CARA Survey Shows Uptick in Number of Women and Men Taking Perpetual Vows
~by Jacob Comello of Catholic News Service
When you head to Mass this Sunday, chances are you will hear the intention “an increase in vocations to the religious life” lifted up before the gifts are presented. A recent survey suggests those prayers might be getting answered.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, a nonprofit that conducts and publishes social-science research on the Catholic Church, just released findings of a national survey of men and women who in 2018 professed perpetual vows in monasteries, provinces or religious congregations based in the United States, and the results suggest an increasing number of Catholics are willing to pursue this kind of obligation.
Senior research associate Mary Gautier told CNS in a phone interview that CARA “(was) able to identify 240 persons” taking perpetual vows, “up from 200 the last time we did the survey.” Of these 240 identified women and men religious, a total of 92 sisters and nuns and 70 brothers and priests responded to the survey.
According to a news release, CARA reached respondents by contacting major superiors — leaders of religious institutes — belonging to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.
While the uptick isn’t hard evidence that the religious life is generally expanding, Gautier said that the greater ease in finding respondents who had committed to perpetual vows was certainly “good news.”
So what might have convinced these people, against the prevailing cultural norms, that the perpetual life was right for them?
According to the study, vocation programs are probably part of the answer, which include encounters where men and women considering such a path can visit an institution and “try it out” for a week or weekend. As the news release noted: “Nearly all of the religious of the profession class of 2018 (88 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute.”
Gautier also emphasized to CNS the growing racial diversity of the 2018 class. She noted that around one-third of those surveyed indicated that they belonged to a minority group, primarily Asian or Hispanic. Seven in 10 of the professed are U.S. or Canada-born.”