Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Robert E. Blumstock
This study developed out of a general concern with the central question of renewal in the Roman Catholic church following Vatican II. The decision was made to probe the impact and consequences of adaptation in a religious organization of committed women. The purpose of the study was to analyze one aspect of structural change which has historical and contemporary relevance for women in religious social systems. This change revolves around the cloister, or norms of Enclosure, which have secured and insured separation from the world for those seeking to live the committed life. In the formal sense, cloister or Enclosure, denotes the the body of laws governing entry into end exit from the residential quarters of the religious. In accordance with canonical prescriptions, as well as with selected chapters from the formal rule and constitutions of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, norms of Enclosure were operationally defined to include: Life styles within the convent; Admission of nonmembers to the Enclosure; Secular influences within the Enclosure; The wearing of the religious garb; and, Exit of members from the Enclosure. Within the parameters of the sociology of religion, the focus of the research design centered on the coexistence of the sacred-secular tradition with religious communities as a reference point. These were designated as sacred entities by the nature of their values and goals. The gradual encroachment and absorption of the sacred by the secular is often referred to as the process of secularization. In this study secularization was operationally defined as a process of change from withdrawal to involvement in the secular milieu. It was based on the transposition of attitudes, values, and behaviour of religious women toward the secular world. Changes in traditional Enclosure observance were examined from a number of perspectives. On an historical continuum they were viewed as a contributing factor to the structural differentiation which has taken place in the emergence of two types of religious community systems--the monastic and the apostolic. The study documented how the social structure of an apostolic congregation functioned to maintain the values and norms of Enclosure traditionally accepted until 1950. A comparative analysis of the three legislative documents formulated in the organization within the first hundred years of its existence revealed a startling growth of Enclosure directives. The thesis lIkewise iaolated Enclosure norms as a focal point of adaptation in SSND after 1950. The religious organization believed that if it were to adapt its work to the realities of social change, Enclosure directives would have to be altered. This structural differentiation within one religious system, and in relationship to the social system of the Roman Catholic church was accomplished simultaneously on two levels. Change agents within the Catholic church and voluntary associations of religious implemented change through external differentiation. General chapters, professional interaction, and a self-study of the congregation contributed to internal differentiation. From 1950 to 1970 Enclosure legislation in the five traditional areas was gradually, but dramatically altered. Through the use of field sources--questionnaire, interview, and participant observation--the researcher endeavoured to analyze the effects of Enclosure change on the attitudes and life styles of a selected sample of the membership. Data revealed that the majority of members felt that the amount of change which had occurred in the five traditional areas of Enclosure was about right, although there were gradations of acceptance of specific items. A majority agreed that some Enclosure changes had contributed to the secularization of religious women. There was a general feeling that increased secular participation had not affected their commitment to the sacred aspects of religious life, but that it had hindered the growth patterns of the religious organization.
Small, Helen Francis Sister, "Changes in Traditional Norms of Enclosure; A Study of the Secularization of Religious Women" (1973). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2964.
McMaster University Library