Where the Nuns Are

The sisters of the Class of 2010 had an average age of 43. Four in 10 were under age 40. And other pertinent 2011 findings.

On Feb. 2, the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations released the results of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate’s “The Profession Class of 2010 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), as well as contemplative communities. Respondents represented 52 religious orders.

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington 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. Msgr. Pope says that the latest report ignores “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 his opinion, but comes directly from the 2009 report: “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. ... Differences between the two generations also extend to questions about community life, as well as styles and types of prayer.”

The sisters of the Class of 2010 had an average age of 43. Four in 10 were under age 40.

Other pertinent 2011 findings:

84% of religious communities had no one profess solemn vows in 2010.

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, and 51% attended Catholic elementary schools.

52% of sisters had been encouraged to enter religious life by another sister.