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Young, Ethnic, Female, Catholic & Radical: Intentional Community and the Catholic Extension Society, 1960-70s

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Abstract:

Weaving together threads of the scholarship of social activism, the 1960s, second wave feminism, ethnicity, Catholic history and intentional communities, this paper will explore the preliminary findings of new research on the development and place of unexpected intentional community in the lives of female, Catholic, college graduates who lived and worked together in the late 1960s and early 1970s while volunteering throughout the US with the Catholic Extension Society lay missionary program. The paper initially enumerates and considers a set of factors that led these women to join Extension (ethnic identity, gender identity, religious training, professional aspirations, radical politics and theology) and places their choice within the movement culture and counterculture of these tumultuous years in American history. At a time when there were many intentional communities forming and reforming in "secular" US society—based on gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, political leanings & ideological agendas—these post-Vatican II Catholic women found in the Extension Society model a way to participate in these larger social trends in a particularly "authentic" way (to use the framework developed by Doug Rossinow in The Politics of Authenticity when speaking about the Protestant theological origins of student activists at mid century).

The intentional communities that cropped up were not planned as such but developed as volunteers worked and lived together in economically and professionally challenging environments in some of the poorest rural and urban parts of the United States. Their shared life experiences (both during and prior to Extension) became integral to the volunteers’ ability to accomplish the work they set out to do in impoverished places. Out of an interest in serving others these pairs and small groups of lay women found themselves drawing upon and developing a sense of shared mission, shared space, shared finances, and shared world view. In some ways these intentional communities were quite different from those of other young “movement” women (and men) and yet this paper suggests that they offered a way for religiously-motivated social activists to participate in the wave of intentional community building among young “secular” Americans at the time. Of particular interest—and linking late 20th c. secular intentional community building with other more explicitly religious ones—is the way in which the Extension Society experience was, for some, tied either imaginatively or experientially to the lives of early 20th c. ethnic Catholic nuns or sisters, who offered models of intentional community and social change to some of the women choosing Extension in the 1960s and 70s.
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417193_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Duclos-Orsello, Elizabeth. "Young, Ethnic, Female, Catholic & Radical: Intentional Community and the Catholic Extension Society, 1960-70s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX, <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417193_index.html>

APA Citation:

Duclos-Orsello, E. A. "Young, Ethnic, Female, Catholic & Radical: Intentional Community and the Catholic Extension Society, 1960-70s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p417193_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Weaving together threads of the scholarship of social activism, the 1960s, second wave feminism, ethnicity, Catholic history and intentional communities, this paper will explore the preliminary findings of new research on the development and place of unexpected intentional community in the lives of female, Catholic, college graduates who lived and worked together in the late 1960s and early 1970s while volunteering throughout the US with the Catholic Extension Society lay missionary program. The paper initially enumerates and considers a set of factors that led these women to join Extension (ethnic identity, gender identity, religious training, professional aspirations, radical politics and theology) and places their choice within the movement culture and counterculture of these tumultuous years in American history. At a time when there were many intentional communities forming and reforming in "secular" US society—based on gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, political leanings & ideological agendas—these post-Vatican II Catholic women found in the Extension Society model a way to participate in these larger social trends in a particularly "authentic" way (to use the framework developed by Doug Rossinow in The Politics of Authenticity when speaking about the Protestant theological origins of student activists at mid century).

The intentional communities that cropped up were not planned as such but developed as volunteers worked and lived together in economically and professionally challenging environments in some of the poorest rural and urban parts of the United States. Their shared life experiences (both during and prior to Extension) became integral to the volunteers’ ability to accomplish the work they set out to do in impoverished places. Out of an interest in serving others these pairs and small groups of lay women found themselves drawing upon and developing a sense of shared mission, shared space, shared finances, and shared world view. In some ways these intentional communities were quite different from those of other young “movement” women (and men) and yet this paper suggests that they offered a way for religiously-motivated social activists to participate in the wave of intentional community building among young “secular” Americans at the time. Of particular interest—and linking late 20th c. secular intentional community building with other more explicitly religious ones—is the way in which the Extension Society experience was, for some, tied either imaginatively or experientially to the lives of early 20th c. ethnic Catholic nuns or sisters, who offered models of intentional community and social change to some of the women choosing Extension in the 1960s and 70s.


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