Are religious vocations down? Is the rise of the “nones” hurting the future of the “nuns?” Is an increase in secularism leading to a decrease in religious life?
And just why would anyone want to be a priest or consecrated person today anyway, with all the scandals that have transpired, all the divisiveness that exists in the Church today?
The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) thinks it has some answers, and it is introducing a new website to help others see that not everything is gloomy.
In time for National Vocation Awareness Week, November 5-11, the NRVC has unveiled “Bold and Faithful: Meet Today’s Religious.”
“While almost every religious order has a website, only a handful of more comprehensive sites exist,” said Carol Schuck Scheiber, Publications Editor at the NRVC. “This site helps people locate Catholic religious communities in their areas and connect with them.”
Scheiber said that a map feature on Bold and Faithful showcases who today’s religious are, where they serve, and the ways in which they live out the charism of their religious communities.
Hovering over Cincinnati, for example, introduces us to Sister Tracy Kemme, S.C., who says in a short video that she started thinking about religious life as a postgraduate international volunteer in Ecuador.
“I found myself drawn to the communal, mission-driven life,” Sister Tracy says. “I moved in with the Sisters of Charity at the US-Mexico border, and sharing life and ministry with them helped me discern that yes, I was called to be a Sister.”
The site also features podcasts and videos of men and women in religious life and brings together resources previously spread over several sites: A Nun’s Life Ministry, Global Sisters in the Classroom, VISION Vocation Guide, and Called and Consecrated.
The Bold and Faithful website answers a definite need, Scheiber said, as roughly 5,000 men and women each year make inquiries into religious life.
Sister Dina Bato, S.P., director of membership for the NRVC, was directly involved in developing the site.
“We wanted to amplify the results from a 2020 study on recent vocations to religious life,” Sister Dina said. The study, conducted by the NRVC and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), found that religious today are culturally diverse and seek intercultural, intergenerational living.
“They’re committed to living simply in solidarity with the poor, and they’re filled with abundant hope for religious life amid a changing demographic,” said Sister Dina.
Most importantly, perhaps, the study found that there’s an endless call to religious life, that men and women continue to respond to that call, and that they’re drawn to prayer, spirituality, charism, and community life, Sister Dina said.
She and her team tried to make the website an interactive, multimedia approach to highlight those findings. “So it encourages users to engage with religious in various ways,” she said. “The story map brings in podcasts, as well as videos and multiple areas in which people can learn more about religious life.” Members articulate what gifts religious life brings them, and the gifts religious life bring to the world.
Sister Dina said the site will answer questions such as “Where are the religious today? And what are they involved in?”
“This is an opportunity for people to learn more about what draws people to religious life,” she said.