Thursday, August 10, 2006

Where have all the monks and nuns gone?

Where have all of the monks and nuns gone?

It is obvious to everyone that there has been a notable decline in the numbers of men and women religious in the United States.

Here are some stats for the U.S.: Women religious (sisters and nuns) have been hit the hardest: They have gone from 122,159 in 1945 (or 1 woman religious per 180 Catholics)to 79,876 in 2000 (or 1 woman religious per 761 total Catholics). That is a decline of 54%. The median age of women religious has gone from around 62-63 in 1985 to the mid-upper 60's in 2000.

Religious priests (priests who are in a religious order, not diocesan parish priests) have gone down 30% in the same time period, and Religious brothers (those who are in a religious community but are not ordained to the priesthood) are down 36%. The median age of the men has gone from 55 in 1985 to 62 in 2000. [These stats are according to Georgetown's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate: ]

(kinda depressing, huh?)

Monks, nuns, friars, and sisters used to have a very visible presence and are part of a cherished memory especially for many older Catholics who attended parochial schools. Indeed men and women religious have made a tremendous contribution to the history of the Church and this nation. They possess a legacy of education, charitable service, and prayerful ministry that we have too easily taken for granted and trivialize (say “nun”, and we automatically summon ruler-slapping-hand jokes).

Well, where have they all gone? Yes it is true that the number of consecrated religious (men and women who have consecrated themselves to God via vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity) in the U.S. are down. But is there extinction a foregone conclusion? Are we facing the death of a once beautiful way of life in the Church? Is religious life no longer relevant in our modern world? (... Not a chance, keep reading...)

Contrary to what a lot of Catholics hear and see, there are a few orders that are quietly reviving and growing. Many of these orders are reforms of traditional orders (Franciscan, etc.). Some of these communities are growing VERY FAST... with young men and women entering at such a rate that the communities cannot accept everyone that wants to enter right away. Below is a list of links to some of these groups that I know of (and there are no doubt more)... some of which I have had the great privilege of visiting.

BEFORE THOSE LINKS, however, CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING. It is a newsletter put out by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR). They are a new reform order founded on the Capuchin Franciscan tradition (one famous Capuchin was St. [Padre] Pio) by Fr. Benedict Groeschel and some others. You may know of Fr. Groeschel from his shows on EWTN and his many outstanding books. This group of friars live in various areas of New York city and work with the very poor. They are dedicated to serving the poor and evangelization. The friaries where they live are simple, they sleep on the floor in sparce cells, they have no TV, they eat simply and pray often... they also are down to earth men who laugh and have a great time as a community. The friars average 15-20 new men a year! Soon they will have to start spreading to other cities in NY. (There is also a small group of sisters). This newsletter article gives a lot of information about religious vows. Check it out:

[Also, FYI, there main web site is: ]
Other interesting religious orders (these are just some, check out those links that sound interesting...):


The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation – Nashville, TN

The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor, MI)

Sisters of Life – NY

Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George – Alton, IL.

Carmel of St. Theresa of Alhambra, CA (Carmelites)

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA) (Mother Angelica, EWTN)

Missionaries of Charity (of course) (Blessed Mother Theresa)


The Congregation of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception (promoters of the Divine Mercy devotion, etc.)

Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word (MFVA, Mother Angelica, EWTN)

Franciscan Brothers of Peace

Little Brothers of St. Francis

Franciscans of the Immaculate (reform from the Convetual Franciscan tradition)

St. Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers

St. Louis Abbey (Benedictine)

Oratory of St. Philip Neri

Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter

Fathers of Mercy

A good general website for information on religious communities: Institute on Religious Life

LET'S ALL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR VOCATIONS (and there will be more on that topic later...) (in the meantime, get to praying! ...)

Lord Jesus Christ, shepherd of souls, who called the apostles to be fishers of men, raise up new apostles in your holy Church. Teach them that to serve you is to reign: to possess you is to possess all things. Kindle in the hearts of our young people the fire of zeal for souls. Make them eager to spread your Kingdom upon earth. Grant them courage to follow you, who are the Way, the Truth, and the Life; who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

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