So depressed about my aunt, who is a nun


#1

My aunt is in her early 80s and is a nun in one of the famous religious orders - I don't want to get into deep details because I don't want to identify her or her community. But it is one of the "big" Catholic orders that everyone knows by name.

She taught college (theology) for many years and lived in her community in a medium-sized city in the U.S. Her community there, in the 40s, had over 1,000 nuns. Today there are less than 200, years pass between new vocations, and the average of the sisters is in the 70s. They own acres of property and have a beautiful mother house, but it is being sold off piece by piece. Their schools closed years ago.

Now they have announced that all the sisters will be moved to low-income housing apartments because what is left is going to be turned into assisted living for sisters who need round-the-clock care (alzheimer's, terminal illness, etc.) Unfortunately, these apartments are spread all over the city, effectively ending community life for them.

My aunt thus will finish her life in government housing with no one else in her community around her. While she does still have family in the city and elsewhere, most of the people she grew up with are dead (she's in her 80s). She is sad because it is such a lonely end. Instead of praying together, the sisters will be off in their own separate apartments. My aunt no longer drives and many of them do not; additionally, it is a Northern city with the usual winter problems. They may get together for monthly meetings, and my aunt teaches some Bible study classes in local parishes, etc., but still, it's not nearly the same as living with the community that she has given 60+ years of her life to.

I realize the reality of shrinking vocation and dying communities is not exactly news to Catholics here, but still, it saddens me.


#2

On my list dear 'warrior'. I'm sure she will have Our Lady by her at all times. It may be her last chance to offer difficulties to God for sinners. Perhaps her parish, or nearby parish can offer visits and help. Perhaps if there is a Legion of Mary, they could be called in for the sisters.


#3

This is very sad. My daughter is a nun in a thriving Dominican order (grown from 4 in 1997 to over 100 now). The average age there is around 26.

It's too bad a young order like this one couldn't "merge" with an aging order. The younger ones could care for the older ones and my daughter's order is always looking for more space too.

Perhaps it is a cross your aunt must bear.

Peace,
John


#4

same sad story all over
two convents are being closed this month, the remaining sisters (all over 70) who are not in the diocesan nursing home moved to two residences in parishes where a couple of them used to work. The ones who can care for the ones who are ill and infirm but not yet ready for the nursing home. Their mother superior said they must live in community, so the ones who work have to drive long distances to their parish jobs.

the other sister is the last of her community here, and when she retires later this year will have to go back to her mother house in another state, where only a few elderly and infirm sisters reside.

the order who taught my children used to be one of the biggest in our diocese there, sold their HS and college to the diocese for a retreat center. fortunately they used to operate nursing homes, now the property of a non-profit Catholic hospital system, and the infirm nuns have a place to go. The rest live in our old parish convent, which is going to be razed as that parish is one slated for closing. No word on where they will go.


#5

It is very very sad...but in their hearts these good women must surely have the peace of knowing that they are sharing in the plight of so many older persons in our societies, lonely, in poor and isolated accommodation, instead of living in privileged, safe, comfortable environment. They can fully live the vow of poverty that they took. They are one with the people they gave their lives to pray for and serve. They are one with Christ in His poor, the Christ who in His own words, had 'nowhere to lay" his head, and who suffered betrayal and abandonment in His frailest hours. The truth of their praying must come fully from their own hearts, lacking the routine calls to prayer in Community. No one deserves to live their final years in poverty and loneliness, separated for the people they've known and loved, but so many good people who have given their lives for others, as mothers and fathers and grandparents, as dedicated single persons...end up alone. I myself will never have a home of my own as we lost it some time ago and if my husband dies before me, like so many, I can't afford a home or even a small apartment...like so many others. I remind myself often of those who have no homes at all, the homeless, the millions of refugees, the millions who have lost home, income, and loved ones through a proliferation of natural disasters...and to have a solidarity with all such persons, even to some degree, is a gift from God to become truly humble followers of Christ, that final call to give up all to follow Christ, which the rich young man in the gospels was unable to do. These beautiful nuns have, yet perhaps God is perfecting their souls in this very sad modern reality.

*I'll pray for your dear Aunt that God will comfort and support her and all the nuns in her situation, and that God will console you. *
May God perfect the souls of us all before we come to meet Him at our death.


#6

Very sad. Most of these large congregations have made provision for their aging to remain together, for the very purpose of maintaining community. They often have large fund drives to build/alter facilities and are successful in raising millions of dollars, as they appear to have very strong support from the laity.

The young congs of which you speak teach and do not wish/are not adapted, at least at this point to care for the elderly. Although two, the Nashville and Ann Arbor Dominicans are growing rapidly, most are growing very gradually, if at all, with a few final professions not really replacing their aging ranks. So they themselves have similar problems, even though they do have younger members. For example, the Wrentham Trappistines had to raise a lot of money to built assisted living quarters, even though it is the fasting growing of the women's Trappist communities, for example.

These large aging congregations once were* huge. *There is no way that any congregation, irrespective of its habit or observances, can attract and sustain the numbers that these congs once did. Times have changed.


#7

That is sad. We had 2 orders that taught transfered, they weren't all elderly, but upper middle-age to 60's I think. One group started teaching in another school in another state, I'm not sure what happened to the second group. The first group had dwindled down to a handful so it wasn't feasible (at least to the superiors) to keep the convent open.

It wasn't possible to be welcomed into another convent of the same order somewhere else?

I admit I don't know much about this, but since this group near me went to a neighboring state, I thought it sounded better than what they offered and they would be in a community.


#8

Being added to my prayer list. I am so sorry.


#9

[quote="refulgence, post:1, topic:246565"]
My aunt is in her early 80s and is a nun in one of the famous religious orders - I don't want to get into deep details because I don't want to identify her or her community. But it is one of the "big" Catholic orders that everyone knows by name.

She taught college (theology) for many years and lived in her community in a medium-sized city in the U.S. Her community there, in the 40s, had over 1,000 nuns. Today there are less than 200, years pass between new vocations, and the average of the sisters is in the 70s. They own acres of property and have a beautiful mother house, but it is being sold off piece by piece. Their schools closed years ago.

Now they have announced that all the sisters will be moved to low-income housing apartments because what is left is going to be turned into assisted living for sisters who need round-the-clock care (alzheimer's, terminal illness, etc.) Unfortunately, these apartments are spread all over the city, effectively ending community life for them.

My aunt thus will finish her life in government housing with no one else in her community around her. While she does still have family in the city and elsewhere, most of the people she grew up with are dead (she's in her 80s). She is sad because it is such a lonely end. Instead of praying together, the sisters will be off in their own separate apartments. My aunt no longer drives and many of them do not; additionally, it is a Northern city with the usual winter problems. They may get together for monthly meetings, and my aunt teaches some Bible study classes in local parishes, etc., but still, it's not nearly the same as living with the community that she has given 60+ years of her life to.

I realize the reality of shrinking vocation and dying communities is not exactly news to Catholics here, but still, it saddens me.

[/quote]

Doesn't the Catholic Church and the order have more responsibility than to simply turn her over to low income government housing? She taught for the Church at college level and turned over her income to the order. This really is rather shameful. I hope I am misunderstanding.


#10

realize the reality of shrinking vocation and dying communities is not exactly news to Catholics here, but still, it saddens me.

I personally think that vocations will take a sharp incline as the economy won't get better anytime soon. Just as in the times of the great depression there were tons of vocations and we had tons of nuns priests and religous. May be for the wrong reason trying to duck under the hard times that may come. Many college students looking for work and all. But whatever the reason it would be a great thing to see more vocations young and older. I also think that more people will start to grow tired of the world and want to serve God I think the future is bright in the vocation dept. Doesn't help your Aunt but in the distant future you'll see more nuns again and that would be a dream come true.


#11

It really breaks my heart to hear of what is happening to your Aunt. I have been praying for her since I heard this and can't get my mind off of her. There has got to be something that can be done. My prayers are with you and your Aunt. Never know God may use her in that housing maybe she will help with someone's conversion. Never know. God be with you Scoob.


#12

I can understand how some convents and seminaries need to be closed, without vocations, they are in their eyes, not worth fixing up, etc.

I don't understand how you can break them up like that, priests get a place to stay, whether in the rectory or a home if that old, it just doesn't seem fair. Show respect to them for all the years served and let them live at least with a few sisters.

I don't know what type of nun they are, the order, butI was just wondering before if they had another community they could stay, that wasn't full but had more nuns.


#13

[quote="scoobydoo6v92, post:10, topic:246565"]
realize the reality of shrinking vocation and dying communities is not exactly news to Catholics here, but still, it saddens me.

I personally think that vocations will take a sharp incline as the economy won't get better anytime soon. Just as in the times of the great depression there were tons of vocations and we had tons of nuns priests and religous. May be for the wrong reason trying to duck under the hard times that may come. Many college students looking for work and all. But whatever the reason it would be a great thing to see more vocations young and older. I also think that more people will start to grow tired of the world and want to serve God I think the future is bright in the vocation dept. Doesn't help your Aunt but in the distant future you'll see more nuns again and that would be a dream come true.

[/quote]

Check out these sites, full of young (and some older women) to give you hope:
EWTN is so full they had to branch off to Texas and Az. The "desert nuns" web site takes some time, it's grown so much over the last few years, but God is working with them to start their seminary.
www.desertnuns.com
Domincan Sisters of the Eucharist
sistersofmary.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78&Itemid=137
Sisters of Life
stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Ten-nuns-join-Sisters-of-Life-community-in-606588.php
sistersoflife.org/

Just a small sampling, but looking at certain sites, give me hope and joy.


#14

[quote="debraran, post:13, topic:246565"]
Check out these sites, full of young (and some older women) to give you hope:
EWTN is so full they had to branch off to Texas and Az. The "desert nuns" web site takes some time, it's grown so much over the last few years, but God is working with them to start their seminary.
www.desertnuns.com
Domincan Sisters of the Eucharist
sistersofmary.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78&Itemid=137
Sisters of Life
stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Ten-nuns-join-Sisters-of-Life-community-in-606588.php
sistersoflife.org/

Just a small sampling, but looking at certain sites, give me hope and joy.

[/quote]

Praise be to God!!!!!! There is hope and there will be more vocations. May have to think outside the box ie delayed vocations new orders etc. EWTN was built by a nun. Nuns to me are great heroes so so so many wonderful examples Mother Teresa Mother Angelica St Fuastina so many awesome nuns. They are the church's true heros. And God will not let them just die off there is hope and there will be a resurgence of new vocations just be patient and trust in the Lord as he's got it handled. These are my true feelings. Scoob.


#15

Yes, and I pray the schools with open again one day with nuns like the Domincan Sisters of the Eucharist.

This orders below are also doing very well"
nashvilledominican.org/Home

freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2449284/posts


#16

[quote="debraran, post:12, topic:246565"]
I
I don't understand how you can break them up like that, priests get a place to stay, whether in the rectory or a home if that old, it just doesn't seem fair. Show respect to them for all the years served and let them live at least with a few sisters.

.

[/quote]

actually no, diocesan priests are responsible for their own retirement planning, including where to live. Many dioceses have rental housing available on a limited basis and some have nursing homes, but there are no guarantees. Elderly members of male religious orders who are not thriving face the same difficulties as elderly nuns from dying orders.

I don't think you quite grasp the situation. As members of orders age and there are no younger members who work for salaries there is no source of support for the retired members, they are forced to sell their convents, schools and other properties because they cannot be maintained. while there may be some who have endowments those are usually tied to schools, colleges or hospitals they founded, not the order, and with the reorganization of those properties, the institution has separated legally from the order and is no longer a source of income or support. Until Catholic institutions started paying salaries to religious who then paid into SS--late 60s early 70s--the sisters had no retirement plan other than assuming their order would continue to flourish, attract new members, and care for their elderly in their own convents. We all know what happened to the religious orders in those same years.


#17

I see to a degree. We always had collections for retiring priests/nuns, but I thought they retired in the convent or another convent. We have nursing homes in our state for nuns and retirement homes for priests. Some, who had money from family, have homes, but with the little stipend they get, where are they to retire if they aren't sick? Are they supposed to save for a home somewhere?

When I was young, retired priests stayed sometmes at the rectory when the "younger" priest came. Our Domincan parish is like that, it has about 7, but 3 or 4 are retired, although they still say mass on occasion.

It is sad, I thought when convents were started, the diocese would help, new nuns can only do so much with medical care.

Well, we can only pray it keeps getting better.


#18

[quote="debraran, post:17, topic:246565"]
I see to a degree. We always had collections for retiring priests/nuns, but I thought they retired in the convent or another convent. We have nursing homes in our state for nuns and retirement homes for priests. Some, who had money from family, have homes, but with the little stipend they get, where are they to retire if they aren't sick? Are they supposed to save for a home somewhere?

When I was young, retired priests stayed sometmes at the rectory when the "younger" priest came. Our Domincan parish is like that, it has about 7, but 3 or 4 are retired, although they still say mass on occasion.

It is sad, I thought when convents were started, the diocese would help, new nuns can only do so much with medical care.

Well, we can only pray it keeps getting better.

[/quote]

I agree priests should be cared for as well as nuns and all clergy. The least the community can do is care for the elderly. It is not too much to ask for. I understand that it is a cross. But I feel vocations will be on the rise and a sharp incline. May be again for the wrong reason but this economy will not improve for a very long time. So being the wrong reason many young college students will flock to the church as she will be a much better provider than this sick secular world. The American dream is not as attainable with all the regulations and the current political picture as it was in the 1950s which from history was the best of times in our country. That is my opinion. Scoob.


#19

OK, so how many people on this thread have a spare bedroom for an aging priest or nun. i know if I did I would say hey - send a sister my way - but unfortunately don't. I could not think of a better surrogate grandmother figure (when I finally do get around to getting that decree of nullity, kissing a frog, getting married, and having kids) either. I am just not sure who would be more in a state of culture shock me or the sister.


#20

Mine are full, but I still believe they would like to be with each other…just think how you would feel if you were with your “family” for better or worse, and then you were gone, the routine, convent, everything. Some, depending on the convent, might not be used to doing things themselves either.
It would be a blessing though to get to know them.


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