Religion and Ethics Weekly:  Young Nuns

Posted by Kendall Harmon

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: The Vatican reported this week that the number of Catholics in religious orders around the world continued to decline. In the latest figures for 2006, there were just over 945,000 monks and nuns, down about 7,000 from the year before. The overwhelming majority, 753,000, about 80 percent, were women. Around the U.S. the number of nuns has also been going down, and their average age rising. But there are a few places where the reverse is true. Betty Rollin found a Dominican teaching order in Nashville fairly bursting with dedicated young nuns.

BETTY ROLLIN: They are the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, a traditional order that began in 1860. Their day begins at 5 a.m. with meditation followed by a Mass. Meals are held in silence. Their vocation is to teach. The sisters here have come from different states and different backgrounds, most of them raised Catholic, some not. In 1965, there were about 180,000 nuns in America. By 2007, that number dropped to 63,000 with an average age of 70. The average age of the Dominican sisters is 36. Their numbers have increased so steadily in the past 15 years that they have had to build a 100,000 square-foot addition to the property. The sisters here -- the first year postulants, the second year novices, and those who, after seven years, have taken their final vows all say they have been called by God and that they are in love.

Sister KATHERINE WILEY: When you're a little girl, you're planning your wedding, you're playing bride. But just to allow the Lord to transform my heart to see that I would still be a bride, but I would be his bride.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

Posted May 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

We should do more to encourage this, even among Protestants.  You can do worse than to take a solumn vow to serve Jesus.  Pax.

May 31, 11:55 pm | [comment link]
2. centexn wrote:

Not a lot of support for this at the parish level.  In fact, I would say antipathy is an accurate word to describe the average pew sitters reaction to someone with such inclinations.  There is just something not normal with person who wont take a spouse with all that implies. For women, I can understand falling in love with Jesus and saying so.  How does a man say that without sounding a little eccentric?  I would say a man responds by saying he loves Jesus as a brother and that to be a disciple means to be one of a Band of Brothers.  That kind of love, man to man,  I get.  But I also think it is an incomplete analogy.  I wish I could be more articulate. 


June 1, 12:25 am | [comment link]
3. Clueless wrote:

A nun falls in love with Jesus.
A priest falls in love with His Church (the bride of Christ).
That is why in the Catholic church only men are priests.

June 1, 12:38 am | [comment link]
4. recchip wrote:

I love the Nashville Dominicans.  When I was in college (and folks, please read this all before you go YIKES!!) I took my girlfriend up there and she had an “interview.”  The Mother superior spoke with me as well and I assured her that Rose was chaste and would make a good sister.  (I may be the only boyfriend to give a reference for a convent.)  Well, she (the Girlfriend) ended up joining a Contemplative Carmelite Order (I told her I thought she should join the Nashville Dominicans/Sisters of St. Cecilia but she made another decision.)  Well, she couldn’t hack it and had to leave.  So, I have to explain why 1)My Girlfriend became a nun and 2)Why I did not resume our relationship when she came out (those vows you know-I don’t want to deal with that angry ex-GRIN).
Anyways, the sisters were always big participants with us when we did the Pro-life march in Nashville each year.  (They were more supportive than the then Bishop was-he wanted to use all his “political capital” to keep Bingo legal.)

June 1, 1:12 am | [comment link]
5. centexn wrote:

I think I am referring to laymen. But I suppose since we are all of members of the royal priesthood, even a layman could be wed to the Church.

June 1, 2:31 am | [comment link]
6. Clueless wrote:

#5.  The expectation is that you can’t have two wives.  If you wed in Holy Matrimony, you cannot also wed the Bride of Christ as part of the Body of Christ. 

Ergo the requirement that priests not only are men in the RCC, but are celibate.

It may sound quaint and unnecessary, but in somethings gender matters.  The Church thinks gender is important.  (You may disagree).

I personally see males and females the same way I see protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus.  Both particles are roughly equal in mass, and atoms are most stable when they are present in equal quantities.  However the job of the proton is to do the (electrical) “work” of the atom.  The job of the neutron is to keep the atom from exploding.  Removing the proton makes the atom sterile and incapable of atomic work.  Removing the neutron results in the atom exploding.

I don’t know if the RCC is right in her suppositions regarding the importance of gender in the priesthood.  However, like nuclear physics, there are some matters that I think us lay folk should not tamper with.  This may be one of them.

June 2, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
7. Laura R. wrote:

I take this article as a wonderful sign of the rebirth of classic spirituality in Roman Catholicism.  Perhaps some of the pre-Vatican II monastic tradidtions did need to be swept out, but it seems that much that was of value was lost in many of the orders which have been floundering since.  The sisters interviewed in the article seem to have a clear sense of vocation grounded in love of the Lord, and the Nashiville Dominicans are evidently a strong, healthy and growing community.  May their tribe increase.

June 2, 1:06 pm | [comment link]
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