VocationMatch.com Trends on Religious Life
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Vision VocationMatch.com Report on Trends
in Catholic Religious Vocations
125 percent increase in the number of inquirers
contacting religious communities
19 percent increase in those entering religious life in the past three years
Chicago, Feb. 28, 2007--Reversing a decades’-long decline, Catholic religious communities have enjoyed a 19 percent jump in the number of candidates preparing for religious life in the past three years, according to the VocationMatch.com Report on Trends in Religious Life, sponsored by Vision Vocation Guide. That upward trend promises to continue with fully 71 percent of communities polled reporting an increase in the number of people inquiring about entering religious life and Vision Vocation Guide reporting through VocationMatch.com a 125 percent increase in the past year in the number of unique readers creating online profiles and requesting information from specific religious communities.
This increased interest in vowed religious life is found primarily among younger Catholics, with over 50 percent of those considering a religious vocation under 30. Catholic Vocation directors polled expressed particular delight at the number of inquiries they are receiving from people between 25 and 29 years. But a growing number of Catholics over 50--nearly 18 percent of VocationMatch.com’s survey respondents--are also seeking formal affiliation with religious communities, a trend that vocation directors admit surprises and challenges them.
Those considering religious life value Catholic traditions
Those considering religious life (discerners) identify strongly with the teachings of the Catholic Church, with 66 percent of all respondents saying they are most drawn to religious life by a "desire to live a life of faithfulness to the church and its teachings."
A preference for wearing distinctively religious clothing has also found favor among current discerners. Fifty percent of respondents feel that dressing in a habit is "very important" or "essential" to their vocation. At the same time, 85 percent of those potential habit-wearing priests, brothers, and sisters want to be involved in active ministry in such fields as education, social service, campus ministry, parish work, preaching, healthcare, and prison ministry.
Aware of the challenges
Those considering religious life are very aware of the challenges any life commitment poses. Forty-five percent rate restrictions on personal freedom and the discipline of prayer as challenging or the most challenging aspects of religious life. A slightly fewer 43 percent rate simple living among the most significant challenges they face and 41 percent rate celibacy as a significant struggle. Discerners also express concern that with so many communities and vocation options available, it is hard to find which community is the "right fit for me."
Some vocation directors note that inquirers seem to have limited knowledge of the Catholic faith and "less exposure to people in religious life than they did in the past." "Inability to make a commitment" is another area of concern for vocation directors. Indeed, 31 percent of the discerners say they have been considering religious life for six years or more. However, today’s religious vocation discerners are generally well-educated--the majority have college degrees and 10 percent have advanced degrees--and they have diverse work experiences, with backgrounds in business, education, healthcare, social service, nonprofits, and other professions.
Prayer, communal life attract vocation seekers
Vocation discerners report "devotional prayer" and "praying with members of a community" as two of the qualities that most draw them to religious life. Forty-two percent believe living in community to be "essential" to their vocation, which may present a challenge for communities with thinning ranks and members spread far and wide. But in what surely will be favorable news for vocation directors of aging communities, 53 percent of discerners say they do not consider it important that they live with people their own age.
Discerners admire those in religious life: Priests, sisters, monks are "cool"
Vocation discerners express surprise at "how normal" and "how happy" those in religious life are and express admiration for the "profound sense of joy" of nuns, priests, and brothers and "their heroic generosity." Discerners are struck by the fact that so many "young people (like me) are interested in religious life," and how "difficult it is to discern." Other comments from discerns include: "Communities and their ministries are very diverse"; "There is no typical religious or religious community"; "Priests and sisters are cool"; and "Monks are cool" too.
Online services give discerners new tools
What Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of Vision Vocation Guide and VocationMatch.com, finds most encouraging in recent trends is that religious communities and young adults are finding it much easier and quicker to make connections through the internet and e-mail. "Discerners have so much more information at their fingertips than they did in the past, yet they also have better ways to sift through the information with online services, such as VocationMatch.com, and religious community websites, which they can visit in an instant."
Religious life is most often a "satisfying, grace-filled path"
For Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, through which Vision Vocation Guide is published, the most promising trend is that positive information about religious life is reaching the media. "The joy and wholesomeness of religious life has not been a story much covered in recent years. Religious life is not for everyone, but for those who choose it, it is most often a satisfying, grace-filled path."
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Statistics for the Vision VocationMatch.com Report on Trends in Religious Life were compiled
from the following sources:
Total candidate profiles completed, August 15, 2006 - February 23, 2007: 3,201
Vision Vocation Match Discerners Online Survey, Feb. 16-28, 2007
Total unique respondents: 207 out of 874 polled
Vision Vocation Match Vocation Directors Online Survey, Feb. 16-28, 2007
Total unique respondents: 165 out of 458 polled
With its unique multimedia and interactive features, including www.VocationMatch.com, it is one of the most comprehensive resources available for those pursuing a religious vocation in the Catholic Church or interested in learning more about religious orders, religious life, or vocation-related opportunities.
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