Sister Shawn was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1958. She received a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Fontbonne University in 1962, a Master of Arts in theology/ religious education from The Catholic University of America in 1971 and, later, a doctorate in theology/ Christian spirituality in 1984. From 1962-1973, she taught in secondary schools in Missouri and Texas and in junior high on the Menominee Reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin. She was a renewal team member of the St. Louis province and on the Congregational Constitution Task Force from 1974 to 1977.
While finishing a doctoral dissertation, she taught at Seton Hall College in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. After receiving the doctorate in 1984, she taught theology and women’s spirituality at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the 23 years spent at the University of St. Catherine, she wrote eight books and many articles including those in New Dictionary of Catholic Theology, New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, New Dictionary of Catholic Worship, Liturgy Quarterly, Worship, Living Light, Spirituality Today, Homilies for the Christian People, Sunday by Sunday.
Research grants enabled further study of women’s emerging spirituality in Ghana, West Africa, Northern Ireland, Japan and Bethlehem. Sister Shawn has been a resident visiting scholar in Oxford, England, Notre Dame University, South Bend, Institute of Ecumenical and Cultural Research-St. John’s University, and St. Mary of the Woods. In 2005, she received the St. Paul Archdiocesan Msgr. Sweeney Award for Furthering Vatican II Ideals and Liturgical Reforms.
She was vice president and president of the National Liturgical Conference (1990-94), and served on boards of the National Liturgical Conference in Washington, DC; St. John’s Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota; Fontbonne University in St. Louis; Avila University in Kansas City; Norbertine Spirituality Center in Green Bay; Catholic Theological Society of America; Topical Encyclopedia of Worship resources in New York; and Center of Excellence for Women and Spirituality in St. Paul.
Her biography and works are included in The Dictionary of International Scholars Biography, 24-26th editions, 2000-2006; 2000 Outstanding Scholars of the 20th Century, Cambridge, England, 2004-2007 editions; International Directory of Distinguished Leadership, 1997-2003.
Since retiring from the University of St. Catherine as Distinguished Professor of Theology in 2008, she now works with five groups of CSJ associates, does occasional programs at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, is an occasional adjunct for the St. Norbert College MA Theology program, and is an active member of the ministry team for homeless women and men in the Green Bay area.