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Pathways to Religious Life for American and Congolese Women

Pathways to Religious Life for American and Congolese Women

(p.85) Four Pathways to Religious Life for American and Congolese Women
Unequal Partners
Casey Ritchie Clevenger
University of Chicago Press

This chapter outlines the different ways women in the United States and Democratic Republic of Congo were introduced to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. It focuses on the people, institutions, and social networks that were fundamental to their decisions to enter religious life. Historically, there have been different patterns of support for religious vocations among US and Congolese women. In Boston, the broad-based support for vocations that existed within close-knit Irish American communities where most members were raised prior to Vatican II has eroded. Young Congolese women who entered the novitiate in Kisantu and later Kimwenza never experienced this type of communal support as they pursued religious life. When the Sisters of Notre Dame opened a novitiate for local women in 1959, those who entered struggled to justify and explain their presence within a Belgian religious order to their families and communities, Congolese nationalists, and the white missionary sisters who ambivalently accepted them into the congregation. More recent generations of Congolese sisters have relied on the encouragement of parish vocation groups, the example and mentorship of older Congolese sisters, and personal encouragement from family members who believe God is calling them to religious life.

Keywords:   Catholic sisters, religious vocations, organizational decline, religious vows, Vatican II, Boston, Democratic Republic of Congo

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