Commitment in religious life in the post-Vatican II era: A study of association membership programs

Rosemary Elizabeth Jeffries, Fordham University


Commitment in religious life in the United States is in transition from the numerous changes of Vatican II combined with the great upheaval of society during the past 25 years. The recent phenomenon of associate membership to religious life presents a unique challenge to the traditional boundaries. The theories of commitment and community derived by Rosabeth Kanter's and Benjamin Zablocki's studies of communes provides useful descriptions of traditional communities for comparison with religious life structures. This comparison reveals that many contemporary Religious Orders are significantly different than the traditional communities of the pre-Vatican II era which resembled the community descriptions of Kanter and Zablocki. In particular Orders differ by relaxing the rules of renunciation of outside involvements. The encouragement of the associate membership concept by Religious Orders is a very concrete and powerful example of this shift. How this change affects the commitment of the religious is the central question of this study. While the theories on commitment in community were helpful in determining specific challenges this new form of membership presents to traditional religious life, they fail to accommodate for the variations in types of commitment to religious life. Talcott Parsons theory of social systems suggest a way of conceptualizing religious life in a pluriform model which can accommodate for differences in forms of commitment. In particular this open system approach provides space for extended forms of membership such as association. By including alternative forms of membership, commitment in religious life increases but diversified.

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Recommended Citation

Jeffries, Rosemary Elizabeth, "Commitment in religious life in the post-Vatican II era: A study of association membership programs" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127035.