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Liz Hutter, an assistant professor of English at the University of Dayton, will receive the Marian Library Resident Scholar Fellowship for the project “Reading, Writing, and Seeing Health and Disability in Community at Lourdes Sanctuary.”

An account from the writer Flannery O’Connor, whose cousin suggested a pilgrimage to Lourdes as a healing intervention for a chronic illness, prompted Hutter’s interest in pursuing what she sees as a binary logic often associated with Lourdes, the shrine commemorating the 1858 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous.

O’Connor made a distinction clear to her cousin: “I am going as a pilgrim, not a patient.”

Religious beliefs and spiritual practices play a role in how many people understand their illnesses or disabilities, Hutter posits. At the same time, religious institutions and spiritual communities are commonly involved in health promotion and communication around illness and disability. These individual beliefs and institutional practices merge on the therapeutic and spiritual landscape of the Lourdes sanctuary. Using materials and expertise in the Marian Library, she plans to examine Lourdes from multiple disciplines as not only a place for individual reflection and healing, but also as a space for examining community relationships and access to community services for persons with neurological, physical, sensory and other disabilities. By employing a disability studies perspective, she says, she plans to destabilize the rigid distinction O’Connor articulated between pilgrim and patient.