Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
One of the more interesting findings from the recent CARA study on religious life was the difference in those joining orders associated with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) versus those joining the smaller Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).
The data found that just 1% of religious orders associated with the LCWR have more than 10 women in the process of joining, whereas among the CMSWR, 28% reported having 10 or more candidates. The “Study of Recent Vocations to Religious Life” conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate was on behalf of the Chicago-based National Religious Vocation Conference.
That’s supported by the recent story from The Tennessean, showing that the largest group of new nuns in training in the U.S. are at the mother house of Nashville’s Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, which has 23 postulants this year.
They’re not alone. Other younger orders, such as Michigan’s Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, New York’s Sisters of Life, and Ohio’s Franciscan Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother are flourishing, as well. Whereas, 91% of finally professed women are age 60 and over, 43% of those currently in training are under 30; 71% of those in initial formation are under 40.
Why are these orders thriving?
“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the Church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”