NEW YORK—Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Monika K. Hellwig Award for Outstanding Contributions to Catholic Intellectual Life by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU).

The author of several books and more than 100 scholarly articles, Johnson has long been recognized for her contributions to Catholic theology from a distinctly feminine perspective. The Catholic Theological Society of America, the oldest and largest association of theologians in the world, characterized her work as “creating a footbridge between the classical theological tradition and feminist insights, based on meticulous research, intellectual rigor, and an imaginative application of hermeneutics.”

In her most recent book, Truly Our Sister (Continuum, 2003) Johnson painted a portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus, that she said women could embrace, especially those in developing countries.

“Third World women especially started noticing that Mary was like them, that she was a peasant and poor, and lived in a state where there was a lot of violence against people,” Johnson said in a 2003 Fordham magazine article. “Their claiming her as their sister and companion is really what caught me as a theologian.”

Before arriving at Fordham, Johnson taught at Catholic University of America (1980-91) and at St. Joseph College, Brooklyn, N.Y. (1973-77). She received her Ph.D. in theology from Catholic University of America in 1981. Johnson has served as a theologian on the Vatican-sponsored dialogue between science and religion, and on the Vatican-sponsored study of Christ and the world religions.  She was a consultant to the Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Women in Church and Society and a core committee member of the Common Ground Initiative started by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin.

The ACCU award was created in memory of the late Monika K. Hellwig, Ph.D., an internationally renowned theologian and former president of the ACCU.  She was a pathfinder in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, in initiatives to open opportunities for women in higher education and theological scholarship, and in efforts to foster peace and justice through education. Johnson was presented with the award at the ACCU’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4.