.- A recent study of men and women who professed perpetual vows in 2011 shows that new members of religious orders are younger and more educated than those in the past.
âWe are encouraged by the reportâs findings that men and women are considering a vocation at a younger age,â said Mercy Sister Mary Joanna Ruhland, associate director of the U.S. bishopsâ secretariat of vocations and consecrated life.
âAs the Catholics recognize their responsibility to build a vocation culture in its parishes, schools and families, children and youth are being introduced to the various vocations in the Church,â she said in an April 5 statement.
âThis helps them respond to Godâs love and will generously and willingly.â
A recently-released study, conducted by Georgetown Universityâs Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, surveyed men and women religious who were incorporated into religious communities in 2011.
The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found that the average age of women professing perpetual vows in 2011 was 39. This is four years younger than those from the previous year.
Men entering religious orders, who were included for the first time on the 2011 study, averaged 42 years in age.
In addition, respondents reported that they first thought about a religious vocation at a younger age than last yearâs class. On average, survey participants first considered a vocation to religious life when they were 19 years old, although half did so at age 17 or younger.
Those entering religious orders in 2011 were also highly educated. Almost 60 percent had earned at least a bachelorâs degree, and 16 percent had earned a graduate degree as well.
Sixty-five percent of survey respondents identified themselves as white, while 19 percent identified as Asian and nine percent identified as Hispanic. The U.S. bishops have recently commissioned a survey on Hispanic vocations, to determine why the group is under-represented.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said that they have been Catholic since birth, and almost 80 percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Almost half of those surveyed attended a Catholic elementary school, and nearly all said that they regularly participated in some kind of private prayer activity before entering their religious institute.
Members of the Class of 2011 come from a variety of backgrounds and have overcome various challenges to make their perpetual vows.
Sr. Emma Calvo, OP, said that she âfelt the desire to belong totally to Godâ since she was eight years old, while Sr. Wanda Szymanko was engaged to be married when she âre-experienced the call to religious life.â
Sr. Roseli Oliveira overcame the challenge of initially lacking the support of some her family members in her vocation, while Br. Damien Evangelista experienced a âcrisis of faithâ and stopped practicing his faith for several years in his mid-20s before finding his way back to Christ.
The newly-professed men and women will now use their diverse talents to serve God and his people in a variety of ways.
âReligious sisters, priests and brothers are treasured by the Church, and we support their sacred commitment to be poor, chaste and obedient in imitation of Christ and at his service,â said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis.
The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishopsâ Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, explained that the religious help us âset our heartâs goal not on this life, but on eternal life.â
âIn a world where human frailty is acutely felt, they remind us of God and bring Christâs redemptive love to all they meet,â he said.