American Catholic religious sisters were flourishing before the 1960s. In 1962, the Pope called to order the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, to create continuity for the Catholic Church. Before the Council released the 16 documents they had agreed upon, lay and religious people made speculations as to the changes that would be made and misinterpreted the meaning of the council. This led to an outpouring of changes and two types of convents were established: those that embraced secularity and those that remained more traditional. Traditional convents require the wearing of the habit and all the sisters live together under one roof. The convents that embraced secularity no longer required the habit and the sisters could live in small groups in scattered apartments. After Vatican II the number of religious women joining convents fell sharply overall. However, for the more traditional convents, the number of new members only increased. Religious sisters were interviewed to determine what factors are considered throughout the discernment process and to gauge why women choose to join more traditional convents over more secular ones. Discerning women prefer the habit and traditional values to support their internal vocation to the religious life. The sisters from the secular convent do not require this external support for their identity as religious sisters.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2014


Catherine L. Stearn

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level