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The Laywoman ProjectRemaking Catholic Womanhood in the Vatican II Era$
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Mary J. Henold

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469654492

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469654492.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 01 July 2022

Womanhood Is Sisterhood

Womanhood Is Sisterhood

(p.29) 1 Womanhood Is Sisterhood
The Laywoman Project

Mary J. Henold

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter uses the group the Theresians as a case study to analyze shifting perceptions of Catholic laywomen’s vocation in the 1960s and 1970s. The Theresians was founded in the early 1960s by Fr. Elwood Voss as a group for laywomen to promote vocations to the Catholic sisterhoods. The organization’s founding was an outgrowth of the perceived vocation crisis that began in the late 1950s in the American church. Theresians at this time were consistently taught to privilege the “higher” vocation of women religious (nuns) rather than their own vocations as married or single laywomen. Such beliefs were reinforced by a mid-century Catholic culture that discouraged friendship between laywomen and sisters, and emphasized not only sisters’ special sanctity, but also their authority over laywomen. Over time, however, lay and religious Theresians came to challenge the idea of laywomen’s inferiority, and the group sought new ways of expressing and affirming laywomen’s vocational choices and Catholic women’s self-definition.

Keywords:   The Theresians, Elwood Voss, Vocation, Catholic laywomen, Women religious, 1960s, 1970s

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