Skip to comments.Good News About Vocations – Part 3 of 6: Older Orders Of Religious Intrigue Young Catholics
Posted on 11/27/2010 12:59:53 PM PST by ConservativeStLouisGuy
Continue inviting people to the priesthood and the religious life, just as Peter let down the nets at the Masters order, when he had spent the whole night fishing without catching anything Pope Benedict XVI
Lourdes, September 14, 2008
Set aside, for the moment, any doubts about the sustainability of Catholic religious orders. Thats last-century thinking.
Allow yourself instead to feel hope for the future and joy in the present-as do many of those involved in vocations ministries.
Interest in the consecrated life is up among U.S. Catholics, according to the National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC). Whats more, several religious institutes are reporting more young people entering the first years of formation.
Many such communities are emerging orders, that is, groups of consecrated religious founded in recent decades. But even older orders, those established long before the upheavals of the late 20th century, are attracting would-be sisters and brothers, monks and priests.
Among the older institutes healthy in number:
These and other traditional institutes have met the difficult challenge Pope Paul VI issued in 1965: to renew themselves and meet the needs of the modern world while staying true to their founding principles. These institutes are enjoying a new springtime of vocations even as others suffer the lingering effects of abrupt change and prolonged experimentation.
Most of their new entrants, however, are still in formation. Until they take final vows, they will not be reflected in official Church membership statistics.
The number of vowed religious in womens orders peaked at 181,421 in 1966, according to CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. It has since dropped by two-thirds to roughly 59,000-approximately the same level as a century ago. In mens orders, the total of religious priests and brothers fell below 35,000 last year, about half its total in 1965.
One of the big issues that religious are facing is how do you make the connection with young people, says CARA senior research associate Mary L. Gautier Ph.D. Sisters and brothers have nearly disappeared from Catholic schools and hospitals, the institutional base of the 20th century that provided walking role models. Often, when Brother Charles Johnson speaks to young people across the country, Im the first male religious that theyve ever met.
So how do centuries-old orders and members of the millennial generation find each other? Largely through Web sites and blogs (Web logs). In recent years, dozens of consecrated religious, priests, and seminarians have begun blogging-that is, sharing their stories through interactive journals.
Online indexes link to many of those blogs. Among them:
The latter index is supplied by the National Religious Vocations Conference through its Catholic Religious Vocation Network. Services includes Vision magazine, the interactive VocationMatch.com, and an annual online survey on trends in religious vocations. The NRVC last year collaborated with CARA on a survey of U.S. religious communities, hoping to pinpoint what outreach methods achieve the best results and what community characteristics prove most attractive to discerners. That report will be issued in 2009.
The VocationMatch online trend surveys, while not scientific, support the general feeling of optimism on the vocations front. The most recent was released in February 2008 (http://www.vocation-network.org/articles/show/156). Of 225 vocation ministers participating, seventy-two percent reported an increase in inquiries in past three years. On average, their communities reported thirty percent more people in formation. Of the 320 vocation seekers responding to the survey, sixty planned to enter formation within a year and 206 were seriously considering it. Most of the individual respondents were under age thirty.
Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of VocationMatch and Vision Vocation Guide, has been active in vocation work for fifteen years. My theory is that the renewed interest in vocations is due to availability of information about religious life. A generation of young adults went through a period with little exposure to religious men and women. Even if they had a spiritual longing for some other path, they just didnt know enough about religious life to see it as an option.
Through VocationMatch.com, seekers can explore 260 religious communities discreetly, before making any public commitment. They create an online profile, seeking the best fit with active, contemplative, or monastic communities. More than 12,500 individuals have created VocationMatch profiles since 2006.
What most surprises discerners is the abundance of different orders and spiritualities, as well as the joy that religious men and women experience. a significant number are drawn to living in communities and wearing some form of the traditional habit.
I think young people are seeking to give their lives for something, seeking the truth, willing to make sacrifices, says Sister M. Consolata of the Alton Franciscans. The culture surrounds them with immorality, and there is a desire for something greater.
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Thanks for picking up the threads that I had saved but had not yet posted.
Blessings for Advent!