Where the Nuns Are, 2010

2011 CARA Report Shows Religious Women Trending Younger

On February 2, the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations offered the results of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate’s (CARA) “The Profession Class of 2010 Survey,” a survey of religious sisters who professed perpetual vows in 2010.

The survey was sent to sisters represented by the two conferences of religious women, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), and contemplative communities. Respondents represented 52 religious orders.

Monsignor Charles Pope noted what he described as “puzzling omissions” in the report when compared to data from a similar 2009 report, that was commissioned by the National Religious Vocations Conference. Pope says that the latest report ignores the ‘elephant in the room,’ an elephant he describes as “the rather obvious fact that religious communities that preserve traditional elements such as the habit, common prayer, communal life, focused apostolates and strong affirmation of Church teaching, are doing well in comparison to orders that do not.”

This is not merely Pope’s opinion, but it comes directly from the 2009 report.

The 2009 report said:

“Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire to be more committed to the Church and to their particular institute by its fidelity to the Church. Many also report that their decision to enter their institute was influenced by its practice regarding a religious habit. Significant generational gaps, especially between the Millennial Generation (born in 1982 or later) and the Vatican II Generation (born between 1943 and 1960), are evident throughout the study on questions involving the Church and the habit. Differences between the two generations also extend to questions about community life as well as styles and types of prayer”.

One striking difference that I noted between the two reports is that the 2009 report looked at the difference in those joining orders associated with the LCWR versus those joining the smaller CMSWR, while the 2011 report does not. The 2009 data showed 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.

Another difference is that compared to other perpetually professed women religious that were reported in the 2009 study, the sisters of the Class of 2010 are significantly younger. The average age of the newly professed was 43. Four in 10 were under age 40.

Other interesting findings from the 2011 report include:

∙ 84% of Religious Communities had no one profess solemn vows in 2010.
∙ 84% of respondents had participated in a “Come and See” experience.
∙ Nine in 10 had previous work experience, most often in education, health care or banking.
∙ 74% of new sisters had participated in retreats; 65% prayed the Rosary regularly; 64% participated regularly in Eucharistic adoration, 57% participated in faith sharing or Bible study groups; one in five sisters had attended a World Youth Day.
∙ 64% of newly professed sisters came from families of five or more children.
∙ 52% of sisters had been encouraged to enter religious life by another sister. 51% were discouraged by parents or family members.
∙ 51% had attended Catholic elementary schools.