Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Passing Vocation

This post will hit closer to home for Catholics and those who grew up around or in Catholic communities. I spent my teen years in a very Hispanic community and of course married into a VERY Catholic clan. One of my sister in laws is a Sister. She is 17 years my senior and took her vows at a time when I was still trying to figure out why girls were supposed to wear dresses. (I still do not know the answer) Over 40 years later, she is still one of the newer members of her order.

Despite liberalization (she has not worn a Habit since 1971), over the last few decades the interest of women in pursuing a religious life has fallen dramatically. Many orders are now in real danger of disappearing along with the work they did in the community. The average age of Nuns in her order is 78. This is raising real issues for the church (which they are ignoring) regarding the long term support of these women as their orders fade away.

I am not bewailing the dissolution of a centuries long institution. Even though change is inevitable, I think we should mark and reflect on the passing of a worthy vocation.

This picture of nuns represents the view expressed by my parochial school peers


Senor Caiman said...


This is indeed troubling. The Sisters certainly had discipline down, ouch.

The weird thing is I go to many Halloween Costume parties and last year I saw more nuns than I've seen in my entire life. They still wanted to spank me good.

Fantastagirl said...

I understand this. I have an Great Aunt who is a Sister, and a Great Uncle who is a Father. They were very disappointed, but understood, that none of their nieces or nephews chose that vocation.

To be honest - I was scared of all the nuns in school... I swear the pain in my hand is from Sr. Marjorie's ruler.

Bossy♥'s YOU said...

hmm...i am not catholic and dont play one on tv..but ouch indeed..

Ed Abbey said...

We have two sisters in our church but I agree, they seem to be disappearing. I think they are in a similar situation to the priests and the Catholic church is going to have to do something soon before they don't have many of either.

United We Lay said...

I was raised in the Catholic church and one of the major reasons I left church, and all religion, for that matter, is the portrayal of women and the limit positions that women can obtain. I think it is a sad world when religious women will just shut up and do what they're told because of faith.

anchovy said...

Wow, some strong feelings on this one.

One might suspect a general decline in the prominence of religion and faith in our lives, but maybe that's not it. I seem to remember reading somewhere about an uptick in faith/religion, though I don't have any numbers handy. Maybe it's Catholicism that's on the wane?

Fish food for thought:
Are Sisters like the proverbial buggy whip? Will they be replaced by something better suited to a changing world? Or are we treading on blasphemy by suggesting conformity in this context? Will they be replaced at all or simply disappear? After all, buggy whips have no modern day descendents that I can think of.

Old Man Rich said...

Girls are supposed to wear dresses so that boys can live in hope of windy days.

Strangely, I have never met a young nun. I have also never met a nun I didn't like. I have also never met a nun who couldn't drink like a fish.

And, alas and alack, as a young man in Rome at Easter the air was completely still.

Notsocranky Yankee said...

The flying nun was the only young nun I have ever seen. *chuckles*

Maybe girls don't see it as a vocation, but rather something old ladies do?

Jessica said...

The only nun I knew left the order to marry a would-be priest. They made great parents.

Balloon Pirate said...

I have an ex-brother-in-law who is also an ex-priest.He still holds a senior management position in the local diocese. Part of his job involves staffing the parishes. He's had to fill about half of the positions normally taken by priests with nuns, all of whom are in their sixties and seventies, and all of whom are retiring in the next two years.

Since the bishop will also be retirning, and since he will most certainly be fired as soon as the bishop retires (the politics of the American Catholic Church make the GOP/Dem split look like a minor disagreement), he doesn't have to worry about what will happen when they all do retire, but he's certain there will be an immense crisis in the area churches.

An interesting book to read on the subject is "Double Crossed" by Kenneth Briggs (the former religion editor of the NYTimes).


Snake Eater said...

There's a general decline in those taking up Holy Orders as a calling, and many of those who do leave after a few years. I can name several myself.

Society has become more freewheeling, less (or maybe it's that it's markedly more so) niched, and people in general are just not willing to submit to the strictures of living what the church defines as a holy life.

The call for married clergy is a good example. The church requires a life of celibacy for two reasons: one historic, one practical. Historically, the apostles were asked to give up all in order to follow Christ, the practical reason is that a priest should have no calling other than his flock. A family would be a distraction. As for nuns and monks, a family would impede on a life of contemplation and service. But few people are willing to give up the companionship of a spouse (and sex) in exchange for service to a congregation.

As for "United We Lay", I really can't think of a religion that isn't patriarchal. Most likely it's due to the fact that aside from the Nation of Islam, which was "invented" in the 60's, most religions go back thousands of years, to a time when women were secondary at best. And there are true gender roles, even to this day. Like it or not, we are different.

And, Old Man Rich, I've never met a nun who was a serious drinker.