A description and analysis of an organizational change in three women's religious congregations

Catherine Helen Walsh, Fordham University


Organizational change is a phenomenon that affects all institutions. The Catholic Church is no exception nor are any of its institutions. Since Vatican II women's religious congregations have been changing rapidly. Diminishing numbers from both attrition and lack of women entering, coupled with aging members and diminishing resources, have compelled religious congregations to change. This is a study of three religious congregations within the Dominican Order who founded a new congregation in response to the need to change. This study describes the process these congregations undertook to achieve the change. The study addresses the questions: What was the nature of the organizational change undertaken? What factors contributed to the type of change they underwent? Why did the congregations choose to found a new congregation rather than to merge, form a federation, or amalgamate? How did the organizational change affect each congregation? Were the effects the same or different for each? Were the resistances to change the same or different in each? In all, the study describes how these contemporary women religious initiated, endured, and sustained a major organizational change. The literature reviewed for this study included research dealing with planned organizational change and the literature of organizational change in religious life. The research is presented as a case study following the theories associated with the change process. Analysis of the data provides evidence that the process of founding a new congregation was a second order, transformative change in its final stage. The analysis compares and contrasts the study through an integrated framework of organizational change literature and the literature of organizational change in religious life using the stages of Levy and Merry (1986) as a skeleton for the framework. It demonstrates the characteristics of women as leaders of organizational change. Recommendations are made to look in more depth at the aspects that sustained the change such as leadership, facilitation, and resources as well as to compare this case with other organizational changes in religious congregations.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Religious history|Religious congregations

Recommended Citation

Walsh, Catherine Helen, "A description and analysis of an organizational change in three women's religious congregations" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9839522.