Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Cramer, K.


Philosophy, religion and theology, Social sciences, Psychology, Generativity, Identity, Listening guide, Narrative, Thrive, Women religious




The Catholic Church has a rich history of women choosing to devote their lives to God and the Church through religious vocations. The theological shifts at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) affected the spirituality and lifestyle for many women religious. These changes renewed the identity of women religious and their role within the modern world. Over the past few years in the United States of America, the Vatican has conducted two assessments involving American women religious. The purpose of this study was to explore the identity of American women religious and to explore the impact of the current events within the Church on their identity with emphasis on their sense of generativity. The Listening Guide (Gilligan, 1982) was used to analyse the narratives of 8 American women religious from an apostolic congregation. The findings suggest that these women continue to identify with the principles of Vatican II. Specifically, they view themselves as mature, faithful women who serve God and others through the charism and ministry of their chosen vocation. Although they are upset by the recent attitude and actions of the Vatican regarding the Apostolic Visitation and the assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, they are united in their faith that the current tensions in the Church are creative. As such, they are able to thrive in the face of adversity, evidenced by how they have modeled their values of collaboration and collective discernment in their response to the Vatican. They discussed the importance of group cohesion that fosters individual spirituality within the collective identity. They also emphasized the ability to thrive despite criticism from the Vatican by maintaining their social identity in their daily activities. Finally, they embraced the possibility of an imminent transformation within the Church.