Saturday, February 05, 2011

Nun Dare Call it Tedium

That was our main response to the 2011 Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, submitted to the USCCB. First we read here that the "mainstream press" didn't have much interest in "the sort of story." Then we read an official summary, and didn't have much interest ourselves. But, just in case we had missed a golden nugget, we plowed through the whole document.

Dullsville, baby. The bottom line is that there aren't many new nuns, they tend to be middle-aged,well-educated, and come from (get this!) large Catholic families. Color us shocked.

A total of 79 new professions were reported. Of the 300+ "institutions" which responded to the survey, 84% reported no new professions at all; 13% reported one, 3% reported two or more. (The report doesn't say which orders or houses were scoring the big numbers, which is a shame.) The average age 43. Many have attended Catholic schools. Most have served in some combination of liturgical, catechetical and social ministries. Most were also encouraged by another religious sister.

Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

Except, perhaps, for this. The USCCB site includes a tab labeled "You Might Be Surprised to Know That I ...," and this is cool. The sisters have a chance to speak for themselves, if only in a sentence or two. They are like little postcards from the newly-professed, and we find them as amusing, touching and evocative as the usual "Wish You Were Here" cards.

Here are some of our favorites:

... have traveled to every continent.
-- Sr. Lucy Slinger, FSPA

... teach religion by creating raps and songs that highlight different biblical stories, dogma or vocabulary.

-- Sr. Angela Gertsema

... was undocumented and a farm worker. Eventually, by the grace of God and my mother's strong will, I became a resident and completed my education to teach. I feel blessed to have been assigned, after final vows, to ministry with the migrant community where this journey started. Never be afraid to follow Jesus, even if you can't make sense of what you are experiencing rest assure that He knows what He is doing. So hold on strong and enjoy the adventure.
-- Sr. Rosa Maria Hernandez Casillas

... came to DC after high school graduation to become the president, but instead converted to Catholicism and discovered my vocation to religious life (and changed my major!).

-- Sr. Mary of the Incarnate Word, SSVM

... travelled to China and studied at Oxford University in the search for a meaningful life to which I could entrust myself. Wherever I travelled or whatever education could offer, only Christ Himself could fill my heart and offer the path to true happiness in His service.
-- Sister Alexandra Prosser
But, really, they're all worth a read. This is the story the "mainstream press" (if there still is one) ought to pick up.


MissPinkKate said...

Long long ago, a now-defunct teen magazine (YM) did a piece on an 18-year old girl who was becoming a nun. It was one of the most inspiring, well-written piece on a religious youth I have ever read, I wish I had saved a copy of it.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone care about what a bunch of middle-aged celibates do?
Especially for a church that treats them terribly, pays them little and is basically shrinking away; the "large (Irish)catholic families" these women came from are becoming less and less common and the ones that still exist don't want to see their daughters work for nothing and not get married.
Women have other options to live normal lives; they don't have to be packed off to the convent just because there's nothing else for their families to do for them.

Father Anonymous said...

As so often, Nix old buddy, you seem to be saying two things which, while true enough on their own, don't make sense together.

Yes indeed, many people -- both women and their families -- fail to see the virtue of the traditional monastic vocation. That's pretty much taken for granted. Most people, apparently including you, don't care.

What is remarkable here, and what I was trying to point to, is that some women -- especially highly educated women with no shortage of other choices in life -- DO see a value to it.