School of Theology and Seminary Graduate Papers/Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology


School of Theology and Seminary

First Advisor

Mary Collins, OSB

Subject Categories

History of Christianity


Today the thought of having a church council with no consultation with women seems unimaginable, but in 1962 it was hardly noticed. Surprisingly, women were present at Vatican II although their presence took until the third session for this to occur. They were a minority among the 2,500 Catholic bishops who attended from around the world. Vatican II is the most significant event in Roman Catholic history since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and women make up about half of the Roman Catholic Church’s membership, there is very little information available about the participation of women at these sessions. Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, S.L. was one of fifteen women (this later expanded to twenty-three before the end of the fourth session in 1965) who were invited to attend the third session of the Second Vatican Council. Her story, how the participation of women in the council came to be, what their contributions were in the council, and the output of the council in regard to women are intrinsic to developing an understanding of this council’s revolutionary effect on the role of women in the church.



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