Revival in entries to women’s religious orders in England

The number of women entering religious orders in England and Wales has reached a 25-year high.

Forty-five women chose to pursue their vocations last year, the highest number since the 1980s.

The number for 2014 was up from 30 the previous year.

The figures, released by the National Office for Vocation in England and Wales, showed that 18 women entered enclosed orders and 27 entered apostolic ones last year.

Sr Cathy Jones, the Religious Life Promoter at the NOV, attributed the rise to an increase in discernment groups, as well as taster weekends at convents and outreach on the Internet.

She also pointed to increased self-confidence among apostolic orders linked to positive publicity around their work with vulnerable people such as trafficked women.

“The Church is trying to help people neutrally to discover God’s call – and it’s about God, not about this order surviving, not about our agenda,” she said.

She said that the number of women entering religious life would never reach the level of 40 years ago.

But the Assumption sister predicted steady growth as the Church increased opportunities for discernment, either in groups or with a spiritual director.

“Some have done what they were always expected to – they’ve got their job in the city, a nice flat, car, boyfriend – and it’s not enough.

“They’re not saying, as they might have 50 years ago, that religious life is a better way to get to God.

“They’re saying: ‘I’m not quite sure why, and I think I’m completely not worthy, but it seems that God’s calling me to this’.”

NOV director Fr Christopher Jamison said the Church had moved from treating vocations as “recruitment to discernment”.

He said that young people “value their freedom, and don’t like to feel they are being dragooned”.

The low point for women entries to religious life was 2004, when there were only seven in England and Wales.

The number of men entering religious life in 2014 dropped from 22 the previous year to 18.

Sources

News category: World.

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