Vatican II has come to symbolize the church’s readiness to acknowledge the modern world. Among the most notable of the 16 published documents is Lumen Gentium, which addresses church hierarchy and calls for greater involvement of laypeople in the church. Documents also included the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, and Perfectae caritatis, subtitled “Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life.”

Without a doubt, Vatican II had a profound impact on vowed religious life. Perfectae caritatis, subtitled “Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life,” established general principles to guide the renewal. Because of the broad variety of religious communities with their different histories, characteristics, customs, and missions, the Vatican council did not give specific direction, and left to each individual community the authority to determine what needed to be changed in accordance with the spirit of their founders, the needs of modern life, and the situations where they lived and worked. 

The Perfectae caritatis, did urge each religious community to return to their roots, adapt to the needs of the contemporary world in light of Scripture and the early intent of their founders. For many religious communities, including the Wheaton Franciscans, this involved revisiting the historical events relative to their foundation. This review also included governing documents and constitutions, books of prayers, and ceremonies. Communities were urged to dispense with rules and practices deemed to be obsolete. 


Perfectae caritatis directed that “the religious habit, an outward sign of consecration to God”, should be “simple and modest, poor and at the same becoming.”  Additionally, it needed to “meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved.” Like many religious communities, the Wheaton Franciscans replaced the traditional habit with more modern attire. Veils were modified because they tended to obscure peripheral vision while driving


Happenings Throughout America


The first ever successful organ transplant occurred in 1954 at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston when a kidney from Ronald Herrick was transplanted into his severely ill twin brother, Richard. Performed by plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Murray, the surgery was successful because the donor and recipient were 23 year old twins and there was no need for anti-rejection medication – information that was unknown at that time. While most transplant patients at the time would survive an average of 30 days, Richard Herrick lived another 8 years. Dr. Murray receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work.


The 48th Academy Awards ceremony is held at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles and broadcast on ABC for the first time. The film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest receives nine nominations and wins five awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. At the time, Isabelle Adjani becomes the youngest actress to be nominated for Best Actress for her role in The Story of Adele H, while George Burns becomes the oldest actor to win Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Sunshine Boys. Both records will later be broken.


The last 440 hand-cranked telephones in the United States were taken out of service when all the phone customers in Bryant Pond, Maine were switched over to a direct dial service. The original Bryant Pond Telephone Co. was owned and run out of the home of Ethan Hathaway from 1952 until 1981 when it was sold to Oxford Telephone and Telegraph Co. After the initial switch was announced in ’81, many residents protested for a dual system allowing people to choose whether they wanted direct dial or the crank system; but a year of debating with the Public Utilities Commission ended with a rejection of the plan and the go-ahead with modernization. Says former owner Hathaway, “I’ll be glad to have it finally come to a conclusion, and a little regretful that somebody couldn’t keep it going.”


The US Air Force Research Laboratory builds the world’s 33rd largest supercomputer with a core comprised of 1,760 Playstation 3 (PS3) video game consoles. In addition to its large capacity, the supercomputer becomes the fastest interactive computer in the whole of the US Defense Department. Spanning four years, the project chose to use PS3s to cut costs: each console was priced at $400 per unit while similar tech was around $10,000 per unit. The gaming console technology also consumed around 10% of the power exhausted by other similar supercomputers, proving energy efficient as well.