Religious communities of women and of men have worked tirelessly on behalf of human rights throughout the centuries. It might be the monastic brother who serves as the monastery’s porter and feeds the hungry who knock on his door. It might be the religious sister trained as a civil lawyer who lobbies in Washington, D.C. on behalf of economic justice for those who are poor and vulnerable. It might be the cloistered nun who has given herself to praying ceaselessly for those who are caught up in drug abuse and drug war violence. It might be a missionary who is helping rural farmers in with land rights and sustainability.
No matter how religious communities live or what their mission is, care for people who are vulnerable, suffering, or poor is a significant aspect of being women and men rooted in the gospel and the social teachings of the church. Some communities may place more of an emphasis on a particular aspect of social justice—for example, setting up a network of homeless shelters and soup kitchens or ministering with people enslaved in human trafficking.
I encourage you to get to know religious communities and see how each is specifically committed to human rights in ways that come out of their particular mission. Ask a sister, brother, or priest how their life and ministry have reflected those very first words of the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
Take time to ask yourself that same question. You may find that the ways you are attracted to serve and live the gospel resonate well with religious life!