Continuing yesterday’s post . . .
What about the women? What is happening to the religious orders around us? Though worldwide numbers are growing just as worldwide vocations to the priesthood are soaring, in the west the numbers are pretty abysmal. The median age for the orders that served as the backbone of dioceses is skyrocketing. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1994 that only 3% of nuns were under the age of 40. But what is more astonishing about this number is that the vast majority of the nuns under 40 are in a limited number of orders.
In the same article was this, “Sister Eleace King, a research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, concurred. "It tells me that the majority of religious congregations of women in this country will not survive. Most are dying," King said.”
A 2012 story in the NCR reported however, “One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants," say the writers," is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted to institutes in both conferences of women religious in the U.S. in recent years. As of 2009, L.C.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 117 novices and 317 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. C.M.S.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 158 novices and 304 sisters in temporary vows/commitment."
But this is a little misleading. As Fr. John Larson wrote, “It seems that a recent article in America has used some statistics that appear to show that LCWR and CMSWR communities had about equal numbers of postulants, novices, and temporary professed according to the 2009 CARA survey, and thus things were somewhat equal in terms of vocations. However, the LCWR represents over 3 times as many communities as the CMSWR. This is definitely not a fair use of stats. The article wants to be “devoid of distortions.” I am not convinced.
“Another thing that the article points out is: “The vast majority of both L.C.W.R. and C.M.S.W.R. institutes do not have large numbers of new entrants.” This is true, but of the few that do have large numbers, it should be noted that they are all CMSWR communities. It may be “unfair” to put the media spotlight on them, but having lots of vocations attracts attention, does it not?”
So the issues are varied, confusing, and controversial.
Recently, there was an altar call at a local young adult retreat. There are always at least a few young men who will step forward and declare that they are considering the priesthood. It is particularly to see this down at the youth retreats at Steubenville. But more exciting is seeing how many young women step forward to say that they are considering religious life. At the local retreat mentioned above, TWENTY TWO young women stepped forward.
Twenty two. At this one retreat.
It is a nasty little secret however that most of these that follow through leave our diocese. Women from Cleveland have joined the Sisters of Life, Nashville Dominicans, TORs, and a host of other orders that seem to be supplying that for which these young women are looking. Cleveland has women’s religious vocations. The nuns in our area have such great institutions, amazing histories, outstanding achievements, monstrous support, huge hearts, great potential, and I wish we were feeding them. We need them. We love them.