Sisters’ Responses to Proposal to Modify the Habit (February 1964)

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Pictured above is the first of several pages of typewritten responses to a proposal to modify the habit of the Sisters of Providence. The responses appear to have been compiled anonymously on or about February 27, 1964; each paragraph represents the viewpoint of a different individual. Please read the excerpts below.


  • In a free country we should be able to appear in religious habit, without any apologies. If there are places we feel that we should not appear in a religious habit, then I believe that it is probably a place where religious should not be present either in religious habit or out of it.
  • I believe the headdress should be changed for reasons of health also because so few Sisters are capable of doing the pleating and fitting necessary—the sewing of the camail is far too time-consuming—also the sewing, pulling, starching, and ironing of garnitures is far too time consuming.
  • Just a short view from one of our secular teachers concerning the change of habit. She feels that the spirit of a community is inside the sister and is not affected by what she wears. I feel the same way... the Sisters of Providence will always be known by their simplicity and CHARITY.
  • I feel confident that our image cannot only be maintained but greatly augmented by the modernization of our habit. It will enable us to widen our contacts with seculars thus widening also our apostolate and this is the purpose of our vocation as Daughters of Charity. We will always be wearing our Christlike lives and perhaps our modern clothes will make us more approachable.
  • My answer is based on the experience of our sister nurses who have told us repeatedly of the difference the presence of a Sister-nurse in her habit can have on a patient. This despite the fact that a nurse, too, wears a uniform as a symbol of her life of dedication to the sick.
  • Why the puritanistic ideas about having our hair show? God created us human. I have been very embarrassed and ashamed in hospitals by the hairless and mannish heads of religious women. It is unnecessary and serves no purpose... [...] Too much emphasis has been placed on distinguishing us by our habit. Perhaps if we dress more contemporary the emphasis will be more realistically placed where it belongs—“on what kind of religious we are.” [...] The mark will force us to be what we are and not what we appear to be!
  • Please do not give us a veil. Rather discard the whole headdress and use a hat. No veils.
  • The whole change would be better made at the same time. In the past two years the Sisters’ appearance has become very individual and (excuse the expression) sloppy. An educated and refined woman is particular about her appearance.
  • Christ and His Apostolate didn’t dress any differently and yet see what they accomplished.
  • We can’t let the Mercy Sisters get ahead of us, can we?
  • I think that our present habit is too conspicuous and also too cumbersome when driving. I would like to have a professional designer consulted so that some suitable dress for our times and works can be considered.
  • We have a beautiful habit. Let’s find out positively if Rome really wants us to change. Surely not into another habit of the style of the same century.
  • The habit change should be dictated by needs of the apostolate—not by comfort or personal convenience.
  • This whole movement is absolutely absurd. We should pray for common sense for some of our sisters. Why do we want to change any more? [...] This is nothing but pride and vanity. Is this pleasing to God and to our Mother Foundress?


1. Which perspective(s) on the habit modification do you find most persuasive?

2. How does the proposed modification to the habit coincide with other issues facing the Catholic Church in the mid-twentieth century?