Vocations Study overview

Vocations Study overview

Message from the executive director

By Br. Paul Bednarczyk C.S.C., c

 

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After a year and a half of research and study, I am pleased to present you with the final report on the state of religious vocations in the United States. This major research project was commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.  

The purpose of this study is to identify and understand who is entering religious life today and the characteristics of the religious institutes that are receiving and retaining new members. No study on religious vocations on this scale has ever been done before.  The goal of this research is to highlight the best practices in vocation promotion and religious formation.

Although changing times have diminished the number of sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States, a new and hopeful generation of men and women still desire to be a part of the remarkable legacy of vowed, religious life.  

The Church and the world need women and men religious. Their witness has been the impetus for social change and spiritual renewal throughout history. In the United States religious priests, sisters, and brothers have been the backbone of Catholic education, health care, and social service systems. They were the forerunners in promoting civil rights, world peace, and other similar justice issues affecting the poor and the powerless. Now, as our study indicates, newer and younger religious men and women are calling us to a renewed appreciation of our Catholic worship, identity, and communal living.  

As we welcome a new era for religious life, it is my sincere hope that religious institutes desiring new membership will welcome the best practices for attracting and retaining new members set out in our published report. I believe this research project will be a great contribution to the Church and to religious institutes in the United States.  

I am grateful to a major donor who has made this study possible, and to the following contributors who also lent their financial support to this project: Catholic Theological Union, J. S. Paluch Company, Inc., the J. S. Paluch Family Foundation, and TrueQuest Communications, all of Chicago, IL.  In addition, I am indebted to the major superiors of religious institutes and newer entrants who participated in our research.  To them I express my sincere appreciation.   

From their earliest arrival in the new world of America, religious sisters, brothers, and priests have consistently responded to urgent needs with unflappable resiliency and courageous faith. I am confident that, true to their longstanding tradition and legacy, they will respond in a similar fashion to the current and critical need of attracting new membership so that future generations may benefit from their generous service and loving witness. May their efforts be truly blessed.



Executive summary—English

By Mary E. Bendyna R.S.M., Ph.D., Mary L. Gautier Ph.D.

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This report presents findings from a study of recent vocations to religious life in the United States that was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC). The study is based on surveys of religious institutes, surveys and focus groups with recent vocations to religious life, and an examination of selected religious institutes that have been successful in attracting and retaining new members. The study was designed to identify and understand the characteristics, attitudes, and experiences of the men and women who are coming to religious life today as well as the characteristics and practices of the religious institutes that are successfully attracting new candidates and retaining new members.

The study is based on four major research components:

• A single informant survey of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life
• A survey of those in initial formation or in final vows/commitment since 1993
• Focus groups with those in initial formation or in final vows/commitment since 1993
• Examination of the characteristics and practices of selected religious institutes


For the first phase of the study, CARA surveyed religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. Using mailing lists provided by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), CARA sent a questionnaire to each major superior with a cover letter from Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, Executive Director of NRVC, and a return envelope addressed to CARA. The cover letter and survey included instructions to respond only for the governance unit (e.g., congregation or province) for which the superior was responsible and, for international institutes or societies, to respond only for members who entered and are based in the United States.

CARA also sent questionnaires and cover letters to superiors of monasteries of contemplative nuns (who do not belong to either LCWR or CMSWR) as well as to superiors of new or emerging communities of consecrated life using mailing lists that CARA compiled for previous research. The list of emerging communities included some that are public associations of the faithful that are in the process of seeking canonical status as a religious institute or society of apostolic life.

Throughout the report, the term “religious institute” is used for religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, and public associations of the faithful that are seeking canonical status as a religious institute or society of apostolic life. 

CARA mailed surveys to a total of 976 entities in spring 2008 and then conducted extensive follow-up by mail, e-mail, telephone, and FAX throughout summer and fall 2008 to achieve a high response rate. CARA received completed responses from 591 religious institutes for a response rate of 60 percent. However, closer examination of the lists and the non-respondents revealed that some of the congregations and provinces on the original lists had merged with others during the course of the research. Other entities on the lists are neither provinces nor congregations, but regions or houses that do not have formation/incorporation in the United States and should not have been included in the survey. Still others, particularly among the contemplative monasteries and the emerging communities, had apparently ceased to exist. [“Reconfiguration” among religious institutes proved to be one of the most challenging issues for calculating a response rate as well as for obtaining historical information about new membership. Responses to questions about reconfiguration in the survey revealed that 19 percent of the respondents were in the process of reconfiguring at the time the survey was conducted in 2008 and another 16 percent had reconfigured since 1990. The number of “units” changed while the survey was being conducted.]

CARA estimates that the total number of units (congregations, provinces, monasteries) in the United States is fewer than 900, which would result in a response rate of approximately 66 percent. However, the responding entities account for 62,250 men and women religious, or well over 80 percent of all women and men religious in the United States. Many of the institutes or other entities that did not respond appear to be either small, mostly contemplative, communities that may not have had anyone in initial formation for some time, or those who are still in the process of becoming institutes of consecrated life. 

This initial survey was designed to gather statistics about the membership in the institute, including the numbers in initial formation or incorporation; basic information about vocation promotion and formation in the institute; and basic data about the institute’s ministry, community life, community prayer, and practice regarding the wearing of a religious habit. In addition, respondents were asked to provide the names and contact information for those in initial formation as well as those who had professed final or perpetual vows or commitment since 1993. This list served as the mailing list for the survey of new members described below. 

The second phase of the research consisted of a survey of “new members,” that is, current candidates/postulants, novices, and those in temporary vows or commitment as well as those who had professed final vows or commitment since 1993. The questionnaires were mailed in fall 2008 and winter 2009 to 3,965 new members, again with a cover letter from Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, and a return envelope addressed to CARA. Some 40 surveys were returned as undeliverable. In addition, closer examination of both responses and non-responses revealed that at least 45 returned surveys are from transfers rather than new members as defined by the study and at least 26 other respondents were formed and are based outside the United States and thus beyond the parameters of the study. When these are removed from the sample, CARA received a total of 1,568 usable responses from new members for a response rate of least 40 percent. 

The survey of new members was designed to identify what attracted these candidates and new members to religious life and to their particular religious institute or society; what they found helpful in their discernment process; what their attitudes and preferences are regarding community life, prayer, ministry, and the wearing of a religious habit; and what sustains and challenges them in religious life. The survey also asked about their background characteristics as well as their experience before entering religious life. In addition, the survey included a question asking the respondent if he or she would be willing to participate in a focus group.

The third and fourth phases of the research, which included focus groups with new members and closer examination of selected institutes, were conducted during spring and summer 2009. CARA conducted three focus groups with new members in Chicago, San Antonio, and Washington, DC. These sites were selected because of the relatively large concentration of new members in each of these areas. Participants were selected from among the survey respondents who indicated that they would be willing to participate in a focus group. 

The focus groups explored issues similar to those examined in the survey. Specifically, they were designed to gather insights from newer members about what attracts, sustains, and challenges them in religious life. The discussions were also directed toward understanding the attitudes and experiences of new members and especially toward identifying “best practices” for vocation and formation ministry that would assist men and women in discerning and responding to a call to religious life. A list of the religious institutes of the new members who participated in the focus groups is included in the introduction to the report.  

During the final phase of the research, CARA examined selected institutes that have experienced some success in attracting and retaining new members in recent years. At a minimum, this examination included an interview with the vocation director and a review of vocation promotion materials and practices. In most cases, the examination also included interviews with the novice director and/or other formation directors. In a few cases, it included interviews with leadership and interviews or focus groups with new members

It is important to note that although each of these institutes has enjoyed some success in attracting and retaining vocations, these institutes do not necessarily have the highest numbers of new members. They were selected to represent different types of institutes and to help identity best practices in vocation promotion and retention. A list of the religious institutes that were included in this part of the study can be found in the introduction to this report.


Major Findings

Religious Life Today 

    • There is a great deal of variety and diversity in religious life today not only in terms of the spirituality, charism, and mission of religious institutes but also in terms of their size, composition, and presence of new members. Although most religious institutes in the United States are experiencing aging membership, diminishing numbers, and few, if any, new vocations, some continue to attract new members and a few are experiencing significant growth.

    • The study identified at least 2,630 men and women in initial formation and nearly 4,000 who are either in initial formation or who had professed final vows within the previous 15 years. The actual number of new members is likely even higher given that some religious institutes did not respond to the survey and/or did not provide information about members who had professed final vows since 1993. The findings from the surveys, and especially those from the focus groups and interviews with new members, confirm that there are still significant numbers of men and women who are responding to a call to religious life and are hopeful about its future.

    • Three-fourths of institutes of men (78 percent) and two-thirds of institutes of women (66  percent) have at least one person currently in initial formation (candidate or postulant, novice, or temporary professed). However, almost half of the institutes that have someone in initial formation have no more than one or two. About 20 percent of the  responding institutes currently have more than five people in initial formation. Some of  these are institutes that recently merged, bringing together several congregations or  provinces that separately had no one or only a few in formation.

    • Overall, religious are an aging population. Three in four finally professed men (75 percent) and more than nine in ten finally professed women (91 percent) are age 60 and over in 2009. Among both men and women, a majority of those under the age of 60 are in their 50s. While this presents some challenges for new members, especially those who  are younger, it has not deterred those who entered from doing so.

Characteristics of New Members

    • Compared to men and women religious in the last century, those coming to religious life today are much more diverse in terms of their age, racial and ethnic background, and life experience. Many come with considerable education as well as ministry and work experience. The diversity among new members presents a number of challenges for formation as well as for life and ministry in many religious institutes.

    • According to the survey of new members, the average age of entrance is 30 for men (median 27) and 32 for women (median 29). However, there is a ten-year gap in average and median entrance age between women in LCWR institutes and women in CMSWR institutes. According to the survey of religious institutes, more than half of the women in initial formation in LCWR institutes (56 percent) are age 40 and older, compared to 15 percent in CMSWR institutes.

    • Compared to finally professed members, those in initial formation are more likely to come from non-Caucasian/white/Anglo backgrounds: 21 percent are Hispanic/Latino(a), 14 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 6 percent are African/African American. About 58 percent are Caucasian/white, compared to about 94 percent of finally professed members.

    • The survey of new members found that about nine in ten were raised Catholic and most (73 percent) attended a Catholic school for at least part of their education. About half attended parish-based religious education. One in seven (14 percent) new members from the Millennial Generation (born since 1982) was home-schooled for at least some of their education.

    • Seventy percent of new members had at least a bachelor’s degree before they entered.  More than nine in ten were employed, usually in a full-time position, and about seven in ten were engaged in ministry, one-third on a full-time basis and about six in ten on a volunteer basis. Many were also involved in various parish ministries and/or other volunteer work.

    • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of the new members first considered religious life by  the time they were 21, with a little more than half (53 percent) doing so by the time they were 18. Female respondents are a little more likely than male respondents to have  thought about a religious vocation at a young age, that is, before the age of 14 (27 percent compared to 19 percent). Men were a little more likely to first consider religious life  when they were college-age, that is, between the ages of 18 and 21 (28 percent of men compared to 20 percent of women).

Attraction to Religious Life and to a Particular Religious Institute

    • New members are drawn to religious life primarily by a sense of call and a desire for prayer and spiritual growth. More than three-fourths (78 percent) say they were attracted “very much” by the former and almost as many (73 percent) say they were attracted “very much” by the latter. More than anything else, they were attracted to their particular religious institute by the example of its members, and especially by their sense of joy, their down to earth nature, and their commitment and zeal. Some 85 percent say the example of members attracted them “very much.”

    • To only a slightly lesser degree, most new members also say they were attracted to religious life by a desire to be of service and a desire to be part of a community. They were attracted to their particular religious institute by its spirituality, community life, and prayer life. Although the ministries of the institute are also important to most new members, they are less important than spirituality, prayer, community, and lifestyle. Questions about ministry, especially the possibility of a variety of ministries, tend to be  more important to men than to women among new members.

    • Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire to be more committed to the Church and to their particular institute by its fidelity to the Church. Many also report that their decision to enter their institute was influenced by its practice regarding a religious habit. Significant generational gaps, especially between the Millennial Generation (born in 1982 or later) and the Vatican II Generation (born between 1943 and 1960), are evident throughout the study on questions involving the Church and the habit. Differences between the two generations also extend to questions about community life as well as styles and types of  prayer.

    • Newer members in religious life first became acquainted with their religious institutes in many different ways. The most common experience was in an institution, such as a school, where the members served. Other relatively common ways of becoming acquainted with the institute include through the recommendation of a friend or advisor, through working with a member of the institute, through a friend in the institute, and through print or online promotional materials.

    • Men are more likely than women to report that they first encountered their religious  institute in a school or other institution where the members served. Women are more likely than men to indicate that they learned about their institute through the  recommendation of a friend or advisor.

    • Older respondents are somewhat more likely than younger respondents to have met the  institute more directly, that is, through working with a member or through a friend in the  institute. Younger respondents, especially those in the Millennial Generation, are more likely to have first heard about the institute through the recommendation of a friend or  advisor or through print or online promotional materials.

    • Some younger members did not know a man or woman religious before they sensed a call to religious life. Many of these young religious first learned about their particular institute through the recommendation of a friend or advisor, often a priest, and many  found out or learned more about their institute online. Direct experience with the  institute and its members through “Come and See” experiences, discernment retreats, and  other opportunities to spend time with members are especially important for this age  group.

 

Vocation Promotion and Discernment Programs

    • Many religious institutes offer a variety of vocation promotion and discernment programs. Most responding institutes report that they use print materials, websites, and or/advertising for vocation promotion, and many report that they target specific age  groups, most typically high school, college, and young adults, in their vocation promotion and discernment programs.

    • The most common discernment programs are “Come and See” experiences (offered by three-fourths of the responding institutes), live-in experiences and discernment retreats (each offered by a little more than half), and mission or ministry experiences (offered by about a third). New members who participated in these and other programs for vocation discernment generally found them to be very helpful in their discernment process.

    • Findings from the survey of religious institutes suggest that using various media  (especially websites) for vocation promotion, offering programs (especially discernment retreats, “Come and See” experiences, discernment groups, and ministry/mission experiences) for vocation discernment, and targeting certain age groups (especially college-age and young adults) in vocation promotion and discernment efforts are positively correlated with attracting and retaining new members.

    • The data also suggest that having a vocation director, especially one who is engaged in vocation ministry on a full-time basis, and a vocation team are positively correlated with attracting and retaining new members. Although most religious institutes (88 percent)  report that they have a vocation director, he or she is full-time in less than half of these institutes (46 percent). Findings from the survey of new members and especially the reflections of participants in the interviews and focus groups suggest that the vocation director and other team members can play a critical role in the discernment process.

    • The survey of new members found that the age of the respondent is negatively correlated with how helpful they found most of vocation promotion and discernment resources and programs. Thus, the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to say that these resources or programs were helpful in the discernment process. This is especially the case with various types of websites; CDs, DVDs, and videos; and print and online promotional materials. Compared to older respondents, younger respondents are much more likely to report that websites, especially the websites of religious institutes, were helpful to them. They are also considerably more likely to report that discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences were helpful.

    • Although various vocation promotion and discernment programs can play an important role in informing potential candidates about religious life, especially in a particular religious institute, the findings suggest that members themselves play the most important role. New members report that it was the example of members that most attracted them to their institute and that meetings with members and communities were the most helpful when they were discerning. Comments from interview and focus group participants provide further support that it was their experience of members and the way they are living religious life that was most influential in the decision to enter their institute.
    

Encouragement and Support in Discernment and in Religious Life

    • Many new members did not experience a great deal of encouragement from parents, siblings, and other family members when they were first considering a vocation to religious life. Many also did not receive much encouragement from diocesan priests, people in their parish, or people in their school or workplace. Many report that their parents are now much more supportive.

    • Most new members report that they received a great deal of encouragement from members of their institute during their discernment process and that members of their institute continue to be their greatest source of encouragement and support in religious life. Most also report high levels of encouragement from those to whom and with whom they minister.

    • Compared to older new members, younger new members are more likely to report that they were encouraged by diocesan priests when they were first considering religious life. They are also more likely to report receiving encouragement from diocesan priests in their life and ministry now. Among other respondents, diocesan priests are least likely to be cited as a source of “very much” encouragement.

    

Prayer and Spirituality

    • Many new members identify common prayer as one of the aspects of religious life that most attracted them and that most sustains them now. When asked about the importance of various types of communal prayer, respondents are most likely to name daily Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours as the prayer types that are most important to them.
    • Millennial Generation respondents are much more likely than other respondents – especially those from the Vatican II Generation – to say that daily Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, and other devotional prayers are “very” important to them. Compared to younger respondents, older respondents place greater importance on faith-sharing and, to a lesser degree, on non-liturgical common prayer.

    • These patterns were reiterated in the open-ended responses as well as in interviews and focus groups in which many younger members mention Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Divine Office, and Marian devotion as especially important to them.
    

Community Life and Ministry Setting Preferences

    • When asked about their decision to enter their particular religious institute, new members cite the community life in the institute as the most influential factor in their decision (followed closely by the prayer life or prayer styles in the community). Most new members indicate that they want to live, work, and pray with other members of their religious institute, with the last being especially important to them. Responses to an open-ended question about what most attracted them to their religious institute reinforce the importance new members place on this aspect of religious life.

    • When asked about various living arrangements, most new members prefer to live in a large (eight or more) or medium-sized (four to seven) community and to live only with other members of their institute. Younger respondents express even stronger preferences for living with members of their institute in large community settings. Findings from the survey of religious institutes suggest that that new membership is negatively correlated with the number of members living alone. That is, the higher the number of members who live alone, the less likely an institute is to have new members.

    • When asked about various ministry settings, most new members indicate a relatively strong preference for ministry with other members of their institute and ministry sponsored by their institute. Again, these preferences are much stronger among younger new members. Very few new members, especially in the youngest age cohorts, prefer ministry with a non-Catholic or non-religious organization or even one that is Catholic but not sponsored by their institute.
 

Evaluation of Religious Institutes

    • Most new members give their religious institutes very high ratings (“excellent”) for their commitment to ministry. Most also give high marks to their institutes for their faithfulness to prayer and spiritual growth, the opportunities for spiritual and personal growth, and focus on mission. They give their institutes somewhat lower ratings for community life and relationships, opportunities for ongoing formation, and efforts to  promote vocations.

    • Compared to new members from other generations, those from the Vatican II Generation   tend to give their institutes lower ratings on most of the aspects of religious life about  which they were asked. Those from the Millennial Generation tend to be the most  positive in their assessment of their religious institutes.
    

Practices Regarding the Religious Habit

    • The responses to the open-ended question about what attracted them to their religious institute reveal that having a religious habit was an important factor for a significant number of new members. Interviews with vocation directors also suggest that many who are inquiring into religious life are looking for the possibility of wearing a habit even in those institutes in which few, if any, members regularly do so.

    • About two-thirds of the responding new members are in institutes that wear a religious habit. For a little more than half of those new members (55 percent), the habit is required in all or most circumstances and for another 16 percent it is required only at certain times, such as for ministry or prayer. In the focus group discussions, a few of the participants were either strongly in favor or strongly opposed to requiring habits, while some saw the value of wearing a habit or clerical dress in at least some circumstances.

    • Among those who report that the habit is optional, 90 percent of men and 27 percent of women say they wear it as least once in a while, with 14 percent of men and 15 percent of women saying they wear it in all or most circumstances. Among those who report that their institute does not have a habit, almost half of the men (48 percent) and almost a quarter of the women (23 percent) say they would wear a habit if they had that option.
 

Most Rewarding and Satisfying Aspects of Religious Life

    • When asked what they find most rewarding or satisfying about religious life, new members offered a range of comments about various aspects of religious life. The most frequent responses were about the communal dimension of religious life. Some mention living, praying, and working together while others focus more on the sense of common purpose and being part of something larger than themselves. The frequency of mentions of community life suggests that this is a particularly important aspect of religious life to most new members.

    • Many new members also identify some aspect of the spiritual dimension of religious life, such as the sense of following God’s call, deepening their relationship with God and with Christ, and/or personal and communal prayer, as providing the greatest sense of reward or satisfaction. In their responses, many new members specifically mention daily Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Divine Office, Marian devotion, and other devotional practices as especially meaningful to them.

    • Some new members cite the service or outreach dimension of religious life as most rewarding or satisfying for them. Many of these respondents mention ministry, service, or the apostolate while others comment on being a witness to God for others. The fact that comments about ministry, service, or the apostolate are less frequent than those about community and spirituality suggest that these may be less salient to new members.

Challenges in and for Religious Life Today

    • In response to questions about what they find most challenging about religious life, new members identified a range of issues and concerns. Some of these are perennial issues in religious life: the challenges of living in community, overcoming personal weaknesses, faithfully living the vows, and balancing personal, communal, and ministerial responsibilities.

    • Some of the challenges identified by new members are more unique to this particular time in the history of religious life in the United States: aging and diminishment in their religious institutes, age and experience differences among new members as well as between new and older members in community, the lack of peers in religious life and in their religious institutes, and differences in theology and ecclesiology, often across generational lines. Some see the polarization within the Church and within religious life as the greatest challenge.

Hope for the Future

    • Although many of the participants in the focus groups and interviews expressed concerns about the future of religious life and the future of their religious institutes, most remain hopeful. Most acknowledge that the numbers in religious life may continue to decline and that their religious institutes may be different in the future. Nonetheless, they believe religious life will persevere and that the Spirit can and will move in that diminishment. Some already see signs of hope, especially in a younger generation that they believe is bringing a new energy and optimism to religious life.


    • Findings from the qualitative research also suggest that new members are especially attracted to religious institutes that themselves are clear and confident about their identity and hopeful about their future. Some new members are disheartened by the apathy, pessimism, and fatalism they see in some of the members of their institutes.

Best Practices in Vocation Ministry

    • The findings from the study suggest a number of “best practices” for vocation promotion. These include instilling a “culture of vocations” and involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts; having a full-time vocation director who is supported by a team and resources; using new media, especially websites and other online presence; offering discernment programs and other opportunities for potential candidates to meet members and learn about the institute; and targeting college students and young adults as well as elementary and high school students to expose them to the possibility of religious life and inform them about the institute.

    • Although these practices can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining new members, the research suggests that it is the example of members and the characteristics of the institute that have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute. The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this  time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.



Executive summary—Spanish

Vocaciones Recientes para la Vida Religiosa: Informe para la Conferencia Nacional de Vocaciones Religiosas

By Mary E. Bendyna R.S.M., Ph.D., Mary L. Gautier Ph.D.

RESUMEN EJECUTIVO

Este informe presenta las conclusiones de un estudio de vocaciones recientes para la vida religiosa en los Estados Unidos, que fue realizado por el Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Centro para la Investigación Aplicada sobre el Apostolado) (CARA) para la National Religious Vocation Conference (Conferencia Nacional de Vocaciones Religiosas) (NRVC). El estudio está basado en encuestas de institutos religiosos, encuestas y grupos de enfoque con vocaciones recientes para la vida religiosa, y un análisis de institutos religiosos seleccionados que han tenido éxito en atraer y retener nuevos miembros. El estudio fue diseñado para identificar y comprender las características, actitudes y experiencias de los hombres y mujeres que llegan a la vida religiosa actualmente, como también las características y prácticas de los institutos religiosos que están atrayendo nuevos candidatos y reteniendo nuevos miembros exitosamente.

El estudio está basado en cuatro componentes principales de investigación:

  • Una encuesta de informante único de institutos religiosos y sociedades de vida apostólica
  • Una encuesta de quienes están en formación inicial, o en votos finales/reclusión desde 1993
  • Grupos de enfoque con quienes están en formación inicial, o en votos finales/reclusión desde 1993
  • Análisis de las características y prácticas de los institutos religiosos seleccionados

A lo largo de todo el informe, el término “instituto religioso” se usa para institutos religiosos, sociedades de vida apostólica, y asociaciones públicas de fieles que están gestionando una posición canónica como instituto religioso o sociedad de vida apostólica.

CARA envió encuestas por correo a un total de 976 entidades en la primavera de 2008 y luego realizó un extenso seguimiento por correo, e-mail, teléfono y FAX durante todo el verano y el otoño de 2008 para lograr un alto índice de respuestas. CARA recibió respuestas llenadas por 591 institutos religiosos con un índice de respuesta del 60 por ciento. Sin embargo, un análisis más detallado de las listas y de quienes no respondieron reveló que algunas de las congregaciones y provincias de las listas originales se habían fusionado con otras durante el curso de la investigación. Otras entidades de las listas no son provincias ni congregaciones, sino regiones o casas que no tienen formación/incorporación en los Estados Unidos y no deberían haber sido incluidas en la encuesta. Otras aún, particularmente entre los monasterios contemplativos y las comunidades emergentes, aparentemente habían dejado de existir.

Esta encuesta inicial fue diseñada para reunir estadísticas acerca de los miembros del instituto, incluyendo los que están en formación inicial o incorporación; información básica acerca de la promoción de vocaciones y formación en el instituto; y datos básicos acerca del ministerio, vida comunitaria, oración comunitaria y práctica en cuanto a vestir un hábito religioso del instituto. Además, se pidió a los encuestados que diesen nombres e información de contacto de quienes están en formación inicial, como también de quienes han profesado votos finales o perpetuos, o reclusión, desde 1993. Esta lista sirvió como lista de correo para la encuesta de nuevos miembros que se describe más adelante.

La segunda fase de la investigación consistió en una encuesta de “nuevos miembros,” es decir, actuales candidatos/postulantes, novicios, y quienes han profesado votos temporarios o reclusión, como también quienes habían profesado votos finales o reclusión desde 1993.

La encuesta de nuevos miembros fue diseñada para identificar qué atraía a estos candidatos y nuevos miembros a la vida religiosa y a su instituto o sociedad religiosa en particular; qué encontraban útil en su proceso de discernimiento; cuáles son sus actitudes y preferencias en cuanto a la vida en comunidad, la oración, el ministerio, y vestir un hábito religioso; cuáles son las cosas que los sostienen y las que presentan un desafío en su vida religiosa. La encuesta también pedía características de sus antecedentes como también de su experiencia antes de ingresar a la vida religiosa. Además, la encuesta incluía una pregunta que pedía al encuestado que respondiese si él o ella estaría dispuesto a participar en un grupo de enfoque.

La tercera y cuarta fase de la investigación incluyeron grupos de enfoque con nuevos miembros y un análisis más detallado de los institutos seleccionados. Los grupos de enfoque investigaron temas similares a los analizados en la encuesta. Específicamente, fueron diseñados para averiguar qué atrae, sostiene y presenta desafíos a los miembros más recientes de la vida religiosa. Las preguntas también estaban dirigidas hacia comprender las actitudes y experiencias de los nuevos miembros y especialmente hacia identificar las “mejores prácticas” para un ministerio para la vocación y formación que pudiera ayudar a hombres y mujeres a discernir y responder al llamado a la vida religiosa. En la introducción al informe se incluye una lista de los institutos religiosos de los nuevos miembros que participaron en los grupos de enfoque.

Durante la fase final de la investigación, CARA analizó los institutos seleccionados que han tenido cierto éxito en atraer y retener nuevos miembros en años recientes. Como mínimo, este análisis incluyó una entrevista con el director de vocaciones y un estudio de los materiales y prácticas para promoción de vocaciones. En la mayoría de los casos, el análisis también incluyó entrevistas con el director de novicios y/u otros directores de formación. En algunos casos, incluyó entrevistas con los directivos y entrevistas o grupos de enfoque con nuevos miembros.

 

PRINCIPALES CONCLUSIONES

La Vida Religiosa Hoy

• En la vida religiosa actual existe una gran variedad y diversidad, no sólo en términos de la espiritualidad, carisma y misión de los institutos religiosos, sino también en términos de sus dimensiones, composición, y presencia de nuevos miembros. Si bien la mayoría de los institutos religiosos de los Estados Unidos enfrenta las cuestiones de miembros de edad avanzada, cantidades en disminución, y pocas o ninguna nueva vocación, algunas continúan atrayendo nuevos miembros y unas pocas están creciendo significativamente.

• El estudio identificó por lo menos 2,630 hombres y mujeres en formación inicial y cerca de 4,000 que están en formación inicial o han profesado votos definitivos dentro de los 15 años anteriores. La cantidad real de nuevos miembros probablemente es mayor aún, dado que algunos institutos religiosos no respondieron a la encuesta y/o no proporcionaron información sobre miembros que habían profesado los votos definitivos desde 1993. Las conclusiones de las encuestas, y especialmente las de los grupos de enfoque y entrevistas con nuevos miembros, confirman que todavía hay cantidades significativas de hombres y mujeres que están respondiendo al llamado a la vida religiosa y son optimistas en cuanto a su futuro.

• Tres cuartas partes de los institutos de hombres (78 por ciento) y dos tercios de los institutos de mujeres (66 por ciento) tienen por lo menos una persona actualmente en formación inicial (candidato o postulante, novicio, o con votos temporales). Sin embargo, casi la mitad de los institutos que tienen a una persona en formación inicial no tienen más que una o dos. Aproximadamente un 20 por ciento de los institutos encuestados tienen actualmente más de cinco personas en formación inicial. Algunos de ellos son institutos que se han fusionado recientemente, reuniendo varias congregaciones o provincias que individualmente no tenían o tenían sólo unas pocas personas en formación.

• En general, los religiosos son una población que está envejeciendo. Tres de cuatro hombres que han profesado votos definitivos (75 por ciento) y más de nueve de diez mujeres que han profesado votos definitivos (91 por ciento) tienen 60 años o más en 2009. Tanto entre hombres como mujeres, la mayoría de los que tienen menos de 60 años de edad están en los 50. Si bien esto presenta algunos desafíos para los nuevos miembros, especialmente los que son más jóvenes, esto no ha impedido que los que ingresaron lo hicieran.

 

Características de los Nuevos Miembros

• En comparación con los hombres y mujeres religiosos del siglo pasado, quienes llegan a la vida religiosa hoy en día son mucho más diversos en términos de su edad y antecedentes raciales y étnicos, y experiencias de vida. Muchos llegan con una educación considerable, como también ministerio y experiencia laboral. La diversidad entre los nuevos miembros presenta una cantidad de desafíos para su formación como también para la vida y el ministerio en muchos institutos religiosos.

• Según la encuesta de nuevos miembros, la edad promedio de ingreso es de 30 años para los hombres (media 27) y 32 años para las mujeres (media 29). Sin embargo, existe una brecha de diez años en la edad promedio y media de ingreso entre las mujeres de institutos LCWR y las de institutos CMSWR. Según la encuesta de institutos religiosos, más de la mitad de las mujeres que están en formación inicial en institutos LCWR (56 por ciento) tienen 40 años o más, comparado con el 15 por ciento en institutos CMSWR.

• En comparación con los miembros que han profesado votos definitivos, es más probable que los que están en formación inicial provengan de ámbitos no-Caucásicos/blancos/Anglos: 21 por ciento son Hispánicos/Latinos(as), 14 por ciento son asiáticos/de Islas del Pacífico, y 6 por ciento son Africanos/o Americanos-Africanos. Aproximadamente un 58 por ciento son Caucásicos/blancos, comparado con aproximadamente 94 por ciento de los miembros que han profesado votos definitivos.

• La encuesta de nuevos miembros encontró que aproximadamente nueve de cada diez fueron criados como Católicos y la mayoría (73 por ciento) asistieron a una escuela Católica por lo menos durante una parte de su educación. Aproximadamente la mitad asistieron a educación religiosa parroquial. Uno de cada siete (14 por ciento) de los nuevos miembros de la Generación del Milenio (nacidos después de 1982) recibió educación en el hogar por lo menos una parte de la misma.

• Setenta por ciento de los nuevos miembros tenía por lo menos un título universitario antes de ingresar. Más de nueve de cada diez estaban empleados, habitualmente en puestos de tiempo completo, y aproximadamente siete de cada diez estaban ocupados en el ministerio, un tercio de ellos en tiempo completo y aproximadamente seis de cada diez como voluntarios. Muchos estaban también relacionados con diversos ministerios parroquiales u otros trabajos voluntarios.

• Más de dos tercios (68 por ciento) de los nuevos miembros consideraron por primera vez la vida religiosa cerca de los 21 años, y un poco más de la mitad (53 por ciento) lo hizo alrededor de los 18 años. Es más probable que las encuestadas de sexo femenino hayan pensado en una vocación religiosa cuando eran de corta edad, es decir, antes de los 14 años (27 por ciento comparado con 19 por ciento) que los de sexo masculino. Es algo más probable que los hombres hayan considerado la vida religiosa cuando eran universitarios, es decir, entre los 18 y los 21 años (28 por ciento de hombres comparado con 20 por ciento de mujeres).

 

Atracción a la Vida Religiosa y a un Instituto Religioso en Particular

• Los nuevos miembros son atraídos a la vida religiosa en primera instancia por un sentimiento de llamado y un deseo de oración y crecimiento espiritual. Más de las tres cuartas partes (78 por ciento) dijeron que se sintieron atraídos “mucho” por la primera y casi la misma cantidad (73 por ciento) dijeron que se sintieron atraídos “mucho” por el segundo. Más que por otra cosa, se sintieron atraídos a su instituto religioso en particular por el ejemplo de sus miembros, y especialmente por su sentimiento de alegría, por su naturaleza realista y por su compromiso y entusiasmo. Alrededor del 85 por ciento dijo que el ejemplo de los miembros los atrajo “mucho.”

• En un grado ligeramente menor, la mayoría de los nuevos miembros dijo también que se sintieron atraídos a la vida religiosa por el deseo de servir y el deseo de ser parte de una comunidad. Se sintieron atraídos en particular a su instituto religioso por su espiritualidad, vida comunitaria y vida de oración. Si bien los ministerios del instituto son importantes también para la mayoría de los nuevos miembros, éstos son menos importantes que la espiritualidad, oración, comunidad y estilo de vida. Las cuestiones relativas al ministerio, especialmente la posibilidad de diversos ministerios, tienden a ser más importantes para los hombres que para las mujeres entre los nuevos miembros.

• Es más probable que los encuestados más jóvenes digan que se sintieron atraídos a la vida religiosa por el deseo de estar más comprometidos con la Iglesia y con su instituto en particular por su fidelidad con la Iglesia, en comparación con los encuestados mayores. Muchos dicen también que su decisión de ingresar a su instituto fue influida por su práctica relacionada con el hábito religioso. Las brechas generacionales significativas, especialmente entre la Generación del Milenio (nacidos en 1982 o más tarde) y la Generación del Vaticano II (nacidos entre 1943 y 1960), se hacen evidentes a lo largo de todo el estudio en cuestiones que tienen que ver con la Iglesia y con el hábito. Las diferencias entre las dos generaciones también se extienden a cuestiones de la vida comunitaria, como también de estilos y tipos de oración.

• Los miembros más recientes de la vida religiosa se relacionaron por primera vez con sus institutos religiosos de muy diversas formas. La experiencia más común fue en una institución, como una escuela, en la que prestaban servicio los miembros. Otras maneras relativamente comunes de entrar en relación con el instituto son mediante la recomendación de un amigo o consejero, por trabajar con un miembro del instituto, a través de un amigo del instituto, y a través de materiales de promoción impresos o en Internet.

• Comparado con las mujeres, es más probable que los hombres digan que entraron en contacto por primera vez con su instituto religioso en una escuela u otra institución en que prestaban servicio los miembros. Comparado con los hombres, es más probable que las mujeres mencionen que averiguaron acerca de su instituto a través de la recomendación de un amigo o consejero.

• Comparado con los más jóvenes, es algo más probable que los encuestados mayores hayan conocido su instituto de manera más directa, es decir, trabajando con un miembro o a través de un amigo en el instituto. Los encuestados más jóvenes, especialmente los de la Generación del Milenio, es más probable que hayan sabido por primera vez del instituto a través de la recomendación de un amigo o consejero, o a través de materiales de promoción impresos o en Internet.

• Algunos de los miembros más jóvenes no habían conocido hombres o mujeres religiosos antes de sentir un llamado a la vida religiosa. Muchos de estos jóvenes religiosos se enteraron por primera vez de su instituto particular a través de la recomendación de un amigo o consejero, a menudo un sacerdote, y muchos averiguaron o supieron más sobre su instituto en Internet. La experiencia directa con el instituto y sus miembros a través de eventos presenciales, retiros de discernimiento, y otras oportunidades de pasar tiempo con los miembros son especialmente importantes para este grupo etario.

 

Programas de Promoción y Discernimiento Vocacional

• Muchos institutos religiosos ofrecen diversos programas de promoción y discernimiento vocacional. La mayoría de los institutos encuestados informaron que ellos usan materiales impresos, páginas web, y/o publicidad para la promoción de vocaciones, y muchos informan que se centran en grupos etarios específicos, muy generalmente de escuelas secundarias, universidades, y adultos jóvenes, en sus programas de promoción y discernimiento vocacional.

• Los programas de discernimiento más comunes son experiencias presenciales (que ofrecen tres cuartas partes de los institutos encuestados), experiencias vivenciales y retiros de discernimiento (cada uno ofrecido por algo más de la mitad), y experiencias de misión o ministerio (ofrecidas por aproximadamente un tercio). Los nuevos miembros que participaron en éstos y otros programas para discernimiento vocacional generalmente las consideraron muy útiles en su proceso de discernimiento.

• Las conclusiones de la encuesta de institutos religiosos sugieren que usar diversos medios (especialmente sitios web) para la promoción de vocaciones, ofrecer programas (especialmente retiros de discernimiento, experiencias presenciales, grupos de discernimiento y experiencias de ministerio o de misión) para el discernimiento vocacional, y dirigirse específicamente a ciertos grupos etarios, (especialmente universitarios y adultos jóvenes) en las campañas de promoción vocacional y de discernimiento están positivamente correlacionados con atraer y retener nuevos miembros.

• Los datos también sugieren que tener un director de vocaciones, especialmente alguien que trabaja en el ministerio de las vocaciones en tiempo completo, y un equipo vocacional, se correlaciona positivamente con atraer y retener nuevos miembros. Aunque la mayoría de los institutos religiosos (88 por ciento) informaron que tienen un director de vocaciones, él o ella trabaja tiempo completo en menos de la mitad de estos institutos (46 por ciento). Las conclusiones de la encuesta de nuevos miembros y especialmente las reflexiones de los participantes de las entrevistas y grupos de enfoque sugieren que el director de vocaciones y otros miembros del equipo pueden jugar un papel crítico en el proceso de discernimiento.

• La encuesta de nuevos miembros encontró que la edad del encuestado se correlaciona de forma negativa con cuán útiles les parecieron la mayoría de los recursos y programas de promoción vocacional y de discernimiento. Entonces, cuanto más joven es la persona, más probable es que él o ella diga que estos recursos o programas fueron útiles en el proceso de discernimiento. Este es el caso especialmente con varias clases de sitios web; CDs, DVDs, y videos; y materiales de promoción impresos y en Internet. En comparación con encuestados mayores, es más probable que los encuestados más jóvenes informen que los sitios web, especialmente los de institutos religiosos, les resultaron útiles. También es considerablemente más probable que ellos digan que los retiros de discernimiento y las experiencias presenciales fueron útiles.

• Si bien diversos programas de promoción vocacional y de discernimiento pueden jugar un papel importante en informar a los candidatos potenciales acerca de la vida religiosa, especialmente en un instituto religioso en particular, las conclusiones sugieren que los mismos miembros tienen el papel más importante. Los nuevos miembros dicen que fue el ejemplo de los miembros lo que más los atrajo a su instituto y que las reuniones con miembros y comunidades fueron lo más útil cuando ellos estaban discerniendo. Los comentarios de participantes de entrevistas y grupos de enfoque apoyan más el concepto de que fue su experiencia con los miembros y la manera en que ellos viven la vida religiosa lo que más influyó en su decisión de ingresar a su instituto.

 

Estímulo y Apoyo para el Discernimiento y la Vida Religiosa

• Muchos nuevos miembros no tuvieron demasiado estímulo de sus padres, hermanos y otros miembros de la familia cuando consideraron por primera vez una vocación para la vida religiosa. Muchos tampoco recibieron demasiado estímulo de sacerdotes de la diócesis, gente de su parroquia, o gente de su escuela o lugar de trabajo. Muchos informan que sus padres ahora son mucho más comprensivos.

• La mayoría de los nuevos miembros informan que recibieron mucho estímulo de miembros de su instituto durante su proceso de discernimiento, y que los miembros de su instituto siguen siendo su mayor fuente de estímulo y apoyo en la vida religiosa. La mayoría también informa alto grado de estímulo de las personas a y con quienes ellos ejercen el ministerio

• En comparación con nuevos miembros de más edad, es más probable que los nuevos miembros más jóvenes digan que fueron estimulados por sacerdotes de la diócesis cuando consideraron por primera vez la vida religiosa. También es más probable que digan que recibieron estímulo de sacerdotes de la diócesis en su vida y ministerio actual. Entre otros encuestados, es menos probable que se cite a los sacerdotes diocesanos como fuente de “mucho” estímulo.


Oración y Espiritualidad

• Muchos nuevos miembros identifican a la oración en común como uno de los aspectos de la vida religiosa que más los atrajo y que más los sostiene actualmente. Cuando se les preguntó acerca de la importancia de diferentes tipos de oración comunitaria, lo que más mencionan los encuestados es la Comunión diaria y la Liturgia de las Horas, como los tipos de oración que son más importantes para ellos.

• Es más probable que los encuestados de la Generación del Milenio, en comparación con otros encuestados –especialmente los de la Generación del Vaticano II– digan que la Comunión diaria, la Liturgia de las Horas, la Adoración de la Eucaristía, y otras oraciones devocionales son “muy” importantes para ellos. En comparación con encuestados más jóvenes, los encuestados mayores otorgan más importancia al compartir la fe y, en menor grado, a la oración comunitaria no litúrgica.

• Estos patrones se reiteraron en las respuestas abiertas tanto como en las entrevistas y grupos de enfoque en los que muchos miembros más jóvenes mencionan la Comunión, la Adoración de la Eucaristía, el Oficio Divino y la devoción Mariana como especialmente importantes para ellos.



Preferencias con Respecto a Vida Comunitaria y Formas de Ministerio


• Cuando se les preguntó sobre su decisión de ingresar a su instituto religioso particular, los nuevos miembros citan la vida comunitaria en el instituto como el factor que más influyó en su decisión (seguido muy de cerca por la vida de oración o los estilos de oración en la comunidad). La mayoría de los nuevos miembros indican que quieren vivir, trabajar y orar con otros miembros de su instituto religioso, y esto último es especialmente importante para ellos. Las respuestas a una pregunta abierta sobre lo que más los atrajo a su instituto religioso refuerzan la importancia que dan los nuevos miembros a este aspecto de la vida religiosa.

• Cuando se les preguntó sobre diferentes condiciones de vivienda, la mayoría de los nuevos miembros prefieren vivir en una comunidad grande (ocho o más) o mediana (cuatro a siete) y vivir solamente con otros miembros de su instituto. Los encuestados más jóvenes expresan preferencias aún más marcadas por vivir con miembros de su instituto en grandes ambientes comunitarios. Las conclusiones de la encuesta de institutos religiosos sugieren que la cantidad de nuevos miembros correlaciona en forma negativa con la cantidad de miembros que viven solos. Es decir, cuanto mayor es el número de miembros que viven solos, menos probable es que un instituto tenga nuevos miembros.

• Cuando se les preguntó sobre diversas formas de ministerio, la mayoría de los nuevos miembros indicaron una preferencia relativamente marcada por el ministerio junto a otros miembros de su instituto y ministerio patrocinado por su instituto. Nuevamente, estas preferencias son mucho más fuertes entre los nuevos miembros más jóvenes. Muy pocos nuevos miembros, especialmente los de los grupos más jóvenes, prefieren el ministerio con una organización no-Católica o no-religiosa, o aún con una que sea Católica pero no patrocinada por su instituto.

 

Evaluación de Institutos Religiosos

• La mayoría de los nuevos miembros dan muy altas calificaciones a sus institutos religiosos (“excelente”) por su compromiso con el ministerio. La mayoría también da altas calificaciones a sus institutos por su fidelidad con la oración y el crecimiento espiritual, las oportunidades de crecimiento espiritual y personal, y el enfoque en la misión. Ellos dan a sus institutos calificaciones algo menores en cuanto a la vida comunitaria y las relaciones, oportunidades de formación continua, y trabajos para promover vocaciones.

• En comparación con nuevos miembros de otras generaciones, los de la Generación del Vaticano II tienden a dar calificaciones más bajas a sus institutos en la mayoría de los aspectos de la vida religiosa sobre los que se les preguntó. Los de la Generación del Milenio tienden a ser los más positivos en su evaluación de sus institutos religiosos.

 

Prácticas con Respecto al Hábito Religioso

• Las respuestas a la pregunta abierta acerca de qué los atrajo hacia su instituto religioso revelan que tener un hábito religioso fue un factor importante para una cantidad significativa de nuevos miembros. Las entrevistas con directores de vocaciones también sugieren que mucha gente que está investigando la vida religiosa busca la posibilidad de vestir un hábito, aún en aquellos institutos en los que pocos, o ninguno de los miembros lo hace regularmente.

• Aproximadamente dos tercios de los nuevos miembros encuestados están en institutos que visten un hábito religioso. Para algo más de la mitad de esos nuevos miembros (55 por ciento), el hábito es necesario en todas o la mayoría de las circunstancias y para otro 16 por ciento es necesario solamente en ciertas ocasiones, como el ministerio o la oración. En las discusiones de los grupos de enfoque, algunos participantes estaban marcadamente a favor o marcadamente en contra del requisito del hábito, mientras algunos veían el valor de llevar un hábito o vestimenta eclesiástica por lo menos en algunas circunstancias.

• Entre quienes informan que el hábito es optativo, 90 por ciento de los hombres y 27 por ciento de las mujeres dicen que lo usan por lo menos de vez en cuando, mientras 14 por ciento de los hombres y 15 por ciento de las mujeres dicen que lo usan siempre o la mayoría de las veces. Entre quienes informan que su instituto no tiene un hábito, casi la mitad de los hombres (48 por ciento) y casi una cuarta parte de las mujeres (23 por ciento) dice que usarían un hábito si tuvieran esa opción.

 

Aspectos más Gratificantes y Satisfactorios de la Vida religiosa

• Cuando se les preguntó qué es lo que encuentran más gratificante o satisfactorio de la vida religiosa, los nuevos miembros brindaron una serie de comentarios sobre diversos aspectos de la vida religiosa. Las respuestas más frecuentes fueron acerca de la dimensión comunitaria de la vida religiosa. Algunos mencionaron vivir, rezar y trabajar juntos, mientras otros se enfocaron más en el sentido de un objetivo común y en ser parte de algo más grande que ellos mismos. La frecuencia de las menciones de la vida comunitaria sugiere que ésta es un aspecto particularmente importante de la vida religiosa para la mayoría de los nuevos miembros.

• Muchos nuevos miembros también identifican algún aspecto de la dimensión espiritual de la vida religiosa, como el sentido de seguir el llamado de Dios, profundizar su relación con Dios y con Cristo, y/o la oración personal y comunitaria, como los aspectos que brindan la mayor sensación de gratificación o satisfacción. En sus respuestas, muchos nuevos miembros mencionan específicamente la Comunión diaria, la Adoración de la Eucaristía, el Oficio Divino, la devoción Mariana, y otras prácticas devocionales como especialmente significativas para ellos.

• Algunos nuevos miembros citan el servicio o la dimensión de ayuda a la comunidad de la vida religiosa como lo más gratificante para ellos. Muchos de estos encuestados mencionan el ministerio, el servicio, o el apostolado, mientras otros comentan el hecho de ser testigos de Dios ante otros. El hecho de que los comentarios acerca del ministerio, el servicio, o el apostolado son menos frecuentes que los que se refieren a la comunidad y la espiritualidad sugiere que éstos pueden ser menos notables para los nuevos miembros.

 

Los Desafíos de y para la Vida Religiosa Hoy

• En respuesta a las preguntas acerca de lo que hallan más desafiante de la vida religiosa, los nuevos miembros identificaron una serie de asuntos y preocupaciones. Algunos de ellos son asuntos perennes en la vida religiosa: los desafíos de vivir en comunidad, superar debilidades personales, vivir fielmente los votos, y equilibrar las responsabilidades personales, comunitarias, y del ministerio.

• Algunos de los desafíos identificados por los nuevos miembros están más relacionados con esta época particular de la historia de la vida religiosa in los Estados Unidos: el envejecimiento y la reducción de sus institutos religiosos, las diferencias de edades y experiencia entre los nuevos miembros, como también aquellas entre los miembros nuevos y los mayores de las comunidades, la falta de colegas en la vida religiosa y en sus institutos religiosos, y las diferencias de teología y eclesiología, frecuentemente entre líneas generacionales. Algunos ven la polarización dentro de la Iglesia y dentro de la vida religiosa como el mayor desafío

 

Esperanza para el Futuro

• Si bien muchos de los participantes de los grupos de enfoque y entrevistas expresaron preocupación acerca del futuro de la vida religiosa y el futuro de sus institutos religiosos, la mayoría se mantiene optimista. Muchos reconocen que la cantidad de personas en la vida religiosa puede seguir decreciendo y que sus institutos religiosos pueden ser diferentes en el futuro. A pesar de ello, creen que la vida religiosa va a persistir y que el Espíritu puede y va a intervenir en dicha disminución. Algunos ya ven señales de esperanza, especialmente en una generación más joven que piensan está trayendo una nueva energía y optimismo a la vida religiosa.

• Las conclusiones de la investigación cualitativa también sugieren que los nuevos miembros se sienten especialmente atraídos a institutos religiosos que en sí mismos son claros, confían en su identidad, y tienen esperanzas con respecto a su futuro. Algunos nuevos miembros se sienten desanimados por la apatía, pesimismo, y fatalismo que ven en algunos de los miembros de sus institutos.


Mejores Prácticas en el Ministerio de Vocaciones

• Las conclusiones del estudio sugieren una cantidad de “mejores prácticas” para la promoción de vocaciones. Éstas incluyen implantar una “cultura de vocaciones” e incluir a los miembros y a los directores en esfuerzos concertados de promoción de vocaciones; tener un director de vocaciones de tiempo completo que esté apoyado por un equipo y recursos; usar nuevos medios, especialmente sitios web y otro tipo de presencia en Internet; ofrecer programas de discernimiento y otras oportunidades para que los candidatos potenciales conozcan a los miembros y se informen acerca del instituto; y tener como objetivo a los estudiantes universitarios y a los adultos jóvenes, como también a los estudiantes de escuelas primarias y secundarias para mostrarles la posibilidad de la vida religiosa e informarlos acerca del instituto.

• Si bien estas prácticas pueden tener un impacto positivo para atraer y retener nuevos miembros, la investigación sugiere que el ejemplo de los miembros y las características del instituto son lo que más influye sobre la decisión de ingresar a un instituto en particular. Los institutos más exitosos en términos de atraer y retener nuevos miembros en este momento son aquellos que siguen un estilo más tradicional de vida religiosa en la cual los miembros viven juntos en comunidad y participan de la Comunión diaria, rezan el Oficio Divino, y realizan prácticas devocionales en conjunto. También llevan hábito religioso, trabajan juntos en apostolados comunes, y muestran ostensiblemente su fidelidad a la Iglesia y a las enseñanzas del Magisterio. Todas estas características son especialmente atractivas para las personas jóvenes que ingresan hoy en día a la vida religiosa.



Best practices in vocation promotion

The findings from the study suggest a number of “best practices” for vocation promotion. These include instilling a “culture of vocations” and involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts; having a full-time vocation director who is supported by a team and resources; using new media, especially websites and other online tools; offering discernment programs and other opportunities for potential candidates to meet members and learn about the institute; and targeting college students and young adults as well as elementary and high school students to expose them to the possibility of religious life and inform them about the institute.

Although these practices can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining new members, the research suggests that it is the example of members and the characteristics of the institute that have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute. The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.

Being proactive about vocations

Interviews with vocation directors and others in religious institutes that have been successful in attracting and retaining new members revealed that many of these institutes made a decision at some point to do something about vocations and new membership. In some cases, the decision came from a chapter or assembly and in others it came from leadership. Whatever the case, the institute decided to be proactive and to invest some resources into vocation promotion. This took a number of different forms including appointing a vocation director and/or team to work on vocation promotion, making financial resources available for vocation promotion, educating leadership and/or membership about vocation promotion, and developing aplan of action.

The research also suggests, however, that good intentions, sophisticated marketing campaigns, and the investment of resources into vocation promotion alone will not attract new members. It is the example of members and the community life, prayer life, and/or ministries of the institute that most attract new members.

Creating a culture of vocations

Many of the successful institutes are characterized by a “culture of vocations” within the institute. In these institutes everyone – not just the vocation director – has a sense of responsibility for vocation promotion and is involved in and supportive of vocation efforts. This includes leadership and membership as well as support services such as communications and development. In some cases, the institutions and ministries of the institute are also involved invocation promotion efforts.

Vocation directors described a number of different ways of nurturing that culture such as regularly informing members of vocation activities through newsletters, e-mail correspondence, and at meetings as well as inviting members to participate in vocation fairs, “Come and See” experiences, discernment retreats, or serving as mentors or contacts for those in discernment. Members can also play an important role by praying for vocations, inviting individuals to consider a religious vocation, and by encouraging vocations in whatever setting they find themselves.

Findings from the survey of new members indicate that regular meeting with members and visits to communities are among the activities that new members found most helpful in their discernment process. Comments from new members further support the value to them of spending time with members, in whatever setting, while they were discerning as well as after they entered.

Vocation director and/or team

Findings from the survey of religious institutes reveal that there is a positive correlation between having a vocation director, especially one who is full-time, and having candidates and new members in initial formation. Having a full-time director is also positively correlated with having a higher number of members who have entered and stayed since 1990 as well as with a higher retention rate.

Although the relationship is not as strong, having a vocation team is also positively correlated with having new members. Vocation team was defined on the survey as more than one person directly responsible for vocation ministry. The number of team members does not appear to have a statistically significant relationship to attracting or retaining new members. However, the review of practices in some of the more successful institutes found that a few have a full-time director and one or two part-time associate or assistant directors or some other configuration that involves more than one person. At least one institute that was studied has two full-time vocation directors.

Findings from the survey of new members also suggest that the vocation director plays an important role in the discernment process. Most new members (60 percent) report that the vocation director or team provided “very much” encouragement when they were considering entering their institute (85 percent report that they received at least “some” encouragement from the vocation director) and 70 percent who met regularly with a vocation director found it “very” helpful in their discernment (93 percent say it was at least “somewhat” helpful). Comments from interview and focus group participants also underscore the importance of the vocation director. Many of these new members commented in particular about how much they appreciated the vocation director responding quickly and personally to an initial inquiry. They were also grateful for the vocation directors who were helpful and supportive without being pushy.

Several new members mentioned vocation directors who they experienced as pandering to them or giving them a sales pitch. Examples included promises of opportunities to travel and assurances that they could do anything they wanted in terms of ministry. These new members suggested that this was the wrong mindset and the wrong approach for those with authentic vocations. A few vocation directors also commented on new members wanting honesty about religious life and about life in the institute and their willingness to be challenged.

Use of media for vocation promotion

According to the survey of religious institutes, using a website or the Internet for vocation promotion has the strongest impact on new membership of the various types of media about which they were asked. That is, those who reported that they use the Internet for vocation promotion are more likely to report having new members. Print materials and, to a lesser extent, advertising and TV also have some influence. There is no significant relationship between using radio for vocation promotion and having new members. Using multiple types of media also does not appear to have a significant impact. Findings from the survey of new members indicate that the younger they are, the more likely they are to say that websites, especially the websites of religious institutes; CDs, DVDs, and videos; and print and online promotional materials were helpful to them when they were discerning their call to religious life. This suggests that those who are discerning a vocation now would be even more likely to find these types of resources helpful.

Anecdotal evidence from new members underscores the importance of using new media, especially websites, to inform potential candidates about religious life and about the religious institute. Many potential candidates, especially those who are younger, have had limited, if any, direct exposure to men and women religious. For some, a website will be their first introduction to a religious institute. For many others, websites and other media such as DVDs and newsletters will help inform and educate them about the institute and about religious life.

Several vocation directors as well as some of the new members themselves raised some cautions about websites and other media. Some of the vocation directors commented that young people today tend to be very media savvy and that they do their homework before approaching an institute. Some of the younger members suggested that that websites or other media should be tested with the target audience whose impressions of what “works” may be very different from those of older members. Both vocation directors and new members emphasized the importance of honesty and authenticity in presenting the institute and suggested that websites and other promotional materials will be for naught if they do not match the reality in the institute. They further emphasized that while media may be helpful in the early stages of discernment, what matters most is personal contact and what the potential candidate encounters when he or she meets the institute and its members.

Discernment programs

The survey of religious institutes found that religious institutes that sponsor various discernment programs are more successful in attracting and retaining vocations. In particular, those that sponsor discernment retreats are significantly more likely than those who not sponsor these retreats to have new members in initial formation and to be more successful in retaining new members. Discernment groups, “Come and See” experiences, and ministry/mission experiences are also positively correlated with new membership. Discernment retreats and discernment groups are also correlated with higher retention rates, while live-in experiences and discernment houses are related to having members in initial formation but not necessarily to retaining them. Offering multiple discernment programs is correlated with having new members in initial formation as well as with having higher numbers who enter and stay.

The findings from the survey of new members also show that those who participated in such programs generally found them to be very helpful when they were discerning a call to religious life, although there are some differences across age groups. Younger new members are especially likely to report that discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences were very helpful. It is important to note again that many young people today have little or no direct contact with men and women religious. Discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences may be the first prolonged exposure to men or women religious for some of these potential candidates.

Targeting age groups

Results from the survey of religious institutes indicate that institutes that sponsor vocation promotion and discernment programs directed toward college students and young adults are more likely to have new members than those who do not sponsor programs for these groups. Although the relationship is not as strong statistically, targeting high school students also appears to have an impact on attracting and retaining new members.

Interviews and focus groups with new members revealed that many learned about their particular religious institute through a friend or advisor at a Newman Center, campus ministry, or other college or university program. Some of the vocation directors also reported being involved to varying degrees in college and high school retreats and other programs as a way to get to know young people and expose them to religious life. Findings from the survey of new members show that 40 percent of the men and almost 50 percent of the women first considered a vocation to religious life before they were 18 years of age. More than a quarter of the women considered it before they were 14. These findings suggest that vocation directors might want to consider targeting some of their vocation efforts at those in elementary and high school. Anecdotal evidence from vocation directors also suggests a possible trend toward considering religious life at a younger age than was the case even a few years ago.

Download complete Vocation Study



J.S. Paluch Vocation Seminar address

Implications of the NRVC/CARA Study on the Future of Religious Vocations

By Br. Paul Bednarczyk C.S.C., c

BEFORE I BEGIN, I would like to extend my profound gratitude to Sister Mary Bendyna, RSM, and her staff, for their expertise, hard work, and personal commitment and dedication to this research project. It has been an extraordinary journey, one in which I truly believe has been guided by the Holy Spirit from the beginning.

I have been given the opportunity this afternoon to reflect briefly with you on the implications of this study for the future of religious vocations in this country, especially as it would relate to the gathered participants of this seminar and their related areas of expertise. Before I do that, however, I do want to make a couple of clarifying comments about the study and the results.


Independent study serves as snapshot and benchmark

First, it is important to note that this study was done independently of the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of women religious and the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Some have tried to relate the two, but our work was well into the second phase of the study before the first investigation was even announced, so I just want to put to rest any lingering questions about the relationship between this study and the two ongoing investigations. There is none.

Second, the final results of this research are simply a snapshot of today’s reality of those who are coming to religious life and the communities that are receiving them. Although we have studied the hopes and dreams of newer religious who entered in the past 15 years, clearly, as the results have shown, there are definite generational differences of those who entered before and after 2000. Generations change, and as I have often said, this is what generations are supposed to do. We should not lament that reality nor should we fear it. Instead, we simply need to deal with it.

Third, this research is not necessarily a predictor of the future generations who will be coming to religious life. Our young people are influenced by the cultural and societal shifts in the world in which they are growing up. For instance, the jury is still out on how 9/11 is presently influencing our younger generation, their view of the world, their image of God, and the hopes and dreams for the future. Although we can speculate and project about lies ahead, the truth is that we cannot predict the unpredictable.

Last, I think it is essential that we look at these results within the broad spectrum of religious life. Men and women religious have always made up a small number of our Catholic population. During the middle of the last century, we saw a tremendous surge in religious vocations that began after World War II and peaked in the 1960s. At that time children of an enormous immigrant population were growing up in Catholic ghettos where religion oftentimes served as the primary connection to the customs and traditions of the home countries they left behind. Larger families were in vogue and having a child in priesthood or religious life was considered to be an honor and special blessing from God. In addition, our Catholic values were also very much in sync with the values and cultural norms of our country. Finally, after a history of suspicion and being viewed as a threat to our American democracy, the Catholic Church had finally begun to win a reasonably respectful place in our American society. This was evident not only in the growing infrastructure of our parochial school system and Catholic health care institutions, which was managed primarily by religious communities, but also in the warming of political relations between the United States and the Holy See. It was President Franklin Roosevelt who chose to establish a relationship with the Vatican by assigning his own personal representative to the Holy See.

I mention all of these historical happenings because they are only a few of the major contributing sociological, cultural, and ecclesial factors that influenced an unprecedented number of men and women entering convents, houses of formation, and seminaries in this country. Since many of us grew up in this era, this is what we remember as being then norm for religious life and priesthood, when in reality, it was actually an anomaly. As a result, we unfortunately compare today’s situation with the experience of the middle of the last century, which really is not a fair comparison. Instead, given the large but highly unusual numbers of the 50s and 60s, it may be more appropriate to compare today’s numbers of priests and religious with the numbers we had at the beginning of the last century.

Because no study of this magnitude on religious vocations has ever been done before in the United States, it is my hope that this new research will serve as a benchmark of vocation ministry for this new century. I would be curious to see the results of a follow-up study to this research in another 15 years and to see what maybe had changed from 2008, but I will leave that to the next NRVC executive director to figure out.


Study challenges all Catholics to promote a culture of vocations

So, in addition to the outlined best practices for vocation promotion and religious formation, what does this research tell us as ministers in today’s Church, whether we are single or married Catholics, ordained priests or consecrated persons? If I were to put it into a simple soundbite, I think this study challenges all of us to promote a culture of vocation in our own particular disciplines with our Catholic young and young adults. From our research, I would suggest three areas for us to begin this: Catholic identity, prayer, and community.

Clearly, if you have done any reading on the millennial generation, you will know that tangible and concrete symbols of our Catholic faith and spirituality speak to this younger cohort in a powerful way. Growing up in a world of relativism, political correctness, and ambivalence, it is not surprising that young women and men are looking for a defined identity as Catholic Christians. They want to know what makes Roman Catholicism different from other Christian religions. They easily grasp on to Eucharistic adoration, rosaries, scapulars, religious habits, or similar other Catholic devotions or symbols, because they appeal to their need for distinction in their faith. They are proud of being Catholic and they want people to know that they stand for something. For those who grew up prior or during Vatican II, some would interpret this renewed interest in traditional piety as stepping backward. After speaking to several younger religious, I do not believe that they see it as such. For them it is simply a way to move forward to attain greater clarity and appreciation of a Catholic identity that they perceive has been watered down or biased by the personal preferences of their elders. Unfortunately, this trend may be a commentary on the quality of Catholic identity we may have passed on to our younger generation in CCD, religious education, or theology classes. All of us with any lived experience of the faith know, however, that identity goes beyond externals. Identity, whether it is personal or spiritual, must be rooted in something much deeper, much more real, and much more constant.

I once heard Father Ron Rohlheiser say that often it is romance, be it in a relationship or in our religious faith, which invites us to something deeper. Applying this to people new to the Catholic faith, or even those new to religious life or seminary, there is an attraction first to the romance of rituals, symbols, and traditions. Although it may be the romance that draws them, after a more tempered experience and greater maturity in the faith or in the formation program, they are eventually led to something much more profound—a committed relationship with Jesus Christ mediated through a sinful, but divinely inspired faith community.

Much like romance plays an essential role in the beginnings of courting in a relationship, so too does romance play a significant role in the courting of a religious vocation. Afterall, isn’t it the romance that initially enables us to fall in love? How do we, effectively incorporate romance in the vocation process?

Think of two people who have fallen in love. They are starry-eyed from the beginning. They engage in the romantic trappings of candlelight dinners, moonlit walks, and sweet whisperings and all of the other dreamy things we see in the movies. All of this romance serves as a prelude to something deeper—a committed love relationship. The same would apply to nurturing a vocation. How do we provide our young people with the romance of our Catholic faith and tradition in a way that it will invite them to something deeper, and it will enable them, if I may say, to hear more clearly the sweet whisperings of a loving God inviting them to a life of faith and service in our Church? The beauty of romance is that it speaks to the heart. Jesus knew this. He spoke to the hearts of the people and they followed.

 

Young looking for role models of holiness

But for someone to hear and respond to God’s invitation presupposes that there is a living relationship with the One who calls. Our research has shown that one of the reasons people are coming to religious life is to enrich their relationship with God through prayer and their participation in the sacraments. This should not be interpreted as a minimization of their commitment to mission and ministry. Since, as our study has also shown, the majority of our newer entrants were already engaged in some form of ministry prior to entrance, one can assume that they are already committed to a life of service.

A committed prayer life though is not just relegated to the lives of priests, brothers, and sisters. It applies to all Catholics. In many ways all of us in the Church need to become men and women of prayer. The Church, and especially our young people, desperately needs models of holiness, a call that we all share through our baptism, no matter what vocation we have chosen.

Our first priority in our ministries must be to help all, especially the young, deepen their relationship with God. The Catholic Church upholds a rich tradition of devotional practices, scriptural mediation, and sacramental celebration. We need to teach this tradition in a way that speaks to their experience. Our young people need authentic witnesses of prayer in their parishes, families, and faith communities. They need to be shown that being prayerful does not mean that they are weak or inferior. They need people to share their own experience of prayer and to teach them how to pray.

Do young people see us praying? What form does that prayer take? Do we pray with them at home, in our schools, in our parishes, in our community houses? Do we pray before meals? Do we pray as a family? How can we better teach young men and women to reflect more prayerfully on the events in their lives?


Since religious and priests are the assumed professionals in prayer, how can we speak directly to young people about our prayer lives, be it in the Sunday homily, the classroom or in private conversations?


All vocations require community support

Our study is an invitation to renew our efforts of community building in our parishes, religious houses, and in the programs sponsored by our organizations. A response to a vocation is not only a personal one; it is a communal one. For a vocation to be truly lived for others, it must be lived with others.

Providing supportive community experiences is important, because after prayer, our study found that men and women come to religious life for community. Some come from disjointed families and feel disconnected from the world, and may lack a strong sense of self. Is it any surprise to us, therefore, that they yearn for community? For those of us in consecrated religious life, our charism of community living, if lived well with authenticity and joy, in many ways has become part of our mission as contemporary religious. It is not just the service we provide in our ministry that builds upon the Body of Christ; much more today, it is the witness of our life together as brothers or sisters united by our vowed commitment in community.

How do we provide experiences of community for our young? Do young people feel welcomed in our churches? And if they don’t, how do we emphasize that belonging to some worshipping community is intrinsic to our Catholic identity? For those in a religious community, how do we share and witness to our communal charism and is it effective for the needs of today’s world? This study challenges all of us to provide creative, positive experiences of community and welcome for our youth and young adults without prejudice or exclusion.

Catholic identity, prayer, and community are three factors surfaced in our research that help to promote religious vocations. These factors, however, are essential for all of the baptized. I do believe that we are at the point, given our diminishing numbers in religious life and priesthood, we, bishops, clergy, consecrated and lay persons, have got to take the next step and actively connect the dots for our younger Catholics. In other words, we can no longer assume that they will take the initiative on their own of considering a religious vocation. As the 2002 North American Congress on Vocations advocated, we have got to make the invitation and to provide them with opportunities to discern their own call prayerfully and reflectively.


Invitation is essential

Study after study has shown that the number one reason why people enter religious life and seminaries is that they were invited. Advertising is important, as are web pages and media coverage, but over and over again, they cannot replace the personal invitation of a priest, religious, parent, grandparents, teacher, or other trusted adult. Have you ever considered a religious vocation? You show many positive qualities that would speak of being a good sister, brother or priest.

Because of the many poor examples they have encountered, young people are afraid of commitment. They think it will cut back on their freedom. But we need to teach them that the only way we are truly free, is when we exercise our God given free will and choose. Eventually, we have got to commit to something in life. If we don’t choose it ourselves, then circumstances or other people decide for us. That’s not freedom.

But, if we are going to invite, we have got to be convinced ourselves that this life is worth living. Our Church needs the energy, the enthusiasm and the dreams of the young, as it needs the wisdom, fidelity and the tradition of the old. As a Church, we need to ensure the Catholic faith, and the witness of consecrated life, for future generations; therefore, we must work together, collaboratively, to rebuild a culture of vocation in our Church in which all of the baptized will be free to discern and to respond to God’s loving invitation.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus never stopped inviting. As ministers of the gospels, can we do any less? So, fortified by this gospel challenge, let us invite together a new generation of priests, sisters, and brothers, not just for the sake of the Church, but for the sake of the communion of vocation we all share as men and women, consecrated, lay, and ordained, united in faith by our baptism and by our love for Jesus Christ and the Church.



USCCB address pdf

Click here to download Br. Paul Bednarczyk's report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2009.



Project background

 

With the assistance of an anonymous grant, in December of 2008, the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to conduct a study of recent vocations to religious life and of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life that are attracting and retaining new members. This study was designed to identify and to understand the characteristics of the men and women who are coming to religious life today and the characteristics of the religious institutes and societies that are attracting and successfully retaining new members.

The study began with a survey of major superiors of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life, and the leaders of public associations of the faithful that are in the process of becoming religious institutes to gather basic information about those currently in initial formation and vowed membership who have entered and remained in the community since 1993. The survey also included questions about the community’s vocation and formation programs; ministries, community life, and prayer; and the extent to which wearing a religious habit is required for members.

The second part of the study surveyed the men and women religious who entered their institutes or societies and/or who professed final/perpetual vows/commitment within the past 15 years. In addition to background characteristics and experiences, the survey focused on what attracted these candidates and new members to religious life and to their particular institute or society and what sustains and challenges them in religious life.

Both of these surveys received an overwhelmingly positive response rate, with almost 600 responses (out of 976 mailed) to the first survey and close to 1,600 (out of 3,965 mailed) to the second.

For the last part of the study, CARA conducted focus groups with new members and an in-depth analysis of selected institutes and societies that have been especially successful in attracting and retaining new members in recent years. The study was published in August 2009.



Mythbusters

Ten myths about religious life

 . . . and the facts from the 2009 NRVC/CARA Study that dispel them.

Myth #1: No one is entering religious life anymore.

Fact: More than 70 percent of all religious communities (both men’s and women’s) report having new members in formation. Nearly 20 percent have five or more people in some stage of formation. These numbers do not reflect the large number of entrants in the 1950s and ’60s, although many people have used this period as a point for comparison. The 2009 NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations sets the benchmark for the current century.

Myth #2: Most vocations are coming from older/second-career candidates.

Fact: Our study indicates that the average age of men who entered religious life since 1993 was 30. For women the age was 32. The data also shows that 71 percent of those in initial formation are under 40. Although there always has been, and always will be a place for older or second career candidates in religious life, our study results have confirmed what we have tracked in our Vocation Match Annual Trends Survey, which is that an increasing number of younger people are looking at religious life as a possible life option.

Myth #3: Conservative/traditional communities are the only communities attracting new members.

Fact: Religious institutes that have a focused mission, who live in community, who have regular prayer and sacramental life, and who wear a habit show a higher proportion of newer members. The study indicates that men and women are also drawn to other types of religious life.

Myth #4: Women entering religious life want to wear habits.

Fact: Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.

Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option, compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.

Myth #5: Entering religious life is a last resort.

Fact: New members to religious life report having rich options available to them—in terms of career, education, and personal life choices. Seventy percent of respondents had at least a bachelor’s degree before entering, with one third of these respondents also having degrees in higher education. Nine out of ten respondents said that they were employed prior to entering their institutes.

Myth #6: Younger religious are not interested in traditional devotional practices.

Fact: Newer members have ranked highly daily Mass as very important to them.Their prayer style also expresses a strong preference for Liturgy of the Hours, faith-sharing, nonliturgical common prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and common rosary and meditation.

Myth #7: There are fewer religious communities.

Fact: The rise and diminishment of religious institutes has always been part of the continuum of religious life. Once a need is met, unless a community adapts its founding charism to addressing the changing needs in the Church, it is not uncommon for the community to end. Many congregations today that share a same charism are either consolidating or merging into new religious institutes. One little known fact is that since the end of Vatican II in 1965, approximately 175 newer religious communities have been founded in the United States alone. Some were only short-lived, but others are canonically recognized as religious institutes by the Church today.

Myth #8: Religious communities are homogeneous and lacking in ethnic and cultural diversity.

Fact: This may have been the case previously, but newer members are definitely changing the face of religious life in this country. Fifty eight percent of newer religious are white Anglo, compared to 94 percent of the finally professed men and women religious in the US. Nearly 20 percent of newer entrants were born in a country other than the United States. Hispanic/Latino vocations make up 21 per cent of the newer religious while 14 per cent are Asian/Pacific and 6 per cent are African or African American.

Myth #9: New members would prefer to live alone.

Fact: Newer members are coming to religious life not just for ministry, but also for common prayer and community living as well. Respondents were much more likely to indicate a preference for living in a large (8 or more) or medium-sized (4 to 7) community than living in a small community and especially living alone. This is especially true of younger members.

Myth #10: New members want to live with younger members.

Fact: Although having a peer group of their age cohort is extremely important to younger members, the evidence shows an extremely high percentage (93) of newer members who prefer to live in community with people of different ages. In addition, newer members also show a preference for living with people of different cultures and who do different ministries.

Bonus:

Myth #11: New members are drawn to the ministries of a community.

Fact: Newer members indicate that they are drawn to religious life because of the example of the members, the spirituality, prayer life, community life, and mission of the institute. In fact, more than half of the newer members surveyed indicate that they were previously involved in either some liturgical ministry or other volunteer work in a parish or other setting. Since newer members were already previously involved in some type of ministry, clearly, they are coming to religious life not just for ministry—they are coming for a way of life that is different from what they were living before.



Study Process with Discussion Questions

Click here to download a 2009 Vocation Study Process with Discussion Questions for Religious Institutes.



Vocation fact sheet

Statistics and links to vocation-related information

Who's considering religious life?

Just who is considering religious life is tracked by a number of different organizations, including the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Religious Vocation Conference, and VISION Vocation Network.

 

Men

• Among male never-married Catholics, 3 percent (or approximately 350,000) have very seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.
• Men who have attended a Catholic secondary school are six times more likely to consider being a priest or brother.
• Among college students involved in Catholic campus ministry: 66 percent have seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.
• Among men involved in diocesan young adult ministry: 84 percent have seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.
• Among the 2,083 men who completed online VISION Vocation Match profiles in 2013, the majority are under 30, desire to wear a habit or distinctive religious garb, prefer to enter an apostolic community, and attended Catholic school.

 

Women

• Among female never-married Catholics 2 percent (or approximately 250,000) have very seriously considered becoming a religious sister.
• Women who have attended a Catholic primary school are three times more likely than those who did not to consider being a religious sister.
• Among college students involved in Catholic campus ministry: 39 percent have seriously considered becoming 
a religious sister.
• Among women involved in diocesan young-adult ministry: 30 percent have seriously considered becoming a religious sister.
• Among the 2,642 women who completed online VISION Vocation Match profiles in 2013, the majority are under 30, desire to wear a habit or distinctive religious garb, prefer to enter an apostolic community, and attended Catholic school.
 

Women & Men

• Among former full-time volunteers of Catholic Volunteer Network 37 percent have considered religious life or the priesthood and 6 percent have chosen a religious vocation.
• Among men and women discerning a vocation, the average educational debt is $28,000. (A majority of religious congregations have turned an inquirer away within the last 10 years because of educational debt.)

 

Who's entering religious life?

Newer entrants identify their primary reasons for coming to religious life as a sense of call, a desire to deepen their prayer and spiritual life, and a desire to live and work with others who share their faith and values.

 

Worldwide

In 2014 there were nearly 1.2 million religious brothers, sisters, and order and diocesan priests in the world:
705,529 religious sisters and nuns
279,561 diocesan priests worldwide
134,752 religious order priests
55,314 religious brothers



In the United States

• Newer entrants are attracted to communities that have a strong Catholic identity, are hopeful about their future, have members who live together in community, and have a structured prayer life.

• There are more than 66,000 religious sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States in more than 800 religious institutes (approximately 600 institutes of women and 200 
of men).

• Nearly 1,000 U.S. women are in formation preparing to become sisters.

• More than 100 women and men in the U.S. profess perpetual vows annually.

• Fifty percent of new religious report that they were 17 or younger when they first considered a vocation to religious life.

• In 2014 approximately 477 entered priesthood—266 to diocesan priesthood (from 114 dioceses) and 96 to religious priesthood. Among religious orders, the largest number of respondents came from the Jesuits, Dominicans, and Benedictines.

• The average age of entrance to religious life is 30 for men and 32 for women.

• Newer entrants are 58 percent Caucasian; 21 percent Hispanic/Latino/a; 14 percent Asian/Pacific Islander; 6 percent African American; 1 percent other.

• 70 percent of newer entrants have a bachelor’s degree when 
they enter.

 

 

Information gathered from the follow sources:

http://cara.georgetown.edu/CARAServices/requestedchurchstats.html

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/upload/Class-of-2014-report-FINAL-2.pdf

http://www.vocationnetwork.org/statistics/response_statistics?year=2013

2013 CARA/National Survey of Former Full-time Volunteers of the Catholic Volunteer Networkby Caroline Saunders, Thomas Gaunt, S.J., and Eva Coll

2012 CARA/USCCB Study on the Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life among Never-Married U.S. Catholics by Mark M. Gray and Mary L. Gautier

2009 NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations

2007 Young Adult Catholics and their Future in Ministry Study by Dean R. Hoge and Marti Jewell


 


Glossary of terms

The call to “religious life” in the Catholic Church—also known as “vowed life” or “consecrated life”—is a call to become more like Christ by living the values of prayer, ministry, and community. This call can be lived out in a number of unique ways (see main forms outlined below). Yet all religious priests, sisters, and brothers take vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, commonly called the “evangelical counsels.” 
 

Apostolic/Active While prayer and community life are important to them, apostolic religious communities are engaged for the most part in active ministries, such as teaching, parish ministry, health care, social work, care for the elderly, work with young people, service to the poor, and many others.

Missionary Missionary communities focus their lives on spreading the gospel in areas in need of evangelization and service. These communities serve in a variety of ministries, such as preaching, teaching, healthcare and other forms of witness among the people with whom they live.

Contemplative Members of contemplative religious communities focus on daily prayer, especially the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and individual prayer. They tend to live in greater solitude than apostolic communities so that they can direct their prayer and work toward contemplation, though some communities that consider themselves contemplative are also engaged in apostolic ministries.

Semi-Cloistered/Cloistered Often, contemplative religious communities are cloistered or partially cloistered. That is, they live separated from the outside world and focus on prayer, including prayer for the needs of the world. As cloistered religious, they rarely leave their monasteries, and all or most of their work is done within the monastery.

Monastic Monastic communities fall somewhere in between apostolic and cloistered. Monastic men and women place a high value in prayer and community life, but many are also engaged in active ministries. Monasticism centers on living in community, common prayer, and Christian meditation.
 


Additional vocation resources

» VISION Vocation Network for hundreds of articles and videos, podcasts, and interactive features including:
• Vocation Match (VocationMatch.com
• Spirituality Quiz | Celibacy Quiz | Catholic Quiz (scroll down on home page)
• Vocation Events Calendar
• VISION Vocation Guide (www.digitalvocationguide.org or order print copies)
• VISION bookmarks and Vocation Prayer Cards (these free resources come in packs of 50). 
• E-books: Discover your path; Being Catholic: A user’s guide (to be published March 2015)
• Year of Consecrated Life banners (Order banners at nrvc.net/store)
• Year of Consecrated Life song downloadable sheet music and audio files
» National Religious Vocation Conference (Find recent vocation studies at nrvc.net and vocation resources in the online store.)
» United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.org)
» Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (cara.georgetown.edu)
» A Nun’s Life Ministry (anunslife.com)
» National Catholic Sisters Week (nationalcatholicsistersweek.org)
» Global Sisters Report (globalsistersreport.org)
» Men Religious in the U. S. (yearforconsecratedlife.com)
» Catholic Volunteer Network (catholicvolunteernetwork.org)
» Take Five for Faith: Daily renewal for busy Catholics (takefiveforfaith.com)
» Prepare the Word: Whole parish evangelization (PrepareTheWord.com, featuring weekly prayers of the faithful 
for the Year of Consecrated Life)
» Many other Catholic publishers have books and articles on prayer and discernment, religious life, and the lives of saints. Please check out their websites and catalogs for additional resources to build your library of vocation-related resources. Find a list of Catholic Press Association Member publications atwww.catholicpress.org under the About Us tab.

 

 

Catholic Church statistics

Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)
VISION VocationMatch.com, for those searching for the right vocation. A free service.
Vocation-Network.org, information and resources for those discerning a vocation to religious life.
DigitalVocationGuide.org, interactive digital version of the annual VISION Vocation Guide
NRVC Member Community links, links to religious community websites, dioceses, and organizations
Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)
Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR)
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations

 

 



Frequently asked questions

. . . about the 2009 study and vocations in general


Why did the NRVC commission its 2009 study on religious vocations?

Prior to this landmark study, the only information we had on religious vocations in the United States was anecdotal. The purpose of this study is to identify and understand who is entering religious life today and to find out which religious institutes are receiving and retaining new members. From this information, our goal is to identify best practices in vocation promotion and religious formation. It is hoped this important data will inform religious institutes as they develop their vocation plans in the future, and bring a greater awareness of vocations to the wider church.

Does this study have anything to do with the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of women religious or the doctrinal assessment of LCWR?

This study is totally independent of these investigations. Funding for our study was obtained in December 2007, and the first phase of our research was well underway prior to the announcement of the apostolic visitation.

Why was there such a surge in religious vocations in the last century?

If you consider the continuum of religious life, the extraordinary number of men and women who entered religious life during the last century was an anomaly. Historically, religious sisters, brothers, and priests have always been a small number of the Catholic population. Some contributing factors to this surge in larger numbers were the limited opportunities for church ministry prior to Vatican II, a large influx of Catholic immigrants entering the U.S., the Catholic Church was growing in prominence and respect, and the similarity in values of the Catholic Church with U.S. societal values.

What is a vocation?

Many people use the word vocation (from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call”) in reference to the call to be a priest, sister, or brother. However, the Catholic understanding of vocation is much broader: every baptized person has a vocation—a call—to love and serve God. How you choose to live out that vocation is what each person must discern. Some feel called to live as single or married laypeople; others choose consecrated life and join a secular institute or religious community (as sisters, priests, or brothers); still others choose ordination as deacons or diocesan priests.

What is a sister or nun?

A sister or nun is a woman who belongs to a religious order, or community. Many people use the word nun interchangeably with sister, but technically nuns are those who live a cloistered (or enclosed) monastic life; whereas sisters serve in an active ministry. After a period of preparation (called formation) sisters and nuns take lifelong vows. Usually they take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; that is, they promise to live simply, to live celibately, and to follow the will of God through their community.

What is a brother?

A brother belongs to a religious community of men. A brother takes religious vows, usually poverty, chastity, and obedience. A brother’s life revolves around prayer, communal living in a religious community or monastery, and a ministry within the Church and society. A brother is not ordained to the priesthood, and thus does not perform the sacramental duties of a priest. Some men’s communities include both brothers and priests, and both have equal respect and status in the community.

What is a monk?

A monk is the male member of a monastic or contemplative order. Some monks make solemn vows. Monasticism is a particular form of religious life built around a rule, such as the Rule of Benedict, and the Divine Office, a set of prayers and psalms chanted or sung at various points in the day. Women who choose monastic life are called sisters or nuns.

What is a friar?

A friar is a male member of a mendicant order, such as the Dominicans or Franciscans, although the term is sometimes extended to others in the monastic tradition.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest from a religious order?

All priests are ordained to the priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, a man may choose to be a diocesan priest (sometimes called a secular priest) or a religious priest (or order priest).

If he chooses to be a diocesan priest, then he enters the diocesan seminary system, and once ordained typically serves within his own diocese (a geographic territory designated by the Catholic Church). He is appointed to his ministry—most often parish work—by the bishop of that diocese. A diocesan priest is accountable to his bishop and the people he serves.

If a man chooses religious priesthood, he joins a men’s religious community. While he may perform parish ministry, he generally serves in other ways, typically doing work related to the mission and ministries of his religious congregation. A religious priest is accountable to his major superior and the other men in his community for his religious life and his local bishop and the people he serves for his priestly duties.

Why does it seem that there are fewer religious communities?

Religious communities have always had an ebb and flow since the days of the early church. The needs of the time and the movement of the Holy Spirit are the impetus for new communities to form and others to fade away. Today in the U.S., while many religious communities are merging or consolidating, others are being founded or are attracting new members. In addition, there is a rising interest in religious life among North American Catholics, as noted in recent VISION Vocation Guide surveys in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Are young people still choosing to become priests, sisters, and brothers?

Yes, but in fewer numbers. Historically, religious have always been fewer in number. Following an unusual surge in the mid-20th century, the number of men and women religious today more closely reflects a number consistent with the beginning of the last century. According to the 2009 NRVC/CARA study, 71 percent of those who have entered religious life and are currently in initial formation are under 40. And of the more than 7,000 people who have filled out the NRVC-sponsored VocationMatch.com profiles this year 67 percent are under 40.

Are young adults pressured to join a religious order if they request information?

Trained vocation ministers adhere to a code of ethics that specifically encourages them to allow inquirers a sense of true freedom to choose or not choose religious life or priesthood without any pressure or expectation from others. In fact, extreme pressure to enter religious life is a canonical impediment to admission to vows. Online websites, discussion boards, and email exchanges allow inquirers to seek information anonymously until they feel prepared to make more personal contact.

Most vocation directors acknowledge that their role is to accompany those in discernment, not to recruit them. In addition vocation directors have a duty to their communities and the church to properly assess and offer honest feedback about a candidate's fitness for religious life.

What is a vocation director?

A vocation director is designated by a religious institute to promote vowed membership, to help others discern their vocation, and to oversee the application process of new members entering the community as a postulant. They assist those who are considering the possibility of religious life by providing support, discernment counseling, and information. The Vocation director for a religious congregation answers to the elected superiors of their congregation. The National Religious Vocation Conference is the professional organization for vocation directors of religious communities.

Vocation Directors who work on behalf of a diocese answer to the bishop. They have their own professional organization, the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.)

What is the process to enter religious life?

Typically someone interested in religious life goes through a discernment process where they prayerfully consider the call to religious life, explore vocation options, contact religious communities, and eventually begin a more formal process of discernment with a particular religious institute.

Once a candidate chooses to apply to a community and is accepted, he or she typically begins a formation process starting with postulancy or candidacy, in which the person is introduced to the communal life, ministries, and mission of the community. Following postulancy comes the novitiate, where a person is formally admitted to a religious institute. The novitiate is an extended time of prayer, study and spirituality, which usually lasts for at least one year. After the novitiate, the novice is admitted to temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This period of temporary commitment allows for further discernment before he or she makes perpetual profession of vows within a given religious institute.

How many religious institutes are there in the U.S., and how many priests, sisters, brothers?

There are approximately 900 separate religious institutes in the United States.

Total priests in 2008: 40,580
Diocesan priests: 27,614
Religious priests: 12,966
Permanent deacons in 2008: 15,893
Religious brothers in 2008: 5,001
Religious sisters in 2008: 61,855

These and additional statistics are found on the CARA website.

How do religious communities screen candidates?

Religious institutes usually require an extensive process of screening candidates to religious life, which usually includes extensive interviews, background checks, and medical and psychological testing. Candidates must demonstrate a lived commitment to the Catholic faith and an appropriate level of maturity and mental and physical health that the rigors of religious life require. Candidates who do not meet specific standards set by both Church law and the individual religious institute are not admitted to religious life.

Can married people enter religious? Widowed and divorced?

Religious life in the Roman Catholic Church is reserved for celibates only. Some religious institutes have accepted widowed and divorced people who have had their marriages properly annulled by the Church.

What are the vows of religious life?

The main vows for men and women in religious life are chastity, poverty, and obedience. Individual institutes may require additional vows.

How do priests, nuns, and brothers spend their days?

Men and women religious have an obligation of personal and communal prayer, including daily Mass. They live in community, usually in one house. Apostolic communities, including missionaries, are engaged in ministries, such as healthcare, education, and social service. Contemplative communities are committed to daily prayer and some form of manual labor.

What is the National Religious Vocation Conference?

The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) was founded in 1988 as a professional organization of men and women committed to vocation awareness, invitation, and discernment to consecrated life as brothers, sisters, and priests. The NRVC has an annual membership of over 1,300 women and men, most of whom are vocation ministers for religious congregations. The organization is divided into 14 regions plus international members. The NRVC serves its members by providing education, resources, and services for professional growth.

What is VISION Vocation Guide?

VISION Vocation guide is a print, online, and digital resource for those interested in entering religious life. Published by TrueQuest Communications on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference, VISION is distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada in print and around the world in its digital format. VISION articles and features are also available in Spanish and French online. The magazine is in its 22 year of publication. In 2006, VISION launched its popular VocationMatch.com service which assists those discerning a religious vocation to narrow their search for the right community. An annual VocationMatch.com Survey on Vocations helps track current trends.

 



Glossary of terms

APOSTOLIC LIFE

Not only the first followers of Christ, but all baptized Christians are encouraged to take up the work of an apostle, which is carrying on the original mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ in the gospels. Some religious institutes are dedicated to serving the Church in active ministry or in an apostolic life. These specific “apostolates” may be in the form of health, social service, education, or direct service to the poor.


BROTHER

A brother takes religious vows, usually poverty, chastity, and obedience. A brother’s life revolves around prayer, communal living in a religious community or monastery, and a ministry within the Church and society. A brother is not ordained to the priesthood.


CHARISM

Each religious community has a charism, which is a purpose, mission, and spirit inspired by the community’s founder. For example, a religious community’s charism may be striving for reconciliation in the world through education or the strengthening of the family through compassionate health care.


CLOISTER

Within monasteries, free entry of outsiders is usually limited to a confined area. A cloister is the part of a monastery reserved only for the monks or nuns who reside in that monastery. Such monks and nuns may be referred to as “cloistered,” in that they strive for religious perfection within the confines of a monastery.


COMMUNITY

A group of persons who share the same beliefs, live together with a common rule, and cooperate in pursuing the common interests for the benefit of others besides their own members.


CONSECRATED LIFE

This is a state of life lived as a means of attaining Christian perfection. It is characterized by the profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.


CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE

As opposed to the apostolic life, this form of consecrated life stresses prayer and self-denial as way of growing in the knowledge and love of God. Contemplatives within a religious institute give themselves over to God in a life of prayer, solitude, silence and penance.


DISCERNMENT

This is the process of discovering one’s particular vocation in life—whether God is calling someone to religious life, marriage, priesthood, the single life, or a particular ministry.


DIVINE OFFICE

A group of psalms, hymns, prayers and biblical and spiritual readings formulated by the Church for chant and recitation at stated times during the day.


EVANGELICAL COUNSELS

These are the vows and practice of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are evangelical because they were taught and practiced by Jesus Christ in the gospels.


FORMATION

This is the period of preparation whereby a man or woman learns the customs, traditions, spirituality, and history of the vocation he or she is embracing. This usually takes place within a house reserved for this particular purpose. For men preparing for priesthood, this house may be called a seminary.


FRIAR

This term refers to a male member of a mendicant order, such as the Dominicans or Franciscans, although it may be extended to others in the monastic tradition.


MAJOR SUPERIOR

This is the person who is entrusted with the ultimate authority of a given order or congregation or one of its designated sub-divisions. This person may have the title of abbot or abbess, prior or prioress of a monastic congregation or monastery, the superior general of an entire religious institute, or the provincial superior.
 

MONASTERY

The is the place where religious dwell in seclusion. The term applies mainly to religious men or women who live a cloistered, contemplative life and recite the entire Divine Office in common.
 

MONK

A monk is the male member of a monastic or contemplative order. Some monks make solemn vows.
 

NOVICE

A novice is a person who is formally admitted to a religious institute to prepare for eventual religious profession. Canon law requires that all new members of religious institutes must have at least one full year of “canonical novitiate”. This year usually consists of intense prayer, spirituality, scriptural and theological study, and the history of his or her receiving religious institute.
 

NOVITIATE

This is the place or house where novices normally live.
 

NUN

Nuns are women religious under solemn vows living in a cloistered, contemplative life in a monastery. Although it is not accurate, common usage frequently refers to religious sisters as nuns.
 

ORDER, RELIGIOUS

An institute of men or women, at least some of whose members make solemn vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
 

PRIEST, DIOCESAN

A man is ordained to priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. A diocesan priest, sometimes referred to as a secular priest, works mostly in parishes in a specific geographic area known as a (arch)diocese. He is accountable to his archbishop or bishop and the people he serves.
 

PRIEST, RELIGIOUS

A religious priest is a man who is professed in a religious institute and is ordained to the priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. A religious priest, also known as an order priest, is accountable to his major superior and the other men in his community for his religious life and his local bishop and the people he serves for his priestly duties.
 

POSTULANT

This term is used to refer to a person who takes the first step of entering into religious life. A person is a postulant before he or she becomes a novice. In some religious institutes, postulants are referred to as “candidates.”
 

PROFESSED

This is a general term used to refer to those men and women who have been admitted to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
 

PROVINCIAL

A religious superior is the person who exercises leadership over a number of community houses that form a division of the order or congregation, called a province.
 

RELIGIOUS

When used as a noun, this refers to a man or woman who makes religious vows and is a member of a religious congregation. More specifically, one may speak of a “male religious,” who may be a priest, seminarian, or brother, or of a “woman religious,” who may be a sister and/or nun.
 

RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE

This is a collective form of consecrated life, approved by a legitimate Church authority, where the members publicly profess religious vows, live in community, and strive for Christian perfection according to a common rule.
 

RELIGIOUS LIFE

This refers to life in a religious institute, congregation or order, usually under some form of vows.
 

SEMINARIAN

A seminarian is a man who is in the formation process of becoming a priest. He remains a seminarian until he is ordained to the deaconate.
 

SISTER

A sister is a woman religious who takes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience within an apostolic, religious community or order. Like a brother, she lives in a community and her life is dedicated to prayer and ministry within the Church and society.
 

SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE

Societies of apostolic life resemble institutes of consecrated life. Their members, without taking religious vows, pursue a particular apostolic purpose as defined by the founding charism and mission of their society. Living a life in common in their own special manner, they strive for Christian perfection through the observance of their constitutions. Some of these societies, through a bond defined in the constitutions, live the evangelical counsels.
 

SUPERIOR, RELIGIOUS

The religious superior is the person who exercises authority over a religious community.
 

VOCATION DIRECTOR

This is a person designated by a religious institute to promote vowed membership, to help others discern their vocation, and to oversee the application process of a new member entering the community as a postulant.
 

VOW TEMPORARY

A commitment made to God to practice poverty, chastity, obedience or some other virtue for a specified length in time. The first vows of a religious are generally temporary, to be renewed according to the constitutions. These vows are preliminary to perpetual vows.
 

VOWS PERPETUAL

Ordinarily, perpetual vows are the final vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience a person takes in a religious institute.
 

VOWS, SOLEMN

Public vows pronounced in a religious order and recognized as such in the Church.



Media information

Press release on the NRVC/CARA Vocation Study, Aug. 6, 2009

Press release of NRVC Executive Director to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Nov. 18, 2009

Summary of study presented to the bishops

 

Videos:

Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC Address to the USCCB

(All sessions from the U.S. Bishops' meeting may be found by clicking the "on-demand" box in the video player. Br. Paul's talk appears in the Nov. 18 Part 1 morning session at time 55:35).

Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC on the NRVC/CARA study

Sr. Julie Vieira, IHM on the witness of a sister in inspiring her vocation

Bao Trung Tran, SVD on the importance of family in planting the seeds of vocation

Br. Jesus Alonso, CSC on the value of community life and the need for personal transformation

MORE VIDEOS about religious life


The vocation study in the news:

NY Times article by Laurie Goodstein
AP article by Eric Gorski
CNS article by Chaz Muth
CNS article by Peter Finney
CNS article by Peter Finney on LCWR Conference
NPR "Tell Me More" interview with Sr. Mary Bendyna
A Nun's Life podcast interview with Br. Paul Bednarczyk and Patrice Tuohy
Baltimore Sun article by Matthew Brown
NCR article by John Allen
NCR's John Allen interview with Br. Paul Bednarcyzk, CSC
 

Available for interviews:

STUDY SPONSOR
Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, NRVC Executive Director

NEW ENTRANTS
Call to schedule interviews.

General media inquiries:

Patrice Tuohy
Executive Editor, VISION Vocation Guide
773-370-4568 (cell)
312-356-9900 (office)
pjtuohy@truequestweb.com



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