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Number of women joining religious orders triples in three years

By on Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Sister makes her final profession (Photo: Mazur)

A Sister makes her final profession (Photo: Mazur)

The number of women joining religious orders in England and Wales has almost tripled in the last three years, according to bishops’ conference figures.

In 2011 there were 17 new women recruits to orders across the country, up from six in 2009.

Asked if this marked the beginning of a revival for women religious in Britain Fr Richard Nesbitt, Westminster vocations director, said “something is definitely happening”.

The women have entered orders across 10 dioceses, with East Anglia and Arundel and Brighton dioceses seeing the highest numbers of new additions, with three new recruits each.

Sister Cathy Jones, religious life promoter at the National Office for Vocation, said there was a “significant increase in those thinking of entering religious life”.

Sister Cathy took her final vows a year and a half ago as a member of the Religious of the Assumption, a congregation which works in education, inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism, as well as running a house of hospitality.

She said there had been a record number of women at Westminster diocese’s “Come and See” event in February, which enabled women to take the first step in exploring consecrated life.

“Over 30 women came, which is unheard of for 20, probably 30 years,” she said.

New recruit Katrina Alton, an ex-Baptist who converted in 2001, is due to enter the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in September. The congregation, which serves north and central America as well as Britain, focuses on peace and justice, something that appealed to her as she grew up experiencing conflict in Belfast.

She said that attitudes to vocations were changing with more focus on “igniting the spirit in every Catholic to discern their role in the Church”.

  • Parasum

    The headline definitely sounds good. The details are a let-down. And an excellent reminder of how unmeaning news expressed as numerical operations can be.

    “The congregation, which serves north and central America as well as Britain…”

    ## That too diminishes the headline. “Number of women joining Sisters of the Dancing Cow triples in three years” sounds rather less impressive, if the S.D.C.s are as likely to go to Outer Baldonia as to stay in England.

    Numbers, to be sure, are not everything – but in that case, the number of postulants for (real) religious societies is no big deal. And the numbers look pretty unimpressive, if one looks at the numbers from earlier years. Only in isolation do they look impressive. And isolation makes them deceptive & unhelpful.

    If a society used to have 10,000 members, and slides for 40 years down to 2,500, a slight overall rise from 2,500 to 2520 to 2515 to 2525 to 2540 to 2530 to 2540 to 2550 is not terribly impressive, even though the imaginary society shows a consistant rise in membership for three years at the end of the period. There is still the consistent 40-year collapse to account for, and the original figure of 10,000 members. 2550 is higher than the figures for the seven preceding years, and comes at the end of a constant three-year increase in membership. But it is nowhere near the figure of 10,000. A short trend in increasing membership, especially if the stats are not much higher than those for years before, looks like no great news.
    What would be news, would be for a society of religious with few members to experience a great number of vocations, each year, for a fairly long period, in a single region. The lower the figures, and the more limited the time and area, the more likely (on the whole) it is, that the increase is explicable by demographic trends, rather than by the action of the Holy Spirit. If the LC were suppressed, and its members became (say) Dominicans, the Dominicans would then have 10s of thousands of members,  many times their present strength – but that massive accession of members, however welcome, would be attributable to Roman bureaucracy, not to the Holy Spirit. A genuine revival in the Church (its religious included) needs the Holy Spirit – Roman bureaucracy would not be good enough.

    There used to be a million sisters in the US, about 40 years ago – there are now 57,000. This is a better indication of the catrastrophic collapse of the CC. And it is old news that priests are very often old, yet have several parishes to look after. The scandals are the icing on the cake.

  • Oconnord

    I thought it was a bit “Spinal Tap”….. yeah but it’s 6 louder! 

    Most go up to 11.. but we go to 17 now.

  • Robbieheart1

    Honey more and more young people are embracing this life. I too thought years ago the church was falling into ruins. How wrong I was. I have returned to Holy Mother Church and I am excited to see her strong as ever. Don’t ever forget “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Don’t worry about numbers sweetheart, God himself has that under control. Nancy USA Illinois

  • aearon43

    there used to be zero sisters in the US, 1000 years ago. so as you say, things change.

  • Defender of the faith

    Parasum, I agree, but please keep in mind that it should be about quality and not quantity.

  • Jae

    The only thing we don’t like is for some people to point the finger to VII as the culprit of decreasing numbers of members and religious which I would strongly argue as nonsensical for a start. If we are going to blame a valid Council for the “bad fruits”, why not blame also the Council of Florence? It brought forth the baddest fruit of all time, Martin Luther and Protestantism who primarily protested against her “novel” doctrines of purgatory and indulgences. Why not blame the Council of Trent too? The traditionalists of her time protested against the liberal doctrine of “Baptism by Desire” against their flawed strict interpretation of another doctrine “Extra Nulla or Outside the Church there is No Salvation”. Why not blame Vatican I, old Catholics protested against her modernist and liberal doctrine of “Papal Infallibility?”

    What would stop anybody from blaming all the Councils anyways?

  • LuckyScrunchy

    I recently heard an interview on Immaculate Heart Radio with the man who started the Laboure Society. This organization helps men and women who have student debt who also wanted to go into the seminary/religious order. In case there are any of those people reading this article, I want to post the website for them… .

  • beimabao

  • Baron

    As the effects of V2 are wearing off the casual server could witness a clear trend occurring throughout Catholicism. The remnant have finally caught on to what level tenacity is needed to restore Catholic Faith in the western world. Subversives come and subversives go but they never prevail in the long run.

  • Alban

    I attend Mass at what is a semi-enclosed establishment. In its hey-day it could boast a strength of 40 to 50 nuns, now there are simply two. Over the last 10 years or so there has been just one novice and she barely lasted the year out. It seems to me that unless a convent or monastery has a nucleus that is sufficiently enthusiastic, welcoming and an overall charismatic appeal, there is little hope for an upsurge of interest from the right candidates.

  • JByrne24

    I would not wish to view any increase as a step in the wrong direction – but, as several posters have suggested, it would be a mistake to view the quoted tiny increased number as reassuring. (The high level of unemployment among [particularly] the young both in Europe and North America could have some bearing on this too).
    The flight of the young away from religion and God is marked and rapidly growing. Even in the US this  is gaining momentum. The Pew Research Center in the US has been monitoring this for over 25 years. Its most recent (2012) report shows that even a basic belief in the existence of  God has fallen from 83% in 2007 to 68% in 2012, among the under 30s — while the older you are, the more likely you are to believe in God.

    See the graph showing how belief in God has plummeted among the millennial generation (the green line):


  • Parasum

    That’s true – but, even so. see this:

    ## It must be terribly lonely to be him :( Both are needed: not quality only, not quantity only.

  • Barbara C.

     I always wonder how different the Church might be if VII had happened 15 years earlier.  I don’t think the problem was with VII.  I think that it just happened to occur during a major cultural shift, and a lot of people used the coincidence to reinterpret the Church however they wanted.

  • Lit201

    By their fruits you will know them!  I wonder who said that….hmm… Yes, it was The Lord!  The Council was valid but the much abused “Spirit of VII” was not valid and allowed heresies to abound.  Blaming the Council of Florence for the heresy of Luther is just to be obtuse and ignore the facts of the results of VII.  Who is the master of confusion?  Oh, yeh, the Devil!!!

  • Mike Gannon

    At first, I was tempted to poo-poo the headline’s use of the word “triples”, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much this truly is something to celebrate.

    Consider this: if instead of the UK, we were discussing a mission to a new country that had never before heard the Gospel preached, and the number of new women’s religious vocations went from six in 2009 to seventeen in 2011, we’d be ecstatic to be witnessing the birth of the Catholic faith in a new land. Well, England and Wales are not new territory, but neither can they be realistically called “Christian”. As much as we may mourn the fact that the island that gave us St. Thomas a Becket, St. Thomas More, and Bl. John Henry Newman is now dominated by the heresy of Modernism, we have to look with joy to the future. “The harvest is many, but the laborers are few.” The problem is not that Britons have forgotten the Gospel of Christ; the problem is that many have never heard it preached to them in the first place!

    We should thank Our Lord for the laborers he has called to serve Him in these early days of the New Evangelization, and pray with fervent and trusting hearts that more and more young people will respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, first in a trickle, and then in a stream, and then as a mighty roaring wave. And let us not forget our own calls to holiness either. We are much more than numbers to Our Father; He loves each of us as His own son or daughter, and can number the hairs on our head. He could have ordained that we be born into a time in history when the strength and authority of the Church was unassailable. But He did not. Out of all His servants throughout history, He has called us specifically to live and to serve Him at a time of great crisis and darkness. In this hour of terrible need, we have been chosen, by name and by Him, to be the first wave of one of the Church’s great counter-offensives. We need to recognize and respect Our Lord’s trust in us, and live out our lives accordingly.

  • Lit201

    There are times of increase and decrease in everything.  There is a time and season for all under Heaven.  We are coming out of a steep decline – the US is at an earlier stage than us here in the older countries – but the Holy Spirit will provide, as in all things.  We need more religious to revitalise the Church; support the Holy Father in keeping to the teachings of the Church Fathers, Councils and saints within the Magisterium; as well as give direction and purpose to the lives of those religious when there is nothing else for them.  God be praised.  These increases will increase, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

  • Lit201

    Some orders of nuns will close while new ones will open.  I know of a beautiful order, semi contemplative, opened only a few years, that is attracting young, beautiful souls for Our Blessed Lord.  Lift up your voice to praise God for His Bounty in our time of great need.  Praise the Holy Spirit.

  • Theresa

    The photo at the top is the article is of Sr Camilla of The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham.

  • Lavrentyevich, G.

    while this is great news, 17 is still so small. :( But, like a mustard seed… : ) we can only pray!

  • Carmen

    There is a interesant blog, which is recommended. It is written in Spanish, but has an automatic translator into English.Addresses issues of real importance and quite fresh. In fact, prompted a reaction airy atheist bloggers from various countries.His address: http://dignitad.blogspot.comIn particular there is an article entitled “Response to an atheist.”

  • Carmen
  • srdc

     If you go to any covent, there is a generation missing. The sisters are either really old or very young. There is a resurgence in religious life among younger women. 

    Since, you do not know them personally, you have no right to make judgements about who they are being influenced by.

  • srdc

    There is a generation missing. The nuns are either very old or very young. Younger nuns are not likely to join orders where they cannot relate because of the generation gap. 

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal



  • Maria leelavathi Joseph

    While i am one of the happiest people if vocations to priesthood and men and women religious orders and institutes increased, there is another reality which came to light a few days ago: the recession in Europe also contributes to the increasing numbers…. But let God’s kingdom benefit anyway.

  • Jesus

    I agree with Baron, he is well fit

  • Jesus

    Chill out mr poovithinkal

  • GOD

    you sir, i wanna take you to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar.

  • Jesus


  • Jesus

    hello I am also a defender of the faith, since I am Jesus