A new study suggests that women entering religious life today are highly educated and experienced in church work—and also that many receive little or no encouragement from their families in their vocation.
The Profession Class of 2010: Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, released by the U.S. bishops on February 2, the World Day for Consecrated Life, and conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, found that more than half of the women who professed final vows to join a religious order in 2010 said a parent or family member had discouraged their religious calling. Only 26 percent of the surveyed sisters said their mother encouraged them to consider religious life, and only 16 percent said their fathers supported their choice.
In a presentation to the U.S. bishops in 2009, Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, pointed to the discouragement from family and friends as a troublesome trend for the church. "Although people want a full-time pastor in their parish or religious sister teaching their children in the Catholic school, ironically, they are reluctant to have their own son or daughter choose that vocation," Bednarczyk said.
Nevertheless, religious life continues to attract highly educated and skilled candidates. Of those surveyed, six in ten entered their religious community with at least a bachelor’s degree and a quarter already possessed a graduate degree. Eighty-five percent had ministry experience before entering, most commonly in liturgical ministry, faith formation, or social service ministry.