ATTN: Present & Former UK Religious women

Please see below:

If you’ve spent any time in a UK convent (Catholic or Anglican) a Catholic sister is running a Research Project and would like to hear your experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’ve left or if you are still there.

Please read her letter below and reply to her e-mail address at the end for further details.

All correspondence is confidential, results will be anonymous and you are free to withdraw at any time.

Heythrop College University of London
Kensington Square
London W8 5HN
0207 795 4216 10.5.2017

Greetings from the Religious Life Institute at Heythrop and its project partners in the Centre for Catholic Studies [CCS], University of Durham and the Margaret Beaufort Institute [MBIT], Cambridge. I am writing to ask you personally if you would be prepared to participate in a research project we are undertaking.

The project is called Discerning the Future: Expectations and Challenges for New Entrants to Religious Life. It focuses on the hopes for and challenges of religious life for entrants, and those who have considered entering women’s religious life since 2000. Our purpose is to help British and Irish religious to make better-informed policies, strategies and decisions about possible future membership or indeed the choice no longer to pursue or accept new vocations. The core research question explores the question: Is religious life as currently lived by women religious in the UK and Ireland liveable for new members? Can it attract new members, or are structural and ideological changes necessary to make it translatable and fit for purpose for new generations?

Although our original remit was to cover Roman Catholic apostolic congregations we would also like to look at what has been happening in the monastic/contemplative and Anglican congregations. Our aim is to approach anyone who has been an enquirer/aspirant or actual entrant into religious life since 2000 and explore with them:
• What they were looking for in religious life and what they found
• If they decided to pursue a religious vocation, why did they do so?
• If they decided not to pursue a religious vocation, why not?
• If they entered and stayed, what kept them in religious life?
• If they entered and left, what led them to that decision?

All participation will be confidential, with a Consent Form signed by all participants offering them full control of information at all times. All individuals and congregations/orders will be anonymous in the research findings. No decision to participate (or refrain from participation), nor any information supplied by individuals will be accessible or identifiable to their contact congregation or to the wider public when we publish the research findings. Individuals can withdraw from participation at any time in the process, their data being destroyed.

We will gather and process responses via questionnaire or personal interview, lasting approximately 1 hour, offered principally by my colleague Dr. María Calderón Muñoz, the project Research Assistant or, if a participant has a serious preference to work with a religious, with me.

Data protection legislation prevents us from approaching congregations for contact details of individuals, so I have asked congregations who have had any enquirers or entrants since 2000 to pass on this information to them with a view to their possible participation. Clearly this may involve personal sensitivities, and the direct involvement of congregations would be minimal – principally in helping participants to get in contact with us. María Calderón Muñoz or I would be willing to meet you personally to discuss any of this, or to offer more information and discussion by telephone or online. Further details about the project can be found in the Participants’ Information Sheet.

This research on discerning the future of religious life would not be possible without your co-operation. I hope this will have positive results for religious in general and will also provide much-needed data and statistics based on reality rather than on supposition, to help all female religious plan what vocations and formation strategies they may have in mind. I hope it may also help participants, where needed, to process their personal experience. Many thanks for taking the time to read this long letter, and please do not hesitate to contact me.

All good wishes and prayers,

Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ
Director, Religious Life Institute

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