Saturday, July 3, 2010

Religious Orders Strong in Catholic Identity and Mission are Booming

This is a partial response to an email I received from a friend.  He got into a conversation with a colleague about the decline of all religious orders in the Church, citing one group in particular.  Here it is:

As far as all religious orders being in “decline”, we have to distinguish.  If by decline your friend means the replacement rate is not keeping up with the death/attrition/etc rate, than perhaps he is correct.  HOWEVER, the number of incoming, new vocations shows the vitality of any religious order/congregation/etc (we’ll just use “order” to refer to them all).  So if we use the number of entrants to orders as an indicator of decline or growth, we see there are definite pockets of boom and some orders destined for inevitable death.  I don’t like to use the terms “liberal” or “conservative” since we are discussing religion and not politics, but it appears the more traditional/orthodox orders are attracting more applicants, as the more progressive, less-traditional/orthodox ones are waning.

Some examples

The Dominican Friars of the Eastern Province just announced their largest incoming class in 50 years—21 novices.  The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (the ones at St. Pius V in Providence) had 23 postulants in 2009—the largest group of nuns in training of any US group.  The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist  were founded in Ann Arbor in 1997 by 4 Nashville Dominican Sisters.  They now number 100 sisters with an average age of 26!  No polyester pantsuits here.

Religious that have defied Church teaching or have distilled their ministry to mere social work have seen a decline to the point where many will just fade away.  The Orders that have a strong identity and traditional Catholic charisms are attracting new members.  The young men and women who are responding to religious (and priestly) vocations are immersed in a secularized culture that even our age group is not a part of, and they have more options than any other generation.  It is no surprise, then, that when young people respond to a religious vocation--a call to devote their lives to something so radically different than their contemporaries--they jump in with both feet.  If they are going to be that counter-cultural and have seen such a need to spread the Gospel, watch out because they are going to do it!  The CARA study from Georgetown University gives us evidence of what was just anecdotal:
The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.
God always provides for His Church!

Check this out for more info and examples.

1 comment:

  1. Here is Archbishop DiNoia's explanation for the huge increase with the Dominican Friars: