The Vatican has appointed Franciscan Sister, Sr Mary Melone, as the first ever Rector of a Pontifical University. She was appointed head of our Franciscan University in Rome.

She was the first woman to obtain a permanent position as a professor at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical University Antonianum, the Roman university run by the Order of Friars Minor; she was the first woman to be appointed a dean, which is equivalent to the position of department head and now she is the first woman to become a rector of a pontifical university in the Eternal City. 

Sr. Mary (birth name Maria Domenica) Melone was born in La Spezia in 1964. After finishing school with a specialization in classics, she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina where she took her temporary vows in 1986 and then professed her perpetual vows in 1991. In 1992 she graduated with a degree in teaching and philosophy from the Libera università Maria santissima assunta (LUMSA) with a thesis on “Corporeity and intersubjectivity  in Gabriel Marcel”. She then studied theology at the Pontifical University Antonianum, where she had studied from 1983 to 1987, obtaining a degree in 1996 and then a PhD with a thesis on “The Holy Spirit in Riccardo di San Vittore’s De Trinitate” published in 2001. 

“I don’t give much importance to these kinds of labels, female theology,” Sr. Melone said in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, published on the occasion of her election as dean of Theology. “Above all, I don’t like comparisons although I recognize that in the past there may have been a reason for making comparisons. Maybe there is one today as well, I don’t know. More space definitely needs to be given to women. The reference to female theology does not really fit with my vision of things: all that exists is theology. Theology as research, as a focus on mystery, as a reflection on this mystery. But precisely because this requires different sensitivities.  A woman’s approach to mystery, the way in which she reflects on this mystery which offers itself and reveals itself, is certainly different from that of a man.”