Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

ROW80: This is the Chapter That’ll Never End

I tried, you guys. Seriously, I did.

I gave myself a hard deadline of Sunday to wrap up the dissertation chapter I’ve been poking at for the last four months. Then I extended the deadline to late Monday/early Tuesday. But now it’s Wednesday, and the chapter is like 11,000 words long (is that too long? short? I HAVE NO IDEA). and it STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

Like I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’m feeling stabby and violent and would like to burn this chapter with fire… but California’s in the middle of a drought and something like 12 million trees have already died from lack of water. I don’t want to add to the problem.

So, basically, I hate deadlines right now, because they never seem to be quite realistic enough. And trying to write after a full day of working, or before a full day of working, or somewhere squashed in-between my halfassed attempts at exercising and a full day of working, is SO. DARN. HARD.


That is my tirade for the day. Probably the only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that I have succeeded at writing for at least 45 minutes for the last five days, and sometimes (most of the time) much longer than 45 minutes. So… Huzzah?

For fun, here’s the first two paragraphs of this chapter, which discusses the “origin stories” of the 5 religious orders I’m studying for my dissertation: the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Daughters of Charity. The decision to follow one’s spiritual calling to serve God by serving others placed the founders of all 5 communities in challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous positions, but few of them faced the same stakes that Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Mary, did.

 In 1609, Mary Ward, a highly educated Catholic woman whose family fled England for the European continent, succeeded in establishing the first order of religious women rooted in the Rule of St. Ignatius, the foundation of the famed Jesuit order. Ward was “related by blood or marriage to most of the Catholic aristocracy of England” (Burke-Sullivan 2009:177), many of whom joined her congregation, the Institute of Mary. Together, the community adopted an active life similar to the Jesuits, one that eschewed cloister for an active life of ministry. Ward and her religious sisters worked in education and healthcare, and even disguised themselves as domestic servants in England “to draw back into faith many who had fallen away” (ibid.). But in 1630, Ward was imprisoned by the Church, her order officially suppressed. She “was charged with (but never granted a trial or hearing for) heresy, schism, and rebellion” (pg. 178). Her crime? Stepping outside the tightly prescribed boundaries that existed for women in the seventeenth century and creating a religious institute that went beyond the approved tradition of cloister.

Ward’s example serves as a reminder of the deeply precarious position that women occupied when they sought to transgress the narrow rules that governed women’s lives, both religious and lay. However, she also demonstrates the incredible feats that women could accomplish if they had the faith, resilience, and strength to persevere. Despite her imprisonment and ongoing persecution that she faced for the remainder of her life, she continued to work throughout Europe, founding schools in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Austria, traveling often on foot. When the persecution of Catholics in England ended, she returned, creating free schools for the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working with the sick.

Mary Ward, and all of the other women in my study, are the ones who keep me going, even when I want to give up on this stupid dissertation. These women–ordinary individuals who managed to do extraordinary things–deserve to have their stories told.

And that’s my Wednesday! I’m going to be relaxing this evening with a cocktail for my weekly happy hour date night, and afterwards I’ll be back on the writing grind. Don’t forget to say hey to everyone else who’s checking in today.


  1. I can so relate to the chapter/dissertation that will not end. Forty-five minutes is a real triumph with a full time job, Lena, so don’t sell yourself short. Your day job takes a lot of heart, and that takes its toll as well.

    I can also relate to wanting women of the past to have a voice for their stories, although I have my stabby, fiery moments for that, too.

    I’ll share a small triumph to give you hope for the light at the end of the journey. My college voted unanimously to approve my tenure yesterday. I still have to get the approval of the Provost, President, and Board of Directors, but it’s unlikely they will overturn the decision.
    Elizabeth Anne Mitchell recently posted..Random deep thoughtsMy Profile

  2. As a writer with a full time EVIL DAY JOB, I understand the squeezing whatever time you have into writing, reading, (in my case) theatre, and housework. You done good, girl!!! And a treat is necessary to cut down on the feelings of stabby.

    Have an awesome week!!

  3. Lena, your piece about Mary Ward is… well, wonderful and inspiring. And… yes, I think it’s something you definitely should keep working on, but I can totally understand those fiery, stabby moments.

    I wonder if part of your problem isn’t the paper, but the scope… It’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed with too big a field to play in. And it sounds like you have a lot of amazing women to highlight. Perhaps by narrowing your field to just nuns who broke with the status quo, or were born in the States, or…

    Oh, what do I know! I’d have trouble narrowing a paper down as much as you already have. You’re doing amazing, Lena.
    Eden Mabee recently posted..All The CatsMy Profile

  4. I really enjoyed that snippet of your dissertation! Keep up the great work! Will it be possible to read more of it when you are finished? It’s such an interesting topic!

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