Building a Global Sisterhood for Human Development

Natalya Pyagay • 30 January 2018

Conrad N. Hilton counted Sisters among his friends and supported their congregations throughout his lifetime. He ensured that his personal support for Sisters, and that of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, would continue through a provision in his last will and testament:

“Give aid to… the Sisters, who devote their love and life’s work for the good of mankind, for they appeal especially to me as deserving help from the Foundation… It is my wish… to have the largest part of your benefactions dedicated to the Sisters in all parts of the world.”

Over the past decade the number of Catholics worldwide has increased by 14 percent; the number of Sisters has decreased by 9 percent. Significant increases in the number of Sisters in Asia (18%) and Africa (26%) were offset by dramatic decreases in Europe (-20%) and North America (-27%). Whereas Europe and North America once sent missionaries to the Global South, Sisters from Latin America, Asia and Africa now minister in the Global North.

Though the number of Sisters worldwide is declining, Sisters still make tremendous contributions to human development through their spiritual witness and service to those in need. They are recognized as resourceful and efficient agents of human development, with hundreds of thousands of Sisters around the world educating students, serving the vulnerable, standing with the oppressed, promoting peace, and advocating for justice.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation partners with organizations, including associations and other foundations, in the development and implementation of strategic initiatives that build the capacity of congregations of women religious in the areas of leadership, membership, and resources, enabling Catholic Sisters to advance human development more widely and effectively.

The Foundation also provides grants to other Faith-Based Organizations: 


The Sustainable Development Goals Philanthropy Platform (SDGPP or the Platform) is a global initiative that connects philanthropy with knowledge and networks that can deepen collaboration, leverage resources and sustain impact, driving SDG delivery within national development agenda.


Established as a global facilitator that enables strong partnerships between philanthropic organizations, the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses, and other stakeholders, SDGPP is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Brach Family Charitable Foundation, UN Foundation and many others. 


In Zambia, SDGPP has been convening Zambian Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and international NGOs with faith-based missions around the Global Agenda. For more information, please see a  dedicated blog by SDGPP Zambia Research and Project Officer and our Initiative on collaborating with FBOs.