This article examines the relationships between Catholic women religious and the bishops in the mid-nineteenth century, exploring the questions of authority and jurisdiction over women’s religious organizations that spread across various dioceses. To demonstrate this, a case study is presented of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the IHMs), whose members were located in Michigan and Pennsylvania. It explores how the expansion of the IHMs caused a gendered crisis of authority among local bishops. This study occurs within a larger history of questions of jurisdiction over women’s religious organizations and racial bias within the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century. It then analyzes how the bishops used the racial identity of Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, the congregation’s original superior, as a weapon to regain control over the IHMs.

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