To Identify and Describe Some of the Major Forces That Have Shaped Changes in the Way American Women Religious Understand and Define Religious Life, Commitment, and Ministry

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Fri, 01/01/1988
End Date: 
Sat, 12/31/1988

Individually and institutionally, American women religious underwent a radical transformation during the twenty-five years following the Second Vatican Council. When the Council opened, more than 170,000 American sisters staffed hospitals, schools, and other agencies, performing a host of social and contemplative services to the Church and the wider society. Their contribution to the public presence of the Catholic Church in the United States has been incalculable. In the last three decades, the lives and ministries of women religious have been thoroughly remade. What forces are responsible for this transformation? How did it come about, what parties promoted it, and for what reasons? These are some of the questions this grant is intended to answer. Researchers Lora Ann Quinonez, and Mary Daniel Turner, themselves participants in this transformation, undertook a series of interviews with key leaders and observers of the movement, and the first systematic review of the archival materials of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Sister Formation Movement and other primary sources. The history of women religious, an important chapter in the history of women in the United States, illustrates many of the difficult changes challenging the Church since the Council. Quinonez and Turner's research documents the emergence of a new consciousness among American women religious, a process that began prior to Vatican II and came to fruition in the quarter century following the Council. This shift in consciousness provides the foundation for most of the other, more visible, changes that have characterized American nuns, from adopting secular dress to opposing the hierarchy on the ordination of women.