As I mentioned in my last blog post, women religious have been a popular topic of late, with numerous Catholics and non-Catholics alike expressing their support for nuns and sisters in the U.S. in wake of the LCWR doctrinal assessment and the “Nuns on the Bus” tour. Despite the popularity of women religious among many Americans, data show a relative lack of support for women’s religious vocations. Below, I provide a chart detailing attitudes of American Catholics with regards to encouraging young Catholic women to enter religious life. Data come from the Spring 2006 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey.
Of interest is that only 23% of Catholics report being “very likely” to encourage young women to enter a religious community. Given the immense support and gratitude Catholic women religious have received of late, it is interesting to note that less than a quarter of Catholics would be very likely to encourage a young women to enter religious life. Conversely, 41% of Catholics would be either somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to encourage a young woman to enter a religious community. Notably, this data comes before media stories about the purported Catholic “war on women,” seen here and here. Such findings accord with those in The Profession Class of 2010: Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which found that two-thirds of responding women religious reported being discouraged from a religious vocation by one or more people. Furthermore, of women who professed final vows in 2010, more than half said that a parent or family member discouraged their religious calling (see here for a link to the study). Despite being grateful for the work of women religious and coming out in support of them, Catholics seem reluctant to encourage young women to continue their work.
Question to consider:
Would you consider encouraging a young Catholic woman to join a religious order today? Why or why not?
While I personally would fall into the 23% a friend of mine who is in formation with an order told me that before she entered her dad got upset with her about something related to her vocation and told her to get out of the car and walk home from a few miles away. I’d be curious to see not just “unlikely to encourage” but also “likely to discourage” although, I suspect very few Catholics would admit that they would actively discourage a vocation to the convent.
I am disturbed by the fact that only 23% of Catholics encourage a religious vocation in spite of the gratitude for the Catholic women religious. It would be interesting to find out what factors are contributing to a lack of encouragement of the religious life. Does it have to do with other vocations presented to Catholic women? Does a portrait of religious life for the Catholic woman compel one to discourage Catholic women from pursuing a religious vocation?