Dr Briege Rafferty

Fellow and Member of the Las Casas Institute

Since 2014, Dr Briege Rafferty’s academic research has focused on recovering the voices of religious sisters whose lived experiences have been largely ignored in the historiography of the Catholic Church and the Northern Ireland Troubles (1968-1998). Utilising the methodology of oral history, Briege places the lives of Catholic sisters at the centre of research, analysing their experiences, their socio-historical situation, and the cultural and political climate in which they lived and worked. Specifically, her work uncovers the diversity and scope of sisters’ ministries in the areas of social activism, education, healthcare, and peace and reconciliation. Briege has conducted interviews with individual sisters, members of the Catholic clergy, former political prisoners, and former colleagues and past pupils of teacher-sisters.

Between 2014-2016, with Dr Dianne Kirby, she facilitated a series of witness seminars which brought women of faith and churchmen together to record the challenges they faced on the difficult pathway to peace in Northern Ireland.

Prior to commencing this research, Briege worked as a nurse in various areas of healthcare for more than twenty years. She completed her MRes. in the Arts (with distinction) in 2016 and was awarded her PhD from Queens University, Belfast, in 2022.

Expanding on work already undertaken, Briege is currently conducting research with Drs Maria Power and Dianne Kirby in the Women Religious Project which was launched at Las Casas Institute in October 2022. Recognising that the challenging work undertaken by women religious in war-torn societies has been largely disregarded in mainstream histories, this project documents life stories that provide a deeper understanding of the ministries of women religious among the marginalised, and in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Research interests: Oral history, women religious, the Northern Ireland Troubles, global peacebuilding, the impact of violence.

Email: women-religious-project@bfriars.ox.ac.uk