Religious Formation Conference

The Religious Formation Conference (RFC) is a national Roman Catholic organization serving religious institutes of women and men with programs and services for those in the ministry of initial and lifelong formation, and general congregational membership.

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RFC - SOAR Webinars

The Conference is excited to collaborate with SOAR! Support Our Aging Religious to offer a series of webinars in the coming months. 




WEBINAR | Embracing Age: Lessons in Aging Well from Women Religious 
Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 1:00-2:30 pm central time (this is an extended webinar)  


Webinar description

In mainstream American society, aging is presented as a “problem,” a state to be avoided as long as possible, a state that threatens one’s ability to maintain independence, autonomy, control over one’s surroundings. Aging “well” (or avoiding aging) has become a twenty-first century American preoccupation. Epidemiologists and gerontologists have dedicated considerable research to understanding why some people age “well” while others do not. Studies have demonstrated that statistically American Catholic Women Religious experience better health outcomes than their lay peers.  Dr. Corwin’s research argues that what is remarkable about women religious is not only their health outcomes, but how they achieve these outcomes.  Drawing from ethnographic data in one Franciscan convent, Dr. Corwin finds a correlation between cultural practices of acceptance and grace around aging are key correlates to the sisters’ overall health outcomes. In this talk. Dr. Corwin will explore the myth of “successful aging” and how women religious have come to be known as “healthy agers.”  Together, the audience will explore how aging is often understood in mainstream America, and how the Franciscan sisters who Dr. Corwin worked with provide an alternative model – a model in which aging is embraced as a natural part of the life course and sisters embrace each other as they age.  

Learning outcomes 

  • What is the successful aging paradigm and how does it negatively impact the possibility of aging well 
  • What aging practices do Women Religious engage that can support health and well-being at the end of life? 
  • How can we each communicate and meaningfully engage peers who are experiencing communicative disorders (such as aphasia) or other chronic conditions (such a dementia or physiological decline) that impact speech and interaction? 

Reflection questions

  • Have you heard the term “successful aging”?  What does it mean to you? 
  • Each of us grows older differently – experiencing different bodily changes, and responding to our changing bodies in different ways. What experiences of aging have you seen as difficult for yourself or sisters in your community? 
  • When you think about aging well or aging gracefully, are there particular individuals who come to mind? Who has aged “well” ? What did this process look like? 
  • When you think about individuals who have struggled with the aging process or communities that have struggled to support their aging sisters, what challenges can you identify? 


Dr. Anna Corwin received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2014 and is a recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation and The National Endowment for the Humanities for her research on aging and well-being.  An Associate Professor of Anthropology at Saint Mary’s College of California, Dr. Corwin has spent the last fourteen years researching how everyday practices shape individuals’ experiences of well-being as we age.  

An author of many peer reviewed articles and the book Embracing Age: How Catholic Nuns Became Models of Well-Being with Rutgers University Press (2021), Dr. Corwin’s work explores the effects of everyday routines and habits on health and well-being in older age. 




Up Next: Save the Date

  • The Resilient Woman Religious Leader: Strengthening Your Inner Life in Challenging Times | Thursday, September 15th from 1:00-2:30pm central time
  • Thin Places/Thin Times: Religious Life as Lived through the Curtain of Past and What is Yet to Be | Thursday, October 27th from 1:00-2:30pm central time



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Phone: 773.675.8362
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