The number of women religious in the United States has fallen below 50,000, according to a new report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The number of religious …
I am not surprised and from experience can see many reasons why.
I was interested in entering a religious community. But after years of searching I finally let the idea go. Very few, and I mean very few, of the communities I looked into showed any real return interest in the fact that I was investigating this possibilities.
It became more of a “jump through a bunch of hoops game” then an experience of those communities being interested in why I wanted to be a religious or me as an individual. I am not saying I expected tons of attention just because I “knocked” on the door. Far from that. But I did not expect to be ignored, have letters never answered, or to be dismissed on trivial “qualifications” like having or not having a degree.
Then there was getting to visit some communities only to find that they did not live up to their call. For example: I worked for Little Sisters of the Poor, who are supposed to care for the elderly. Well the lay employees did all the caring while the “Sisters” were no where to be seen with the exception of 1 or 2. And I mean in a two year period.
If we were short staffed there were no nuns helping us cover the work load, feed the people, or care for them in any way. So that just did not impress me at all.
I suggest that if the current religious communities want more members they get a little more involved with inviting women, living up to their particular orders charisma, and showing a returned interest in those who knock on the door in the first place.
I am not a woman religious, their input would be most valuable. However, I have relatives who are, and have had a lot of contact with women religious for my whole life. My experience is that years ago, all religious communities had a commitment to evangelism, and something else (education, health care, social service, etc). EVERYBODY they had any kind of contact with - neighbors, students, patients, co workers, laity, families of their students, Catholics and non-Catholics, etc - was led by them a little closer to the Catholic Faith. Every sister had a dual vocation.
That has been lost in most of the established communities. They tend to focus only on their specialty, indifferent to the Catholic Faith. They use their “community life” mainly to empower people to address injustice; but only the injustices that are already being attacked by the establishment. In other words, if you read the daily newspaper or Huffpost, you already know all the issues they are concerned about. Their social justice witness is redundant, and grossly selective. Thus there is no real reason for a person to join that community now; they can practice their specialty, or protest injustice, as a layperson. The convents are not wrong to support social justice; they are wrong to support only the popular social justice causes, and to ignore the very real, but unpopular injustices, like abortion. Those convents are in effect pro-establishment.
Some of the older convents, and the newer convents, are restoring religious life, basing their spirituality on Catholicism, and sanctity of life. They have vocations.
To Cricket or anyone else who is interested. I too, worked for the little Sr. of the Poor. Over the years I saw the transition of young sisters to old sisters as their numbers were depleted by lack of new vocations, age, illnesses or the creeping toil of a 24/7 kind of “on call” life. You try it. There were a few of the sisters that I didn’t like, but for the most part I admired and respected them. As time went on and the sisters became fewer lay staff was hired, yet their focus remained on the elderly. Finally they had to sell the home for lack of sisters and finances. Now it is just another secular institution with a frequent turnover in staff and the withdrawal of any benefits that the new owners are deleting or taking away from long-time employees. So in defense of the Little Sisters of the Poor…until you walk in their shoes…judge not.
Remeber that St Therese of Lisieux’s parents were both turned away from religious life and they were probably more religious than most monks and nuns. I think her father was turned away for lacking the proper education (if I remember correctly). Imagine if they both took vows?! A world without St. Therese would be a far blacker world.