Forty-five women joined religious orders last year, according to official figures

The number of women entering religious orders in England and Wales has reached a 25-year high, according to new figures.

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

Fr Christopher Jamison, director of the National Office of Vocation, said the figure was a “milestone”. Vocations reached their lowest point a decade ago, with just seven women entering religious life in 2004.

Fr Jamison said one reason for the rise was that religious orders had become clearer about their own identity and regained some confidence.

“That clearer identity, a strong sense of what they’re joining, is what young people look for,” he said.

Fr Jamison said several Church initiatives that brought young people together socially had helped increase vocations too. He cited Compass discernment groups, the Flame conference and Youth 2000.

He added: “The Church has become better at discernment,” and that it 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”.

This new way of looking at vocations has arisen independently in England and Wales, he said, but at international meetings “they are aware that we have moved forward, and some of them are trying to move in that direction”. France is imitating England in the way it deals with vocations, Fr Jamison said.

Overall, 63 people entered religious life last year, a jump from 19 a decade ago. Among these, 18 were men, a fall from a high of 30 in 2012.

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