Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales

Roman Catholic women's congregations are an enigma of nineteenth century social history. Over 10,000 women, establishing and managing significant Catholic educational, health care and social welfare institutions in England and Wales, have virtually disappeared from history. In nineteenth-century England, representations of women religious were ambiguous and contested from both within and without the convent. This book places women religious in the centre of nineteenth-century social history and reveals how religious activism shaped the identity of Catholic women religious. It is devoted to evolution of religious life and the early monastic life of the women. Catholic women were not pushed into becoming women religious. On the basis of their available options, they chose a path that best suited their personal, spiritual, economic and vocational needs. The postulancy and novitiate period formed a rite of passage that tested the vocation of each aspirant. The book explores the religious activism of women religious through their missionary identity and professional identity. The labour of these women was linked to their role as evangelisers. The book deals with the development of a congregation's corporate identity which brought together a disparate group of women under the banner of religious life. It looks specifically at class and ethnicity and the women who entered religious life, and identifies the source of authority for the congregation and the individual sister.

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impediments. Typically, the impediments were scrupulously used to screen postulants, but exceptions were made in certain circumstances. Forming a novice 91 especially if the candidate was not known to the congregation.10 The final step, an interview with the local superior or novice mistress, was critical; she determined whether the candidate might have the requisite attributes for religious life and allowed her to enter the congregation as a postulant or dismissed her as having ‘no vocation’. Once the candidate was past these hurdles, the real testing began. The

in Contested identities

edited volume The Education of the Novice , a collection of lectures given to fifty novice mistresses in 1955, began by remarking that novitiates posed different problems from those of fifty years earlier. He noted that ‘revolutionary changes’ in society required novice mistresses to become a ‘bridge’ between the life of the secular world and the life of the cloister. Her role was to ‘inculcate firmly the essentials of religious life while interpreting the particular customs and regulations of the convent to the mentality of the newcomers’. He referenced Modern Girls

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age

during the first year until she is professed. And then, when chapter is finished, she who shall be her mistress shall say to the prioress: ‘There is a novice to be examined.’ And then the prioress shall ask for her to be brought in. And her mistress shall bring her in. And when she comes where the convent receive their penance, then she shall

in Monasticism in late medieval England, c. 1300–1535
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How did laywomen become nuns in the early modern world?

such a ceremony from a fifteenth-century guide for English Benedictine nuns. 2 The event took place at the altar of the convent church with the other nuns looking on from their stalls in the choir. The novice read her profession in the presence of a priest, made the sign of a cross in the book of profession, approached the altar with her novice mistress, kissed the altar, bowed

in Conversions

did not believe she was.6 Additional factors complicated the debate. As mistress of the novices, Ursula Hewick wrote in October 1624 to inform the archbishop that Cotton had told her she liked neither the abbess nor the convent, and that she prayed God not to be accepted. Although there is no record of any initial reluctance, she had come to conceive a strong dislike for the religious life, which Hewick feared would be the cause of much trouble if her profession went ahead as planned, on 10 November 1624.7 The novice was therefore put on probation, but by February

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century

habits and a properly equipped cell for each new nun. This cost 500 florins (equivalent to 625 livres tournois) per novice. In 1600, Brussels received five novices, at a cost of 2,500 florins for their clothes and the furnishing of their cells; in 1603, 2,000 florins were dedicated to the provision of four new novices, in 1605, 1,500 florins for three new novices and in 1608, 2,000 florins for another four novices.6 Of course, new nuns meant new dowries for the communities, but their entry into religion had an initial cost; although these were only occasional 79 MUP

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century
Gothic and the perverse father of queer enjoyment

the apartment. Soon after the priest descended to vespers, much surprised at the mystery of the youth’s behaviour. 11 Later, yet still prior to the disclosure of Philario’s female name and identity, the young novice will kiss Father Innocent on the mouth and, in a gesture of love and devotion, strew flowers around his cell

in Queering the Gothic

constitutions of Paris highlighted the crucial importance of ‘the right education of Novices’, upon which ‘all good order & discipline & true Religion doe depend’.25 The novice mistress supervised them and acted as an elder sister who taught her younger siblings how to behave in the family and how to serve it well. The abbess and her council therefore chose her amongst the more experienced and achieved professed Sisters: she was to be able ‘to gain Soules by words, but more by example’. Under her care, novices learnt to sing and to say the divine office, to perform all

in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century

say goodbye to them and I remember being taken to a door … the Novice Mistress said ‘You are now going into enclosure.’ Well. So I raised my body, straightened my back and thought ‘This is it’ … and in I went but I can’t remember feeling happy, not even sad, I wasn’t homesick or anything um because you know this, I was coming home, home. 23 But, of course, the ministries of teaching, nursing and parish work usually required sisters to leave their convent spaces. When outside the convent, enclosure was consciously performed in embodied ways: through distance and

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age