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placeholder New altar, numerous renovations at
Holy Spirit

Gift of Giving

New president is a
first for St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County

Local charities
deliver holiday
season wish lists

Help retired
religious weather
financial future

Supporting elderly religious is work
of the heart,
honorees say

Deeper look at statistics about women's religious orders


Travel

Pilgrimage takes us
into our faith
in a profound, transformational way


Pax Christi
Assembly inspired
by panelists,
presenters

Coptic deacon
fights secularism
to reach youths


Financial Services

Have a conversation about long-term care with your parents

Making this
Christmas season bright, and
affordable for everyone

How to save
money on pet care
expenses


Holiday Guide

Bishop's Vineyard
at the Cathedral
Shop

'VatiLeaks' 2015: Books claim
resistance to pope's
finance reform

Fremont pastor
pens a book on
humor, inspiration


Advent

New liturgical year
a time to put our
houses in order

The "O Antiphons"
of Advent

Blessing of an
Advent wreath


Obituary:
Sister Theresa
Martin Pigott, OP

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placeholder November 23, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Gift of giving

Deeper look at statistics about women's religious orders

WASHINGTON — A longtime trend of declining numbers of women in religious orders is examined in a study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Although past studies have talked about the rapid decline in the number of nuns in the country starting after the Second Vatican Council, "such studies did not provide the more nuanced narrative of what decline meant for the individual religious institute," the report said. "How, for example, did religious institutes respond to declining membership?"

From a peak in 1965 of 181,000, the number of women religious in the U.S. has steadily declined to the current 50,000. That's about how many sisters there were in the United States 100 years ago, said the report: "Population Trends Among Religious Institutes of Women," by CARA staffers Mary L. Gautier and Mark M. Gray, and Erick Berrelleza, a Jesuit scholastic at Boston College.

CARA found that as their numbers declined, some religious orders reorganized their internal structures, while others merged with other religious institutes. Some have been bolstered by sisters from other countries or women who joined a religious order later in life. Others simply stopped serving in the United States.

Whole institutes have disappeared from the Official Catholic Directory, a reference book published annually, whether by being folded into another organization, by leaving the United States or adapting in another way.

The report pointed to a flaw in assumptions about the growth in women's religious vocations coming primarily in orders that are "traditionalist" — meaning for example, those whose members wear a full religious habit — while institutes whose members do not wear a traditional habit are declining.

"One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted" to both kinds of religious orders, the CARA report quoted. Gautier's book categorized the two types of religious orders according to whether the organizations belong to one or the other of two leadership organizations, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women.

The LCWR's member organizations, which account for about 80 percent of the country's women religious, had among them 73 postulants, 117 novices and 317 women who had taken temporary vows in 2009.

Although its member organizations account for a much smaller percentage of the nuns in the U.S., CMSWR organizations had about the same number of women in formation as did LCWR institutes, said Gautier — 73 postulants, 158 novices and 304 who had taken temporary vows.

CARA pointed to several institutes that stood out in the data for having a "slowing rate of decline" in number of members. When the authors dug a bit, they found that such slowing sometimes was the result of one community absorbing another.

In some cases statistically significant growth actually represents very few people, Gautier noted.

Six institutes that have been cited in anecdotes and news reports as evidence of a reversal of the trend toward decline, have increased their membership by a combined total of 267 people since 1970. That number, the report said, is "too few to have an effect on the overall picture."

 
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