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Good News About Vocations Part 3 of 6: Older Orders Of Religious Intrigue Young Catholics
Catholic Exchange ^ | November 19, 2010 | Martha Fitzgerald

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 Master’s 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. That’s 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). What’s 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:

- The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. Founded in 1860 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Dominicans in 2008 welcomed eighteen entrants, ranging in age from nineteen to twenty-seven. Their 240 sisters serve schools in thirteen U.S. states and-as of September-Australia. Their growth, says former vocations director Sister Catherine Marie, coincided with the rise of the John Paul II generation-young people who began discovering their faith at the invitation of the Holy Father and learned there are moral absolutes in the world. “I visibly saw the momentum building.” Their community, she says, was in a better position than most to be noticed, having spread to several states and with sisters at several universities studying for advanced degrees. “We were plugged into some of the networks of young people who were becoming interested in religious life.”
- The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. Established in the 1923 and based in Alton, Illinois. The Alton Franciscans work in nine states and the District of Columbia and have a mission in Brazil. Their apostolates include health care, education, child care, and care of retired priests and sisters. The community of 183 members has forty-eight in formation.
- Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus. Established in the U.S. in 1912. These sisters bring the contemplative spirit of Carmel to the active care of children and the elderly. Their three U.S. provinces are in seven states. The Central Province, based in St. Louis, Missouri, has twenty-three members with nine in formation-before final vows. Their two entrants last year were eighteen and twenty-two years of age. “We first started seeing an increase in our province in 1997 when we set up an actual vocation program,” says superior Sr. Mary Joseph. “The response was surprising to us.”
- The Society of Mary (Marianists). Established in this country in 1849 and based in St. Louis. This order of more than 400 priests and brothers is part of the Marianist Family. They serve schools, retreat houses, parishes, and other apostolates in fifteen states, and have missions in Puerto Rico, Ireland, Mexico, India, eastern Africa, and the Philippines. Two men were ordained in 2008 and another took perpetual vows; fourteen others are in formation. Brother Charles Johnson has been national vocations director since four U.S. provinces were combined into one. “We have been blessed these seven years of having quality young men that don’t need to be Marianists but want to be Marianists. They could be anything; they want to be one of us.”

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 women’s 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 men’s 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, “I’m the first male religious that they’ve 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, 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 ( 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 didn’t know enough about religious life to see it as an option.”

Through, 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.”

For more information:

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; History
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; priesthood; religiouslife
Link to first of this six-part series can be found here at FR: Good News About Vocations – Part 2 of 6: Young Catholics On Fire For Their Faith
1 posted on 11/27/2010 12:59:59 PM PST by ConservativeStLouisGuy
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To: ConservativeStLouisGuy
OOPS! What I just posted should have read, "Link to SECOND of this six-part series can be found here at FR" bad....
2 posted on 11/27/2010 1:01:41 PM PST by ConservativeStLouisGuy (11th FReeper Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Unnecessarily Excerpt)
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To: ConservativeStLouisGuy

Thanks for picking up the threads that I had saved but had not yet posted.

Blessings for Advent!

3 posted on 11/27/2010 1:54:36 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
You're welcome, Salvation. (I remembered it had been quite some time since Part 1 was posted -- and thought you had forgotten.) :-)

Many thanks also for the wonderfully thought-provoking articles you always post, FRiend.

4 posted on 11/28/2010 4:43:51 PM PST by ConservativeStLouisGuy (11th FReeper Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Unnecessarily Excerpt)
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