Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester having trouble with new vocations

Dear friends in Christ,

This article, to me seems to embody the problem with many women's religious orders. These are my musings over this article. Here are the problems I see with this article pertaining to the order, and what many orders face as problems. Take it for what you will.

1. The Habit

It has been stated by many before me, and will continue to be stated by many after me, but religious who wear the habit are more effective witnesses in the world, and thus, more women are attracted to them. The picture of the sister whom they are interviewing is not wearing a habit, so is it a surprise that in three years, there have been no new members?

2. Age

If I was a young twenty year old woman, why would I be attracted to an order whose vocation director looked like she was in her 60s-70s. Not to discredit older religious, but it sends a bad sign when there are only old religious, showing that for years they haven't attracted any. At the same time, there are orders where there are an abundance of young religious. I wrote about a Poor Clare Monastery in Spain that has a waiting list to get in (note they are also wearing habits).

3. Marketing

The article says "The sisters don't do much beyond occasionally speaking in local parishes to try to bring in new members". What about putting into the deep? What about hosting retreats? What about speaking in schools? Again, I wouldn't be attracted to an order if the only time they gave to my parish was an afternoon talk on their order. Put out into the deep. Provide retreats, nun runs; provide many opportunities.

4. Charism

In this article, there is no mention of what the order actually does. Do they teach? Do they serve the poor? The lack of a common charism is a common indication that the order has lost their way. The Dominicans, for example, have a charism of being educators. What do the Sisters of Saint Francis do? By the picture, it looks like the sister exercises, but what do they do to bring souls to Christ?

5. Theology and Vocabulary

"Speaking occasionally to bring in new members" presents a theologically poor understanding of vocation. They aren't looking for members, as a Rotary Club would look for new members. They are supposed to be seeking out those who have a vocation. They are called by God to enter that order, and thus they really should be providing opportunities (real opportunities) for young women to hear the voice of God, sacramentally and through the order's charism (still a mystery to me).

This article seems to bring to light many of the problems of modern women's religious, not only with the lack of new vocations, but stemming from a lack of identity (loss of habit makes them look like everybody else, and a loss of a common charism loses their identity with the others in the order).

May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May God bless you.

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