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Carmen Mangion

who was either heralded as a progressive and sparkling rendition of all that was new or, in a negative stereotype, reflected a tainted version of femininity when compared to rose-coloured imaginings of a bygone age. The abbesses’ stories suggest the Modern Girl was a figure of fun, but she was also instrumental in the refashioning of female religious life in Catholic religious congregations and orders. This chapter examines her influence. It begins with a historiographical introduction to the Modern Girl and girlhood more broadly. It then reveals her relationship to

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Carmen M. Mangion

objectives were clearly articulated in congregation constitutions which decreed that women religious laboured ‘for the salvation of souls’. As women religious, they were called to evangelise. Connecting these activities to their missionary identity is straightforward, but adding to their cache of identities a ‘professional identity’ can be, problematic and discomfiting. This difficulty is not associated solely with Catholic women religious. As Kathryn Gleadle observed in her work on nineteenth-century British women radicals and Unitarians, ‘Evangelical notions of women

in Contested identities
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Carmen Mangion

have not gone far enough. As with any story of change, this one is complicated. Lastly, this is not the last word on women religious and Vatican II. Each woman and each archive told unique stories of institutional and personal change. Even within the same congregation or order, change was experienced and lived differently. There are more themes to be addressed, more deep analysis to be completed and other facets of this story to be written. 21 This monograph offers one interpretation of what is a complicated set of events and experiences. Like the Council of Trent

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Carmen Mangion

Women religious were simultaneously marginalised and assigned a high status. Yet, there was a degree of agency within religious life, especially for those who held positions of authority, managing sometimes large congregations and educational or charitable institutions. Some women religious did, of course, identify themselves as feminist. Christian feminist women imbibed a feminism that sat with their faith, not outside it. According to theologian Ursula King faith-filled feminism was influenced by secular feminisms: [T]he rise of the women’s movement with its

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Carmen Mangion

, crossing borders to meet in shared social spaces in Rome or motherhouses and daughterhouses across Europe, exchanging ideas in meetings, seminars and workshops and communicating via epistolary correspondence. Though religious institutes have always been international, the degree of their transnationalism has altered over time. Exchange and sharing of educational praxis were commonplace amongst the larger teaching congregations during the growth and dynamism of the ‘teaching age’ of nineteenth-century religious life. 12 The first half of the twentieth century, a period

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Post-war modernity and religious vocations
Carmen Mangion

between their waged employment and war work, they sketched a plan to support women such as themselves, women waiting to enter religious life. They obtained episcopal approval in 1942 to form the Helpers of Our Lady of Good Counsel, a lay religious society aimed at developing strong female vocations from ‘weak’ ones. Twenty years on, this lay society became a religious congregation known as the Vocation Sisters. 2 Dressed in forest green A-line dresses and simple veils, they represented the modern face of religious life. This was more than a new look; their ministry

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
Carmen Mangion

I knew there had to be changes but was amazed – I would say, even offended – at the haphazard manner in which information was made know[n] to the province at large. Authority disappeared, which made it difficult to find out for oneself. In short, turmoil reigned and two groups formed – ‘for change’ and ‘against change’. 1 Thinking back, this sister acknowledged the dramatic changes that were a part of her experience of the 1960s and 1970s as the congregation she had entered in the 1940s went through a re-engineering of how religious life was governed. The

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
Carmen Mangion

space was un- (or sometimes re-) regulated. 12 Like every shift in religious life already discussed, the extent of change in spatial reordering varied by religious institute, and sometimes even between communities within the same religious congregation. The timing of changes differed too, but early shifts in the practice of cloister faintly visible in archival sources from the 1940s quickened with the publication of Council documents Perfectae Caritatis (Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life, 1965) and Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1964

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Changing ministries
Carmen Mangion

young wives. She continued to inform herself on global matters. Her correspondence revealed her delight at visits to London to hear political activist and social scientist Susan George talk about How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976) and hearing Jesuit J. Luis Alegre who worked with peasant groups in Bolivia on rural development. 5 These activities, in Rendall’s words, ‘inevitably introduced questions into the fabric of religious life’. 6 After forty years as an Ursuline she decided to leave the congregation; it was a decision that was

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
Carmen Mangion

their congregation would feel at home with the structure of the day. Such transnational praxis offered connection and coherence and a selfhood linked to their religious family. The British Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul’s adverse reaction to a suggested change in their horarium reflected its significance to their corporate identity. Daughters protested when Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, then President of the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales, suggested they move the 4 a.m. wake-up call to 5.30 a.m. to make it more convenient for clergy who said the

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age