Project background

Project background


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

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

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

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

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

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