Religious Life in the United States: A Vocation of Border Crossing

Jung Eun Sophia Park


It is said that apostolic religious women communities in the U.S. are experiencing an identity crisis along with a decrease in membership. This essay explains identity construction by critiquing the current approach to identity as a status, and provides a model of identity as border crosser. This study is significant in providing innovative ideas with regard to the identity of women religious, critiquing the life of apostolic women religious, and posing suggestions for the future of religious life in light of a vocation of border crossing.

The author employs Jacque Lacan’s concepts of the “master signifier” and the “empty signifier,” in which identity is an ongoing process that can be found in the experience.Using these ideas, the author examines the early history of women religious in the U.S. and explains the distinct identity of women religious as border crosser. Women religious’ vocation of border crossing functioned as a bridge between US society and the immigrant Catholic Church, as well as the primary foundation for their spirituality. This border crossing identity has existed in the midst of apostolic work of women religious since Vatican II. Furthermore, the identity of women religious in the U.S. as border crosser is in the process of being shaped and reshaped in relation to the world, and this border crossing identity will lead women religious to connect with others globally, to create their community in a multi-ethnical way, and to serve immigrants.


the master signifer; the empty signifier; women religious in the US; border-crossing; the early history

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ISSN: 2169-1088