Sr. Barbara Moore, CSJ, Sr. Barbara Moore, CSJ, has broken barriers and solved problems
head on: becoming the first woman of color to join the Sisters of
St. Joseph of Carondelet; marching for voting rights in Selma, Ala.;
nursing, teaching nursing; leaving teaching to serve the health needs
of underprivileged women and children; leading the health care
operations for her order; and convincing her fellow sisters that
Ascension’s whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
Sr. Moore, 77, was born in Memphis and raised in a Baptist family in
Birmingham, Ala. She converted to Catholicism at age 12, when she
moved with her mother and brother to St. Louis.
She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1955, becoming
the first black woman to enter the community. She earned her bachelor’s
degree in nursing in 1962 from the College of St. Theresa, now known
as Avila University, in Kansas City, beginning her career as a staff nurse.
Her composure and cool under pressure made Sr. Moore the ideal
choice of the order when religious nationwide joined the historic
march for voting rights in Selma, Ala., in 1965. She was one of two
African-American nuns on the march.
A year after her return, Sr. Moore earned a master’s degree in nursing
from the University of California San Francisco and a Ph.D. in higher
education administration in Seattle in 1977. She became a nursing
instructor and eventually chair of Avila’s nursing department.
Yet she felt a longing to serve people of color and others in need, and
left Avila in 1988 to coordinate the perinatal care program at an inner city
health center in Kansas City. A decade later, she became project director
for Kansas City’s Healthy Start Program, focused on reducing infant
morbidity and mortality.
Following her years of community service came a shift to leadership in
the Carondelet Health System, where she again broke ground when the
sisters joined Ascension in 2002.
Ascension formed a sponsors’ council, composed of nuns from the
three orders that were part of Ascension at the time. Sr. Moore
represented the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet from 2003 to 2008
and served as council chair from 2005 to 2008.
Though she officially retired in 2015, Sr. Moore continues to be a guiding
force for women of color. She works with Nia Kuumba, a spirituality
center in St. Louis for African-American and African women, particularly
students at area universities. She also has traveled to Uganda to help
Microfinancing Partners in Africa, an organization based in St. Louis that
has provided economic opportunities to single mothers and families.
"Too often the poor, marginalized women and people of color do not
have a voice when major decisions are made that affect their lives,” she
said. “I have tried to be a voice that invites and encourages those in
positions of influence and power to invite others to the table and to be
mindful of their needs."