Women Who Changed the Church Lecture: Women Religious, Charitable Ministries and the Welfare State

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Women Religious, Charitable Ministries and the Welfare State

As part of the renewal process coming out of the Second Vatican Council, women religious questioned and rethought their religious ministries. What were once ventures that had at their essence caritas and evangelisation were now embedded in the welfare state apparatus. In examining the shift in women’s ministries, this paper examines the letting go of institutional religious ventures, particular those relating to education and medical care by exploring how existing ministries were reshaped and new ones were established. These shifts were often a move from Catholic-centred, identity-laden, instrumental ‘fortress-church’ ministries to forms of service that acknowledged and engaged with those marginalised by society. The move was a significant one, one that allowed them to leave structured ministries with regulated state oversight, to the flexibility of services that offered aid to those marginalised by society. Their concerns became broader than charity, social justice also addressed the need for systemic change and remediation.

An example of one such sister whose ministerial focus changed is Elizabeth Rendall (pictured above) who was an Ursuline. Come hear about how Elizabeth and other sisters helped to truly change the Church.

Photo of Elizabeth Rendall with permission from Vanessa Terry and Jane Rendall, owners of the personal archives of Elizabeth Rendall.

Date / Time: 10th February 2022

Cost: £10

Lecturer: Dr Carmen Mangion

Register on Eventbrite:  HERE

Women Who Changed the Church is a series of 8 lectures during the Spring of 2022 which showcase the varied voices of women throughout history and up to today who have enriched and transformed church practice, communities, and ideas.

We offer 3 intensive workshops alongside the lectures to discuss the topics presented each week in smaller, focused groups. These workshops compose one module of our women-only Catholic Theology and Practice certificate programme. The all-in cost for all 8 lectures plus the workshops is £180.

About the lecturer:

Dr Mangion is a Lecturer in Modern History at Birkbeck, University of London. Carmen is Lecturer in Modern History at Birkbeck. Her research examines the cultural and social history of gender and religion in nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain. She is the author of Contested Identities: Catholic Women Religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales (2008) and numerous publications on gender and religion in Britain’s nineteenth-century medical marketplace.

Carmen’s current research examines the changes in Catholic women’s religious life from 1945 to 1990, thinking particularly about changes in individual and community lives. While the project centres on events in the long 1960s, particular the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), it considers pre and post Vatican II social, cultural and religious events as influencers in these changes. It frames these changes in two important ways. First, it interrogates ‘lived experience’ by examining the day to day lives of women religious. Second, Catholic religious institutes were international and this project is developed within a transnational framework. Religious life was influenced by international connections and the project examines the meaning and consequences of religious internationalism as it shifted and came into sharp relief from the 1940s.

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