Sister M. Theresa Kane, who challenged Pope John Paul II during his visit here three years ago to expand the role for women in the Roman Catholic Church, has appealed to the Vatican to reconsider the forced resignation from religious life of Agnes Mary Mansour of Michigan.

Mansour, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, which Kane heads, resigned from the order after Archbishop Edmund Szoka of Detroit and Vatican officials ruled that serving as director of the Department of Social Services of Michigan was not appropriate for a Roman Catholic nun. In the state post, Mansour would be required to administer programs providing abortions, which the church opposes.

The central administration of the Sisters of Mercy has filed what is termed a canonical appeal with Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who heads the Vatican office which oversees religious orders in the church. The appeal contends that due process, under the provisions of church law, was not followed in the Mansour case and that there was "a lack of sufficient clarity regarding the specific causes of the action."

A spokeswoman for the order said that Mansour's superiors at both the national and province regional level "had no opportunity to speak to Archbishop Szoka" about the case and that "there was no opportunity for Sister Agnes nor the leadership of the order to present their case."

Both national and provincial leaders of the Sisters of Mercy have supported Mansour consistently throughout the controversy. In a formal statement issued in March, the head of the Detroit province called the appointive state post "within the tradition of the religious community to serve the poor."

If you were designing a religious Mount Rushmore, what giants of American religion would you carve into the granite?

A professor at William Penn College, David Porter, put that question to 22 of the country's leading church historians, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish.

Their response, according to the Martin Marty newsletter of religion and culture, Context:

Jonathan Edwards, 18 votes; Reinhold Niebuhr, 13; Martin Luther King Jr. and Roger Williams, each with 11; and Cardinal James Gibbons and Walter Rauschenbusch each with l0.

Of course, Mount Rushmore has room for only four faces.

Non-Jews are converting to Judaism at a faster pace than Jews are intermarrying with Gentiles, according to a recent report.

Egon Mayer, a Brooklyn College sociology professor, said several studies show "the rate of conversion has not only gone hand in hand with increases in intermarriage but has, in fact, surpassed them."

In a paper prepared for delivery Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Rabbinical Assembly in Dallas, Mayer said his research shows "the rate of conversion into Judaism during the past 30 years has increased by about 300 percent." He estimated "there are at least 100,000 'Jews by choice' or converts in the United States today."

But Mayer said such converts still remain a small minority--between 2 percent and 4 percent--of the total American Jewish population of some 5.5 million.

Like their counterparts across the border, Canadian Catholic bishops have become increasingly critical of governmental efforts to help the poor.

Archbishop Remi De Roo of Toronto, who heads an eight-member panel of bishops concerned with economic problems in Canada, has charged that both federal and provincial budgets ignore the unemployed and the poor, putting the burden on the private sector to resolve the nation's economic problems. Calling for a restatement of full employment as a national priority, De Roo said, "It's poor economics not to use the full potential of all our people. There are over 2.5 million unemployed and underemployed--over 20 percent of Canada's labor force."

The archbishop questioned whether the predicted economic recovery in Canada will really help the unemployed and underemployed or only "those who are already ready to ride the crest of inflation."

People in the News: Roman Catholic Bishop John J. O'Conner, since l979 an auxiliary bishop for the military ordinariate, the Catholic Church's link to military services in this country, has been named bishop of Scranton, Pa. O'Conner, a member of the 5-man committee which drafted the bishops' pastoral letter condemning nuclear warfare, sought unsuccessfully to soften that document.

The Rev. Elwyn D. Brown, for 30 years an Episcopal priest in the Washington area,, retired last week as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville.

The Rt. Rev. Elliott Lorenz Sorge, a native of Indiana who served as a missionary in Brazil for 13 years, was elected Episcopal bishop of Easton, Md.

The Rev. Nan M. Brown, Columbia, Va., was elected pastor of Mount Level Baptist Church in Dinwiddie, Va., becoming one of the few black women to pastor a Baptist church in this area.