The Nun in the World: A Transnational Study of Catholic Sisters and the Second Vatican Council

Location: London Global Gateway

May 7-9, 2015

Online registration is now closed.


A limited number of places are still available. Contact the Cushwa Center at or 574-631-5441 to register.


In collaboration with the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, the Religious Life Institute at Heythrop College, and the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism is hosting this international conference at the University of Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway

The conference will begin at 11:00am on Thursday, May 7 with a keynote address, and will conclude with the Final Presentation of the Religious Life Vitality Project, scheduled from 11:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, May 9.

The General, three-day registration fee is $75.00. This fee is waived for the Cushwa Center's invited presenters. General registration includes: 1.) light lunches on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; 2.) welcome reception on Thursday evening; 3.) refreshments and snacks available throughout sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; 4.) all meeting materials.

The fee for Saturday-only registration (for those attending only the Religious Life Vitality Project) is $25.00. Saturday-only registration includes: 1.) Light lunch at noon on Saturday; 2.) Refreshments and snacks available throughout Saturday sessions; 3.) All meeting materials.

Notre Dame faculty, staff, and students may attend at no charge, but must register.

An updated schedule (including details of Saturday's Final Presentation of the Religious Life Vitality Project, pp. 5-6), is available here.


Accommodations in London

There is no designated hotel for general registrants of the “Nun in the World” symposium. Unless otherwise arranged with the Cushwa Center, conference participants are responsible to secure their own housing. A list of possible lodging options for visitors to London may be found here. View the location of the London Global Gateway, nearby transportation, and other places of interest on our Map for the Nun in the World Symposium. 


Additional Information

View the full conference schedule here.

Our symposium of keynotes and panels (from Thursday to Saturday morning) unites three burgeoning areas of scholarship in religious history: the examination of the “lived history” of the Second Vatican Council; an analysis of the Roman Catholic Church as an transnational actor in global history; and efforts to develop a comprehensive understanding of Catholic women’s religious institutes through the lens of the history of gender and voluntarism during one of the most transformative moments in their collective history. How did women religious made sense of the changes in religious life, and how did local and global circumstances shape the lives of women religious within and across congregations?

Invited by the Council to renew their lives and examine their founding charisms, women religious found the experience alternating exhilarating and agonizing; they worked out their aggiornamento in a world simultaneously rocked by the disintegration of empires and a revolution in gender roles. At this symposium, presenters from ten countries will use focused studies to describe the experience of sisters in disparate sites ranging from cloistered communities in Australia to activist outposts in Central America.  The complexity of transnational relationships within far-flung networks of women religious appear in studies of European and American women's experience of mission sites in Africa and Asia, while other speakers investigate African sisters' experience as they now immigrate to the global north. Theological and governance debates at a range of "renewal chapters" shed light on how women religious felt their way towards new understandings of key topics like liturgy, authority, prayer, and mission.

In concert with the Cushwa Center's ongoing project on the Lived History of Vatican II, this symposium establishes new territory in the study of the international history of a church now open and receptive to "the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties" of the age. View a brochure for this portion of the conference here.

From Saturday morning and into the afternoon, the discussion will transition to contemporary situation, specifically in terms of the findings of the Religious Life Vitality Project. All are welcome to attend this Final Presentation of the project, which will include group and plenary discussions with presentations and commentary offered by Prof. Paul D. Murray (Durham University), Sr Dr Rosemarie Nassif, S.S.N.D., (Catholic Sisters Initiative, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation), Catherine Sexton (Margaret Beaufort Institute for Theology, Cambridge), Sr. Dr. Gemma Simmonds, C.J. (Heythrop College, University of London).

The Religious Life Vitality Project examines the contemporary landscape of consecrated female apostolic life and related indicators of vitality in the UK, Ireland, and the United States, asking the following questions: “Who is doing what where? How are resources being deployed in service of mission? What is the quality of witness that is being lived? How are the challenges of the times being met? Where are the indicators of health/vitality within the life and work of various orders and how can these be compared on a socio-geographic basis?” The study seeks to acquire and analyse data on vitality within the current state of female religious life not simply in demographic terms but explicitly in more directly theological and spiritual terms, relative to charism, apostolate, and quality of witness and spiritual flourishing.  This initial study will provide a foundation for a subsequent larger, more progressive and more comprehensive project which will allow for a fully comparative global study.