Sunday, February 01, 2009
STUDY OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS ANNOUNCED
The Vatican has begun a first-ever comprehensive study of women's religious orders in the United States, four decades into a steep decline in the number of Roman Catholic sisters and nuns in the country.
The study, ordered by a Vatican congregation in December and announced Friday in Washington, will examine "the quality of the life" of 59,000 members in more than 400 Catholic women's religious institutes, said Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, a spokeswoman for the study, which is called an apostolic visitation.
"The study is really to encourage the communities, to strengthen them, to help them grow in their vitality," she said, adding that "women's religious communities have played such a significant part in building up the church and society in this country."...
In recent years, newly formed traditional orders — whose members dress in habits, show fidelity to Rome and focus on education, health care and social work — have reported growth. More established orders that tend to take more progressive social stances have seen their members' ages and numbers of vocations dwindle.
"The Vatican may be asking the question, 'Why is this happening, and is there something these more traditional orders offer that the more progressive orders can learn from?'" said the Rev. Jim Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the nation's largest association of Catholic women religious communities, said it was informed of the study in a bulletin Friday.
The study is expected to be completed in 2011.
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