probably continue to do research. Both degrees qualify the holder to teach in higher education. Having a credential that says you are a member of the “Community of Scholars” gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.

How will you use your doctorate in pursuit of the Good Shepherd Mission?
First, being able to raise consciousness about unauthorized students/immigrants fits into our mission to marginalized persons. I vowed to go to those to whom I am sent, so I am ready to pray and dialogue as to how to put my skills at the service of the congregation. I take to heart the words of Saint Mary Euphrasia, “I had no great talents, I only loved.” I will try to do what I can do, I promise to try.

How long did it take for you to complete the advanced degree?
Let’s just say it took many years; I used to be able to say it in Latin.

How does it feel to be finished with advanced studies?
I am very happy to have it done, however, I feel good about having done something of consequence that may help someone.

What kind of support did you receive from others that made it possible for you to pursue obtaining a doctorate?
First of all let me take this opportunity to thank all the Sisters who supported me with prayers. I can’t tell you how many times I e-mailed the contemplatives. The Sisters in Baltimore lifted me up and I really felt them praying for me.

I share this degree with Sr. Adrienne Baker who had to listen to me moan and groan on a daily basis. Every day, several times a day, she would encourage me to write. I also thank Sr. Madeleine for giving me the time to finish. Thank you to my novice mistress Sr. Dorothy Renckens for her prayers and encouraging notes. Thank you to Sr. Mary Carol McClenon who left Saipan to work at the Advocacy Center, and Sr. Myriam Therese Phan who went to Saipan and died there. These Sisters gave me the opportunity to study.

Sister Gayle
With her PhD now finished, Sister Gayle Lwanga Crumbley headed out to Baltimore, where she is living in community with Sisters there while discerning her next steps and praying for clarity.

What’s next for you?
I am in discernment about a future mission. I have returned to Baltimore and am praying for clarity.

Shall we call you Doctor Gayle now instead of Sister Gayle?
That is so funny! My religious profession will always be my primary vocation in life. It will be nice to have a comma after RGS, and add Ed.D.

What else would you like others to know about your great achievement?
I hope people will be moved to help the young people in our country who are caught in the dilemma of growing up American and yet not being accepted by America. We have to do something about this. I hope our country can come together and normalize the status of all unauthorized immigrants who were brought to this country when they were children.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has affirmed the right of individuals to immigrate to find a better life for themselves and their families. What would happen if we as Catholics joined other Christians and pushed for comprehensive immigration reform? Would this be enough pressure to move Congress to act?

You can read more stories about our Good Shepherd Sisters and ministries in our monthly newsletter Items of Interest.

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website