Study: New Members In Religious Orders Younger, More Educated

April 5, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—Women and men enteringreligious orders today are younger and more educated than new members of the recentpast. They also have participated in numerous church activities, including parishyouth ministry and campus ministry, according to a national survey.

The findings were made public in New Sisters and Brothers in Perpetual Vows,a study of men and women religious who professed perpetual vows in 2011. Thestudy was conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for AppliedResearch in the Apostolate (CARA).

Profession of perpetual vows ofpoverty, chastity and obedience marks a final step of incorporation of new membersinto religious communities.

The CARA survey was commissioned bythe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Clergy,Consecrated Life and Vocations. The survey was sent to sisters and brothersidentified by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Councilof Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the Conference of MajorSuperiors of Men (CMSM), and over 150 contemplative communities. A total of 84out of the 122 religious who were contacted responded, representing 52 women’s andeight men’s religious congregations, provinces, or monasteries. Major findingsnote:

•Theaverage age among women professing perpetual vows in 2011 was 39, which is fouryears younger than last year’s survey respondents; among men it was 42.Half of the responding women religious are 39or younger; among responding brothers, half are 44 or younger.

•Nearlytwo-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed identify themselves as white whilenearly one in five (19 percent) identify as Asian, and almost one in ten (ninepercent) identify as Hispanic.Seventy percentwere born in the United States.Of thoseborn outside the United States, the most common countries of origin areVietnam, the Philippines and India.

•Morethan nine in ten (94 percent) respondents have been Catholic since birth.About eight in ten (79 percent) come fromfamilies in which both parents are Catholic.

•Nearlyhalf of responding religious (48 percent, about equal for women and men)attended a Catholic elementary school.Respondents are also more likely than other U.S. Catholics to haveattended a Catholic high school (36 percent of responding religious, comparedto 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended aCatholic college (25 percent of women religious, compared to just 7 percent ofU.S. adult Catholics).

•The responding religiousare highly educated. Sixteen percent of responding religious earned a graduatedegree before entering their religious institute (including 26 percent among brothers).Nearly six in ten (57 percent) entered theirreligious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree or more (56 percent forwomen and 76 percent for men).

•Manyrespondents were active in parish life before entering their religiousinstitute.One-third participated in ayoung adult group and one in five participated in a youth ministry or other youthgroup.About one in four (24 percent)was active in campus ministry or a Newman Club on campus.

•Nearlyall (95 percent) responding religious regularly participated in some type ofprivate prayer activity before they entered their religious institute.Two-thirds joined in retreats (more common among women than men) or regularlyprayed the Rosary and three in five participated in Eucharistic Adorationbefore entering.About half regularlyparticipated in a faith sharing or Bible study group and/or in regularspiritual direction.

•Onaverage, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when theyfirst considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 17 or younger whenthey first did so.This reflects anearlier consideration than last year’s class.

•Agreat majority of the religious of those professed in 2011 (86 percent)participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to enteringtheir religious institute.Mostcommonly, this was a “Come and See” experience (61 percent) or a vocationretreat (39 percent).

“Religious sisters, priests and brothers aretreasured by the Church, and we support their sacred commitment to be poor,chaste and obedient in imitation of Christ and at his service.By virtue of their life they help us set ourheart’s goal not on this life, but on eternal life,” said Archbishop Robert J.Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Lifeand Vocations. “In a world where human frailty is acutely felt, they remind usof God and bring Christ’s redemptive love to all they meet. The bishops of theUnited States are delighted to support their vocations in religious life.”

“Weare encouraged by the report’s findings that men and women are considering avocation at a younger age.As the Catholicsrecognize their responsibility to build a vocation culture in its parishes,schools and families, children and youth are being introduced to the variousvocations in the Church,” said Mercy Sister Mary Joanna Ruhland, associatedirector of the Secretariat . “This helps them respond to God’s love and willgenerously and willingly. We congratulate these sisters and brothers and pray thatthe vitality and joy of their vocation be experienced by all whom they meet.”

Theentire survey can be found at https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/consecrated-life/profession-class/.

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Keywords: World Day for Consecrated Life, sisters, nuns,brothers, perpetual vows, profession of vows, Archbishop Robert Carlson, SisterMary Joanna Ruhland, CARA, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Councilfor Major Superiors of Women Religious, Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Conference ofMajor Superiors of Men

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