Women in US continue to choose religious life, survey finds

A survey released November 10 by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) found a continued trend in young women choosing religious life, with more than 900 sisters currently in initial formation. The data from this 2016 report — conducted in the 120 communities whose major superiors are members of the council — followed the five-year pattern since the survey began.

"Responding to the initiative of God, young women today still desire to commit their lives and their love completely to Christ and at the service of His Church," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan in a press release. Donovan is CMSWR chair and superior general of the Sisters of Life community. CMSWR was founded in 1992, and its sisters represent 120 communities with almost 6,000 sisters. "A call to religious consecration is a blessing not only for the young woman called," Donovan wrote, "but also for the Church, which is witnessing a resurgence of sisters able to serve in dioceses across the country."

The 104 responses to the survey showed that temporary professed was the largest group, followed by novices and postulants. Though the average age of sisters is 57, postulants and novices averaged 27 and 28 years, respectively, while temporary professed sisters were, on average, 32 years old. Fifteen percent of professed sisters are retired, with active sisters serving in 137 dioceses throughout the United States, 300 parishes, 50 retreat or spirituality centers, 400 educational institutions and nearly 200 health care facilities.

Education was the most common area of outreach and ministry, at 20 percent, followed by health care (15 percent), with evangelization, catechesis and religious education totaling 12 percent. The press release clarified that, "because the survey asked respondents to count each sister only once, using the category that best describes her primary apostolate, these figures do not reflect the much higher numbers of sisters who actually serve in these and other apostolates."

"Religious life is alive and well in the United States," Donovan said.

[Soli Salgado is a staff writer for Global Sisters Report. Her email address is ssalgado@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter @soli_salgado.]