NRVC Studies Executive Summaries

NRVC Studies Executive Summaries


2020 Study executive overview and major findings

By Mary L. Gautier, Ph.D. and Sr. Thu T. Do, L.H.C., Ph.D.

2020 Study (English) download | En Español

Executive Summary download

Executive summary

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 as well as surveys and focus groups with recent vocations to religious life. The study was designed to replicate and extend similar research conducted by NRVC and CARA in 2009, so as to identify and understand the characteristics, attitudes, and experiences of the men and women who have entered religious life in recent years.

The study is based on three major research components:

  • A single-informant survey of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life
  • A survey of those who entered religious life within the last 15 years and remain members
  • Focus groups with those who entered religious life within the last 15 years and remain

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 Sister Deborah Marie Borneman, SS.C.M., NRVC Director of Mission Integration, 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 755 governance units in spring 2019 and then conducted extensive follow-up by e-mail, telephone, and fax throughout spring and summer 2019 to achieve a high response rate.  Three religious superiors reported that the study did not apply to them because they are not part of a U.S. institute and all of their formation takes place outside the United States. Another 19 religious superiors declined to participate but did not give a reason. Altogether, CARA received completed responses from 503 religious institutes for a response rate of 67 percent. A close examination of the lists and the non-respondents revealed that some of the congregations and provinces on the original lists had merged or were in the process of merging with others during the course of the research. A few 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. 

CARA estimates that the total number of governance units (i.e., congregations, provinces, monasteries) in the United States is approximately 750. The 503 units that responded account for 42,586 men and women religious, or well over 70 percent of all women and men religious in the United States. Many of the governance units 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, and community prayer. 

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 within the last 15 years. In spring and summer 2019, the questionnaire was sent to 3,318 identified new members and those in formation (emailed to 2,804 and mailed to 514 who had no email address, with a return envelope addressed to CARA). Both mailings included a cover letter from Sister Deborah Marie Borneman, SS.C.M. A total of 55 email addresses were returned as undeliverable. Another 35 invitees responded via email that they were not willing to participate and another 50 responded via email that the study did not apply to them since they had entered religious life before 2003 (mostly transfers from another religious institute within the last 15 years). Approximately 100 completed surveys were unusable because the participants reported entering religious life before 2003. When all these are removed from the sample, CARA received a total of 1,933 usable responses from new members and those in formation for a response rate of at least 63 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, and ministry; and what sustains and challenges them in religious life. The survey also asked about their background characteristics as well as their experiences 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 final phase of the research, which included focus groups with new members, was conducted during fall 2019.  CARA conducted 13 focus groups with new members in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and St. Louis.  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 and included women and men, ordained and non-ordained, contemplative and active, and professed members as well as those in formation.

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.  


Major findings

Part I: Findings from the survey of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life

Religious life today

•  The study identified at least 2,471 men and women in initial formation and about 1,000 more who had professed perpetual vows within the previous 15 years.  The actual number of new members is likely even higher, given that at least a third of U.S. religious institutes did not respond to the survey and/or did not provide information about members who had professed final vows since 2003.  The findings from the surveys, and especially those from the focus groups 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.

•  Since 2003, over 80 percent of responding religious institutes has had at least one serious discerner and nearly 90 percent continue to accept new members and promote religious vocations.

•  The expected demographic shift in total numbers of religious continues, due to the unusually large number of entrants in the first half of the last century. The study reports 11,780 men (a 15 percent decrease from 2009) and 30,806 women (a 36 percent decrease from a decade ago).

•  The total number of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life (i.e., congregations, provinces, monasteries) in the United States is approximately 750. Fifty percent have less than 50 members.

•  Indicating that new membership has remained fairly steady, the number of men and women in initial formation is not significantly different from that reported in the 2009 study. Superiors report a total of 1,085 women in initial formation (a decline of 10 percent from 2009) and 1,386 men in initial formation (a decline of less than 1 percent from 2009).

•  Sixty percent of responding institutes have at least one person in initial formation. Having someone in formation and having more than one or two in formation is more common in institutes of men than in institutes of women. For those who entered and then departed from religious life since 2003, the most common time to do so was during candidacy/ postulancy, which is part of the discernment and formation process and consistent with 2009 departure rates.

•  Eighty-seven percent of men and women in perpetual vows are over age 60, a statistic that is unchanged since 2009, which suggests that the influx of newer members has helped to offset the drastic decline that was anticipated as the unusually high number of members who entered during the first half of the last century age out.

•  Almost half of those in initial formation are under age 30, an increase from the 43 percent who were under age 30 in 2009. Nearly three-fourths of those in initial formation are part of the Millennial Generation (born in the 1980s or 1990s) and another 6 percent, born in 2000 or later, could be considered part of the emerging next generation of young adults.

•  Those in initial formation are more diverse, ethnically and racially, than those in perpetual vows, as was the case in 2009. However, those in perpetual vows have increased in diversity by 7 percentage points since 2009.

•  Sixty-seven percent of U.S. religious institutes claim that the majority of their perpetually professed members are located in the Northeast and Midwest. 

Vocation promotion and discernment programs

•  Seventy-seven percent of responding religious institutes report that they have one or more vocation directors or a vocation team, down from 88 percent in 2009. Ninety-four percent of vocation directors/teams meet with leadership at least annually.

•  The average annual budget for the vocation director/team (excluding salaries) is $34,039. However, half of responding institutes report an annual budget of $14,600 or less for their vocation director/team and some 4 percent of institutes declare that there is no budget for the vocation director/team.

•  Institutes of men are more likely than institutes of women to indicate that vocations is a topic on all or most of the institute’s leadership meetings (41 percent compared to 23 percent).

•  Religious institutes are sponsoring fewer discernment programs than they did a decade ago, but “Come and See” experiences continue to be the most common program, offered by 60 percent of responding institutes.

•  The most common vocation promotion approach among responding institutes (78 percent) is vocation information on the institute’s website or a distinct website for vocations. Vocation promotion and discernment programs are most typically targeted toward young adults and college-age students.

Interaction with others in formation

•  Two in three responding institutes report that their candidates/postulants interact with candidates/postulants from other units of their institute, society, or federation and just over three-fifths have them interacting with candidates/postulants from other institutes or societies. This increase in cross and intercongregational initial formation represents a change in formation practices in the past century.

•  Almost three in five indicate that their novices interact in an Intercommunity Novitiate with novices from other units of their institute, society, or federation and more than half send their novices to an Intercommunity Novitiate with novices from other institutes or societies.

•  Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicate that their institute offers a formation experience for U.S. members in initial formation that takes place outside the United States. Men’s institutes are more likely than women’s institutes to offer such a program.

Community life and prayer

•  Among the various factors related to healthy and holy community life, institute leaders in 2019, similar to those in 2009, rated communal prayer and shared experiences with other community members most highly. More than eight in ten rate praying with other members and celebrating holidays/feast days together as “very” important.

•  Personal private prayer characterizes the regular prayer life of a majority of active members in almost all responding institutes (95 percent), followed closely by daily Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours, reported by nearly nine in ten responding institutes.

Concerns of superiors for new members

•  Major superiors are most concerned about strengthening peer support among new members. They also express concern about the gap in age among institute members and the healthcare and cultural challenges older members pose for younger members.

•  Major superiors raise many concerns about the effectiveness of their formation process and the catechesis of their new members. Some express concern that new members may not have the level of commitment necessary to persevere in religious life or the necessary support to sustain them in their vocation.

•  Community life is another serious concern for major superiors. They hope that the new members will see the value of living in a community even if they must do so across communities and cultures.

Support from major superiors for new members

•  Superiors recognize that the best way to nurture a vocation is to ensure that it is strengthened by a solid formation experience. Many hold regular meetings with the formation director and individually with those in formation. Many also provide a mentor for those in formation.

•  Another way that religious institutes support their newer members is through deliberate engagement of the wider religious community in the accompaniment and formation process. This helps newer members, especially those who may be the sole new member in their unit, to establish the support of peers in formation. This inclusion in the wider community also helps newer members to feel that they have a voice and a place in the community.

•  Prayer and spiritual direction are a vital part of formation in religious life. These tools are also essential to the support of newer members in their vocation.

•  Perhaps one of the most important ways that religious institutes support newer members in their vocation is through listening and dialogue along the journey. Many superiors mentioned this as a way they support their newer members.


Part II: Findings from the survey
and focus groups of new members

Characteristics of new members

•  Respondents to the survey of new members are nearly equally divided by gender; 51 percent are women and 49 percent are men. Close to half are in their 30s, compared to just over a quarter who were in this age range in 2009. About 30 percent are ages 19-29, compared to just 16 percent who were in this range in 2009. Seven in ten had considered religious life by the time they were 21. The average age of entrance is 28 for men and 29 for women. This is a little younger than the average age of entrance in 2009, which was 30 for men and 32 for women.

•  Compared to finally professed members, those in initial formation are more likely to come from diverse cultural backgrounds: 11 percent are Hispanic/Latino(a), 13 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, 3 percent are African American/African/black, and 3 percent are of mixed race or ethnicity.  About 70 percent are Caucasian/European American/Anglo/white, compared to about 87 percent of perpetually professed members.

•  One-quarter of those in initial formation were born outside the United States and a third have at least one parent who was born outside the United States. Among those who were born in the United States, six in ten grew up in the Northeast or the Midwest regions. Three in four speak English as their first language and four in ten speak at least two languages fluently.

•  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 and 10 percent were homeschooled for at least part of their education. Almost half (49 percent) earned a bachelor’s degree, 17 percent a Master’s, and 4 percent a doctoral degree before they entered their religious institute.  

•  At least eight in ten were employed before they entered, usually in a full-time position. Slightly more than half were engaged in ministry, about a quarter on a full-time basis, one-sixth on a part-time basis, and about three-fifths on a volunteer basis. Many were also involved in various parish ministries and/or other volunteer work.

•  Among the male respondents, 80 percent are or expect to become priests and 20 percent are or expect to become brothers.

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.  Most respondents report that they were attracted “very much” by a desire for a deeper relationship with God (86 percent), a sense of call to religious life (79 percent), and a desire for prayer and spiritual growth (77 percent).  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. Women are more likely than men to say they were attracted by a sense of call, a desire for prayer and spiritual growth, and by a desire for a deeper relationship with God. Men are more likely than women to say they were attracted by a desire to be of service and by a desire to be part of a community.

•  Newer members were attracted to their particular religious institute by its spirituality, charism, prayer life, mission, and community life of the institute. Although the ministries of the institute are also important to most new members, they are less important than spirituality, prayer, community, and lifestyle.  Millennial respondents are more likely than older generations to be “very much” attracted by the example of the members and the community life of the institute. They are least likely to be “very much” attracted by the life and works of the founder/ess.

•  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 (37 percent).  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 a presentation at a school/parish/youth ministry event.

•  Some younger members did not know anyone in religious life before they sensed a call to religious life. Many found out or learned more about their institute online. Men and women are equally likely to have had religious life formally presented, either in class or in campus ministry, as an option for them to consider while they were in college (nearly four in ten). Millennials are also much more likely than older generations to have an experience such as this while they were in college. 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.

•  When asked how much various factors influenced their decision to enter their religious institute, respondents were most likely to name the charism and community life of their institute as the factors that influenced them “very much.” Women are more likely than men to be “very much” influenced by prayer life or prayer styles, community life, the way the vows are lived in the institute, and the living of the Gospel values. Men are more influenced by the future of the institute, its geographic location, and its ministries.

Encouragement and support
in discernment and in religious life

•  During their initial discernment, most new members report that they received a great deal of encouragement from institute members, their vocation director or team, and their spiritual director. Most also report high levels of encouragement from those to whom and with whom they minister.  Although 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, 70 percent report that support from their family increased after they entered religious life.  

•  Compared to older new members, younger new members are more likely to report that they were encouraged by institute members, their vocation director or team, parents, family members, and 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.  

•  Seven in ten report that friends outside the institute and people in the parish were also a significant source of support. Men were more likely than women to report receiving “very much” encouragement from their parents and grandparents.

Prayer and spirituality

•  Many new members identify personal private prayer as one of the aspects of religious life that is most important to 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. New members in 2019 are more likely than those in 2009 to report that Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament/Eucharistic Adoration is “very” important to them (66 percent compared to 50 percent in 2009).

•  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 prayer using an app/online resources and ecumenical interfaith prayer, such as Taizé.

Community life and ministry setting preferences

•  As in 2009, praying together, living together, and sharing meals with other members are particularly important aspects of community life to most newer members of religious institutes. Women are more likely than men to rate doing things together with other members as “very” important to them, which includes praying with other members, socializing/sharing leisure time together, and celebrating holidays/feast days together. Women are also more likely than men to report that ongoing formation and lifelong education are “very” important to them.

•  Repeating a pattern of enthusiasm indicated throughout the study, Millennial Generation respondents, in particular, are more likely than older respondents to report that living, ministering, sharing meals, and socializing with other members are “very” important to them.

•  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, living with members of different ages at or near their ministry site. Younger respondents express even stronger preferences for living with members of their institute in large community settings and for living with other members close to them in age.  
Evaluation of Religious Institutes

•  New members give their religious institutes the highest ratings on their care and support of the elderly members and are positive overall about the quality of life in their religious institute. The younger a respondent is, the more likely that he or she rates the following aspects as “excellent”: the efforts to promote vocations, the initial formation/incorporation programs, and lifelong educational opportunities.

•  Overall, women tend to be more positive than men in their evaluation of various aspects of life in their religious institutes. The largest gap (more than 30 percent) in an “excellent” rating between women and men is in their assessment of communal prayer and fidelity to the church within their institutes.

Concerns for their future in religious life

•  When asked to share their thoughts about what most concerns them about their future in religious life, newer members expressed concerns similar to those shared by institute leaders in the first part of this report, such as the gap in age between the senior members and the new members and worries about the future of the institute as the communities age and decrease in size. More than one in ten comments from newer members, however, expressed a lack of concern about their future in religious life and more than a quarter expressed a concern related to personal fidelity to their commitment to religious life.

•  The most commonly expressed concern that newer members express about their future in religious life is a very personal concern—that they will have the faithfulness to persevere in this life they have chosen. At least a quarter of respondents shared this concern, although a substantial number worded this sentiment more as a desire than a concern.

•  Newer members are also concerned about the changing demographics of aging members and fewer vocations to replace them. They also worry about the necessity to restructure the institute and the effect of restructuring on younger members. 

•  Closely related to concerns about smaller congregations, many newer members also express concerns about finding balance in their lives. They worry about overwork and burnout. Some also express concerns about stresses related to being called into positions of leadership for which they do not feel adequately prepared. 

•  Many newer members express concerns related to being able to live an authentic community life. As newer members, they sometimes struggle with challenges related to living in community. Others are concerned with the challenges of intergenerational living. While some institutes struggle with concerns of aging membership and institutes decreasing in size, others are concerned about growth in their institute and the ability to maintain a strong sense of community. Loneliness is another concern expressed by newer members, which is related to their concern for authentic community life. 

•  A number of newer members express concerns related to adapting to rapid changes in society. Some are concerned about their own ability to adapt, while others are more concerned about the ability of their institute and its members to adapt to social and cultural changes.

Hopes for the future

•  Although cognizant of the challenges and concerns expressed by major superiors in the first part of this report, newer members are more optimistic than the superiors in their hopes for the future, perhaps because they recognize their own agency in creating a future for their institute. Focus group participants share the same awareness of the challenges and optimism about the future of religious life.

•   Newer members realize that they have entered religious institutes that are, for the most part, characterized by smaller congregations and an aging membership. They are realistic about this reality while at the same time optimistic about the future and their role as members of these institutes. They express hope for renewal of religious life in general and of their religious institute in particular. Newer members realize that more deliberate efforts at networking and collaboration can help them and their institutes to extend their ministry.

•  Newer members recognize that the recent past has been turbulent and difficult for religious institutes. They sense that many institutes have been struggling just to survive in light of smaller numbers and increased workload shared among an increasingly aged membership. Their hope for the next ten years is for an increase in clarity of mission and identity as renewed institutes reemerge from consolidation and restructuring.

•  Newer members eagerly anticipate the evolution of religious life in the next ten years. They look forward to increased collaboration across generations. They also recognize the increased cultural diversity of the Catholic Church in the United States and they look forward to ensuring that religious life reflects that diversity.

•  Newer members recognize the need for additional formation in leadership so that they are prepared to assume leadership in their institutes and in the Church. They are eager to move beyond diminishment and to expand the mission of their institute into new avenues for ministry.  At the same time, some newer members feel drawn to return to the roots of their institute and to restore a sense of its original charism.

•  Newer members desire members of all ages to be committed to living the charism more vibrantly with a greater effort to live in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. Unlike previous generations to religious life, they recognize stewardship involves divesting of empty buildings, underutilized property, and sponsored institutions to live more simply utilizing human and material resources to benefit the neediest.

2020 Study (English) download | 2020 Study (Spanish) download



2015 Executive Summary Study on the Role of the Family in Nurturing Vocations

2015 NRVC/CARA study on the Role of the Family in Nurturing Vocations

By NRVC/CARA

The Role of the Family in Nurturing Vocations to Religious Life and Priesthood

Click here to view or download the full report.

View family study handout.

Five things your family can do video.

Executive Summary

This report presents findings from a major study of the influence of families on the discernment of a vocation to religious life and priesthood. The goal of the research is to provide information that will help families promote vocations to religious life and priesthood.

CARA surveyed 2,174 men and women religious and 4,140 diocesan priests and seminarians who entered since 2000. The survey also asked respondents to provide contact information for a family member. CARA then contacted 1,587 identified family members with an invitation to complete a similar survey.

CARA received completed responses from 1,279 men and women religious and 1,352 diocesan priests and seminarians for a response rate of 59 percent and 33 percent, respectively, and 892 family members, for a response rate of 58 percent. Another 15 family members participated in one of two focus groups, held in Washington, D.C. and in Chicago, IL, in May 2015.

 

Major findings

Start with a strong Catholic foundation

• Family members of seminarians, priests, and religious are usually Catholic themselves and are more likely than Catholics in general to have attended a Catholic school. They are more likely than other Catholic adults to say that their Catholic faith is the most important part of their daily life. One in five had a priest or a religious already in their extended family.

• These family members report a more engaged prayer life than do other Catholic parents or other Catholic adults in general. Nearly nine in ten pray daily, compared to just over half of U.S. Catholic adults and just over a third of Catholic parents. They also feel more strongly than Catholic adults in general that it is important that younger generations of the family grow up Catholic.

 

Build a culture of vocation in families

• Religious faith was at least “somewhat” important to these families at the time their family members was considering a vocation. Six in ten say the family was attending Mass together weekly and a quarter say the family typically prayed at home together daily, apart from prayers at meals.

• Family members were engaged in their faith in public ways. Eight in ten were active in parish life, two in three say the family participated in Eucharistic Adoration, and three in five say the family prayed the rosary together.

• Families typically ate dinner together daily and two in three report that the family gathered together at least once a week for a game or movie night, family discussion, or family prayer.

• More than half report that Catholic media, such as books, movies, and TV shows, were important religious activities in the family.  About the same proportion say that volunteer or charitable service in the community were important to the family.

 

Support and promote vocations in families

• More than half of responding family members say they have encouraged a family member to consider a vocation to priesthood or religious life. Most often, it is parents or grandparents who encourage vocational discernment.

• Family members recommend acceptance, encouragement, and support for those considering a vocation. They suggest that families should uphold priesthood and religious life as options for young people when they are exploring and considering their future.



2014 Executive Summary and compendium video for the Study on Incorporating Cultural Diversity

NRVC/CARA Study

By NRVC/CARA

 

 

Incorporating Cultural Diversity in Religious Life: 
A Report for the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC)
Published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, August 2014


Summary of major findings 

THIS REPORT ON INCORPORATING CULTURAL DIVERSITY in Religious Life presents findings from a study of U.S.-based religious institutes about the ways they recruit and integrate multicultural candidates into their communities. The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to learn from religious institutes about their policies, procedures, and experiences with the formation and integration of candidates from cultures different from the dominant one of the institute. The goal of the research is to provide information that will help promote religious life and strengthen its quality so that it will better attract and retain new members.

Racial and ethnic composition of religious institutes

• Nine in 10 religious institutes report that the dominant racial/ethnic culture of the institute is white. On average, nine in 10 full members of religious institutes are Caucasian/White/Anglo, 6 percent are Hispanic/Latino(a), 3 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent are African American/Black/African. Institutes of men are slightly more racially/ethnically diverse than are institutes of women.

• Those who have entered religious institutes in the past 10 years are more diverse, reflecting the increasing diversity in the U.S. Catholic population as a whole. Among those entering in the past 10 years, 57 percent are Caucasian/White/ Anglo, 17 percent are Hispanic/Latino(a), 16 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, 8 percent are African American/Black/African, and 2 percent are Native American or other race/ethnicity.

• More than six in 10 institutes report having at least one entrant in the past 10 years born outside the United States. Institutes of men are particularly likely to have had someone from outside the U.S. enter in the past 10 years.

• Eight in 10 institutes of men and about two-thirds of institutes of women have at least one person in initial formation. Among those in initial formation, three in five are Caucasian/White/Anglo, about one in six is Asian/Pacific Islander, just over one in 10 is Hispanic/Latino (a), one in 20 is African American/Black/African, and about 4 percent are Native American or some other race/ethnicity.

• Almost six in 10 institutes have at least one person currently in initial formation born outside the United States. Institutes of men are somewhat more likely than institutes of women to report having someone from outside the United States in initial formation.

Recruitment of culturally diverse candidates

• About two-thirds of responding superiors indicate that their vocation directors/vocation committees, institute leaders, and formation personnel are “very” open to recruiting candidates from cultures different from the dominant ethnic/racial cohort of their institutes. Fewer than half report that their members, in general, are “very” open to such recruitment.

• Seven in 10 report that their institute’s website displays a diversity of cultures. About six in 10 indicate that the majority of their printed promotional materials display a diversity of cultures. International institutes and missionary institutes are more likely to display a variety of cultures in their online and printed materials.

• Candidates born outside the United States are accepted by more than nine in 10 institutes. Just over half, however, have policies and procedures in place for accepting such candidates. Institutes of men are more likely than institutes of women to have such policies and procedures. International institutes are more likely than those that are entirely U.S. based to have policies and procedures regarding accepting candidates with limited English skills and to provide an acculturation program for new members from outside the United States.

• In response to an open-ended question about how they reach out to potential candidates from other cultures, institute leaders frequently mention these practices: appointing vocation directors of diverse backgrounds, reaching out to diverse candidates in the minority and/or immigrant communities where the members live and work, and being welcoming to diverse candidates when they host open houses or participate in ethnic celebrations.

Integrating culturally diverse members into initial formation programs

• More than three-quarters of institutes report that their vocation directors/vocation committees, formation personnel, and institute leaders are “very” open to welcoming those in initial formation who are from cultures different from the dominant ethnic/racial cohort of their institutes. Just over half of the members in general are said to be as open to welcoming such candidates.

• When asked to describe what their institute has done well to accommodate new members of different cultures, institutes are especially likely to mention establishing houses of formation in other countries or cultures, having bilingual formation staff, and having multicultural formation communities.

• When asked how often their institutes engage in practices to welcome those in initial formation from diverse cultures, more than half of institutes report at least “occasionally” openly discussing cultural differences, sharing a community meal with food from another culture, celebrating the feast day of the patron saint of another country, educating community members about another culture, and celebrating holidays of different cultures.

• Units that are part of an international institute or society are more likely than those that are U.S. based to use multiple languages in prayer, to celebrate the holidays of different cultures, and to provide a mentor from the same culture for those in initial formation. Similarly, units that are part of a missionary institute or society are more likely than those that are not to use multiple languages in prayer, celebrate with ethnic dance or song, educate members about another culture, and celebrate holidays of different cultures.

• One of the most frequently mentioned challenges for integrating new members into institutes concerns the difficulties some of them have in maintaining formation staffs when they have infrequent entrants into their communities. Furthermore, some indicate that having so few peers can make those participating in initial formation feel isolated.

Integrating culturally diverse members into community life

• In response to an open-ended question about challenges to integrating new members into institutes, institutes are most likely to mention the age gap between the established and newer members, language and communication challenges, difficulties with the Immigration and Naturalization Services’ regulations, and a lack of understanding of each other’s cultural background.

• More than half of responding superiors report that their vocation directors/vocation committees, formation personnel, and institute leaders are “very” open to accommodating the customs and practices of new members from cultures different from the dominant ethnic/racial cohort of their institutes. About three in 10 agree that their members in general are “very” open to such accommodation.

• To develop or encourage cultural awareness in their institutes, about half to two-thirds of respondents have engaged in the following practices in the past year: used music from another culture in prayer, encouraged members to learn another language, displayed art from another culture, contacted someone from another culture about a vocation to religious life, sponsored or attended a mission trip to another culture, or shared cultural traditions in holiday celebrations. Missionary institutes are more likely than those that are not missionary to engage in practices that encourage cultural awareness and integrate diversity into their unit.

• To integrate diversity into their institutes in the past year, over half of superiors report encouraging minority members to share their culture in community life, and four in 10 have accommodated family visits for minority members. More than two in 10 report increasing the visibility or mentoring minority members for institute leadership. International institutes are as likely as domestic institutes to engage in practices to encourage cultural awareness and integrate diversity.

• When asked what their unit has done well to accommodate new members of different cultures, responding superiors mentioned practices such as providing language tutoring or English as a Second Language courses to new members, encouraging new members to have contact with others of their culture outside the institute, and giving new members positions of responsibility and/or leadership within the institute.

—Excerpted from the Executive Summary of The Study on Cultural Diversity, pp. 1-10

 

Click to download or view a pdf of the Executive Summary.

Click to download or view the full report of the NRVC/CARA Study on Incorporating Cultural Diversity in Religious Life.



2012 Study on Education Debt and Vocations Executive Summary

By NRVC/CARA

Click here to download complete report.

Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life

This report presents findings from a study of the impact of educational debt on 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 was designed to learn more about the impact of educational debt on the men and women who are coming to religious life today. The study was also designed to learn about the policy and practices of the religious institutes in regard to educational debt and to learn from their experiences with inquirers and candidates who carry educational debt.

For this study, CARA surveyed major superiors of 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 Dr. Kathleen Mahoney, project director. The questionnaire also included a return envelope addressed to CARA. The cover letter instructed major superiors 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. The letter suggested that they might need to forward the survey to another person in the institute who is knowledgeable about these questions.

CARA mailed surveys to a total of 865 religious institutes in June 2011 and then conducted extensive follow-up through summer and fall 2011 to achieve a high response rate. CARA received completed responses from 477 religious institutes for a response rate of 56 percent.

The units that responded to the survey reported a total of 47,113 perpetually professed men and women religious, approximately two-thirds 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.

Major Findings

Initial Formation and Educational Debt Major Findings

  • Although women greatly outnumber men among the finally professed, there are currently about the same number of men as women in initial formation. Institutes of men are less likely than institutes of women, however, to have no one in initial formation or to have only one or two in initial formation. Institutes of men are more likely than institutes of women to have more than ten in initial formation.
  • On average, responding institutes with at least one serious inquirer in the last ten years report that for about a third of these inquiries (32 percent) the person had educational debt at the time of their inquiry. This represents 4,328 serious inquiries in which the person had educational debt at the time of inquiry. The average amount of debt at the time of inquiry was $28,000.
  • Religious institutes that have experience in dealing with the issue of educational debt are cautious about serious inquirers who approach them with educational debt. Of those responding religious institutes with at least three serious inquirers in the last ten years who had educational debt at the time of their inquiry, seven in ten (69 percent) turned away at least some inquirers because of their educational debt.
  • On average, responding institutes with at least one formal applicant in the last ten years report that 32 percent, or about a third of these applicants, had educational debt at the time of their formal application, with debt averaging more than $20,000. Altogether, responding institutes report more than $3 million in educational debt carried by applicants to their institute in the last ten years.
  • Among religious institutes with at least one formal applicant in the last ten years, two in three turned no one away because of their educational debt. A quarter of men’s institutes, however, turned away up to half of the applicants with educational debt and another fifth turned away more than 75 percent of applicants with educational debt.
  • Responding institutes report that slightly under half of the formal applicants with educational debt were eventually accepted into candidacy or postulancy.

Institutes and Experience with Educational Debt

  • Religious institutes are noticing an increase in the number of inquirers who approach them with educational debt. Among institutes that have experience in dealing with the issue of educational debt, more than half (55 percent) are experiencing an increase in the number of inquirers with educational debt. There are no significant differences between institutes of men or institutes of women in this experience; each of the conferences of men and women religious also report a similar experience.
  • Religious institutes that have had at least three serious inquirers in the last ten years who had educational debt at the time of their inquiry report that this debt is having a dampening effect on the institute. A third (34 percent) report that at least some serious inquirers have not pursued the application process because of their educational debt. Three in ten (29 percent) say that formal applicants have not completed the application process because of their educational debt. A fifth (22 percent) say that the unit has experienced financial strain due to the educational debt of candidates or members.
  • Most religious institutes (70 percent) have a written policy or accepted practice on educational debt. Among those, however, more than two-thirds (69 percent) report that this policy or practice has not changed in the last ten years and one in five say it needs updating.
  • Four in ten responding institutes (42 percent) take on educational debt. CMSM institutes are more likely than other conferences to take on educational debt. Among institutes that take on educational debt, six in ten (60 percent) limit the amount of educational debt they would assume for a candidate. The midpoint of that limit, among responding institutes, is $20,000.
  • Responding institutes who say they take on the educational debt of candidates are twice as likely to report that they assume the educational debt and pay it off over time as they are to ask candidates to defer their loans. Even fewer (18 percent) pay interest only on the educational loans until the member professes perpetual vows. More than half (55 percent) ask candidates who leave to reimburse the payments made by the unit for the educational debt but less than half of those who ask say that the candidates generally reimburse those payments.
  • Although there are a small number of organizations that provide funds to assist candidates with educational debt, most responding religious institutes (or their candidates) have not received funds from any of these sources. The most commonly cited funding sources among responding religious institutes were the Knights of Columbus and individual donors or patrons of the institute.

Copies of the survey questionnaire, with the percentage responses for each close-ended item, calculated out of 100 percent, can be found in Appendix I. The percentage of nonrespondents to each item, calculated separately out of 100 percent, is also shown on the questionnaires in Appendix I. A complete transcription of the responses to the open-ended questions that were included in the survey can be found in Appendix II.

In addition to summarizing the responses to each question for respondents as a whole, the report also compares the responses according to several subgroups. Where appropriate, significant differences are noted between institutes of men and institutes of women, between different levels of governance, between differences in canonical status and, in some cases, among institutes whose leaders are members of the various leadership conferences.

 



2009 Study on Recent Vocations Executive Summary—English

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

Download full study

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.



2009 Vocaciones Recientes para la Vida Religiosa Resumen Ejecutivo—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.



Links to studies & reports

For research and presentations

By NRVC National Office

 

2019 Vocations Stats InfographicInfographic on Vocation Statistics

2020 infographic on Religious Life Today

2019 infographic on recent statistics

 

 

 

 

NRVC/CARA studies & reports

2020 Study on Recent Vocations 

2020 Study Brochure

2015 Study on the Role of the Family in Nurturing Vocations to Religious Life and Priesthood

2014 Study on Incorporating Cultural Diversity in Religious Life

Executive Summary

2014 Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope Final Report

2014 Men Religious Moving Forward in Hope Final Report

2013 Women Religious Moving Forward in Hope Final Report

2013 Moving Forward in Hope: Keys to the Future Final Report

2013 Handbook on Educational Debt & Vocations to Religious Life

2012 Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life

Executive Summary

2009 Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life

Executive Summary, English

Executive Summary, Spanish

 

USCCB/CARA studies & reports

 

The Class of 2020: Survey of the Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2019: Survery of the Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2018: Survey of the Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2017: Survey of the Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2016: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood 

The Class of 2014: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2012: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2011: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

The Class of 2010: Survey of Ordination to the Priesthood


The Profession Class of 2019 Report

The Profession Class of 2018 Report

The Profession Class of 2017 Report

Profession Class of 2017 News Release

The Profession Class of 2016 Report

The Profession Class of 2015 Report

The Profession Class of 2014 Report  

The Profession Class of 2013 Report

The Profession Class of 2012 Report

The Profession Class of 2011 Report

The Profession Class of 2010 Report


The Entrance Class Report of 2019: Women and Men Entering Religious Life. This CARA report presents the findings of 370 women and men who formally entered 128 US-based religious institutes in 2019

The Entrance Class Report of 2018: Women and Men Enteting Religious Life. This CARA report presents the findings of 440 women and men who formally entered 171 US-based religious insitutes in 2018.

The Entrance Class Report of 2017: Women and Men Entering Religious Life. This CARA report presents the findings of a survey of 524 women and men who formally entered 182 US-based religious institutes in 2017.

The Entrance Class of 2016: Women and Men Entering Religious Life Report. This CARA report presents the findings of a survey of 502 women and men who formally entered 185 US-based religious institutes in 2016. 

The Entrance Class of 2015: Women and Men Entering Religious Life Report. This CARA report presents the findings of a survey of 411 women and men who formally entered 143 US-based religious institutes in 2015.

CARA Frequently Requested Church Statistics This weblink contains all relevant statistics for the United States and the world.   

2012 Study on the Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life among Never-Married U.S. Catholics


 

Vocation studies and analyses

2021 CARA Study on Impact of Cultural Diversity  in Vocations to Religious Life. This study looked at the impact of family life, parish life, and cultural backgrounds on discernment of a vocation to a men’s or women’s religious congregation.

2018 Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Report on Understanding Religious Vocation in Australia Today. This report looks at data of newer entrants in Australia from 2000 - 2015. This study looked at data to to determine the characteristics of the women and men who have entered religious life (and stayed) since 2000 and the characteristics, policies and practices of the religious institutes and societies that are attracting and successfully retaining new members. 

2018 CARA Study on International Religious Sisters Studying in the United States contains data on over 200 international sisters studying in the United States, the impact of their studies in the United States on their ministries when they return to their home country, and the perceptions and experiences of the major superiors who send their sisters to study abroad. 

2018 CARA Catholic Ministry Formation Enrollment Statistics CARA collects enrollment data on every Catholic ministry formation program that prepares men and women for ministry in the U.S. Church as priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers. This statistical overview is published annually and a complete directory listing the names, addresses, and other pertinent information on each program is published every other year.

2016 CARA and A Nun's Life Ministry Study on Women Religious: Social Media Use Executive Summary Phase 1 and Executive Summary Phase 2. This study's purpose is to identify ways to strengthen and support the internet outreach efforts of Catholic sisters for vocation outreach. The research showed that most institutes have an online presence, most commonly via their website and on Facebook.

2017 CARA/Trinity Washington University Study on International Sisters in the United States The first national study of the 4,000 international sisters living in the United States was done to better understand the experiences and contributions of international sisters. The report is also available in Spanish.  A reflection guide is available in English and Spanish.

2016 USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Catholic Church Report "The Catholic Church in the United States has always been a very diverse entity, but it is the first time that all available data was brought together to map this diversity nationwide in remarkable detail," said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. "It is also the first time that parish life was looked at from the point of view of the experience of diversity. Multicultural parishes are a growing phenomenon in the United States. This is what makes this study so fascinating and ground-breaking."

2016 CARA Impact of College Experience on Vocational Discernment In this special report, CARA identifies various aspects of the college experience that the respondents tell us were important in their vocational discernment

2016 Religous Life Vitality Project: Key Project Findings Report was written by Catherine Sexton and Sr. Gemma Simmonds, CJ. The purpose of this document is to present six key findings of signs of vitality in women's religious institutes: Ministry; Community and Formative Growth; Collaborative Working; Prayer and Spirituality; New Forms of Membership; and How we are aging.

FADICA 2015 analysis of Catholic sisters This December 2015 report was published by Foundation and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, Inc. (FADICA) and written by Kathleen Sprows Cummings of University of Notre Dame. This report provides an overview and analysis of the current state of Catholic women religious in the U.S.

2015 CARA Population Trends among Religious Insitutes of Men CARA undertook this longitudinal study of population trends in men’s religious institutes to investigate in more detail some of the trends over the past 45 years.

2015 Catholic Sisters Initiative, Anderson Robbins Report This research funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, was designed to understand the general public’s attitudes, opinions and experiences with Catholic Sisters in the United States. Specifically, this research sought to answer the following key questions: What does the general public think about Catholic Sisters? That is, what opinions, beliefs and perceptions (as well as misperceptions) define Catholic Sisters in the minds of the general public today?  

2015 CARA Catholic Ministry Formation Enrollment Statistics This CARA Study reports that during the academic year 2014-2015 there was increase of 19 seminarians enrolled in the post-baccalaureate level of priestly formation, both diocesan and religious. The Catholic Ministry Formation Directory can be ordered by clicking here.

2014 CARA Population Trends among Religious Institutes of Women In spring 2014, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) initiated a longitudinal study of women religious in the United States drawing on data reported by the religious institutes of women listed in the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). This report provides a snapshot of some notable phenomena occurring in U.S. religious institutes of women. 

2013 CARA Study of Former Full-time Volunteers of the Catholic Volunteer Network This CARA Study reports 37% of former full-time volunteers have considered religious life or the priesthood, 27% of them "very seriously." Six percent have a vocation as a priest, deacon, sister, brother, or are currently in formation.

2012 CARA Study on the Influence of College Experiences on Vocational Discernment to Priesthood and Religious Life This CARA Study was designed to assess the role and influence of Catholic colleges and universities on the vocational discernment of men entering the seminary and religious life in the United States. Almost two-thirds of respondents overall state that a priest/sister/brother professor had a “significant positive influence” on their vocational discernment. 

2012 USCCB/CARA Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life among Never-Married U.S. Catholics This study found that encouragement from others to consider a vocation to religious life is important. Respondents who have one person encouraging them are nearly twice as likely to consider a vocation as those who are not encouraged. Each additional person encouraging these respondents increases the likelihood of consideration. The effect is additive.  Respondents who had three persons encourage them would be expected to be more than five times more likely to consider a vocation than someone who was not encouraged by anyone. 

2010 NCEA/CARA Study of Psychological Assessment: The Testing and Screening for Candidates to the Priesthood in the  U.S. Catholic ChurchThis CARA study conducted by the NCEA Seminary Department examines the psychological assessment practices and procedures used by dioceses, men's religious institutes, and seminaries in the testing and screening of applicants to priestly formation programs in the United States.

2007 Young Adult Catholics and their Future in Ministry Study This study by Dean R. Hoge and Marti Jewell revealed a high percentage of college students involved in campus ministry or diocesan young adult ministry have seriously considered becoming a religious or a diocesan priest.

1992 Future of Religious Orders in the United States Study This three year study of religious institutes of priests, brothers and sisters conducted by Fr. David Nygren, C.M. and Sr. Miriam Ukeritis, C.S.J., is considered the first in-depth study of religious institutes in the United States. It is also known as the Religious Life Futures Project.

1991 A Survey of Priests Ordained Five to Nine Years by Eugene F. Hemrick and Dean R. Hoge. Published by the National Catholic Education Association. This report presents the findings of a national survey of diocesan and religious priests who were ordained between 1980 and 1984. The questionnaire issued to the respondents asked about three topics of concern to Catholic Church leadership: priestly morale, priestly identity, and priestly roles.



Summer Institute ...
Mark your calendar to attend an online workshop offered July 12-28, ...  More
HORIZON ...
"VISION 2020: Focus on Hope" was the theme of our recent ...  More
Catholic Sisters Week ...
CSW is an annual celebration to honor women religious with a ...  More
Profession Class Report Released ...
The Profession Class of 2020 is highly educated. A quarter of ...  More
Religious Brothers Day ...
Religious Brothers Day is held annually on May 1, the feast ...  More
2020 Study on Recent Vocations ...
Download the complete study and supplemental resources. Spanish translation is also ...  More

NRVC Member Areas


Click here to locate members of the NRVC in your member area.

CONNECT WITH NRVC

Member Area Gathering - Mid-Atlantic

February 24,

via Zoom

National Board Meeting

March 10-12,

via Zoom

Catholic Sisters Week

March 8-14,

Read more

Member Area Gathering - International

March 30,

via Zoom

Member Area Gathering - New England

March 18,

via Zoom

NFCRV Application Deadline

April 12

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

April 25,

Read more

Religious Brothers Day

May 1,

Read more

Summer Institute via zoom

July 12-28,

Read more

SUPPORT NRVC

Iamnrvc
Renew your NRVC membership