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Monday, April 28, 2008

"Average age 73"

From California Catholic Daily

Unable to attract novices, Sisters of Mercy begin merging communities

Photo at left: Sister of Mercy makes her temporary profession.

Faced with aging nuns and few new vocations, the 175-year-old Sisters of Mercy religious order – with six communities in California -- has decided to undergo a major reorganization.

The “shrinking and aging of the order” is one factor that brought about the restructuring of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, reported the April 11 Catholic San Francisco, the weekly newspaper of the San Francisco archdiocese.

The Institute’s six California communities will merge with communities in the West and Midwest into an Omaha, Nebraska-based organization called the West Midwest Community. The restructuring was approved at a meeting in Chicago, March 24-30, and will take effect July 1.

The new organization will bring together 861 Sisters of Mercy and 525 associates. The Institute itself, covering the Americas, Guam, and the Philippines, numbers 4,194 sisters and 2,800 associates. The average age of sisters in the institute is 73.

Though the vocations office has “been very active across the Institute,” Liz Dossa, spokeswoman for the Mercy Sisters in Burlingame told Catholic San Francisco, its efforts have not been fruitful. The number of candidates, novices, and temporary professed in the West-Midwest Community is four, though “several women” are in the process of joining, Catholic San Francisco reported.

“The whole question of changes in religious life is huge, and there don’t seem to be any easy solutions,” Dossa told the archdiocesan newspaper. “I think the Mercy community will be a smaller community targeted to needs that aren’t being met in other ways.”

Among the needs to which the Mercy Sisters have been dedicated over the years are education, health care, parish work, spiritual direction, and social services. The ministries the Burlingame community has been involved in include Mercy High Schools, Catholic Healthcare West, and Mercy Center.

A “progressive” Catholic community, the Burlingame sisters were listed in Call to Action’s 1999 “Church Renewal Directory,” as among groups that “support the spirit of Call To Action’s 1990 ‘Call for Reform in the Catholic Church.’” Call to Action, which calls for women’s ordination and for Church acceptance of artificial birth control and the normalcy of homosexuality, has five regional chapters in Northern and Southern California.

The Mercy Retreat Center in Auburn, a ministry of the Auburn Sisters of Mercy, has in the past four years offered retreats by feminist theologian Edwina Gatelyon on the “feminine divine,” looking at “the history of God as Mother,” and by Sacred Heart Missionary Diarmuid O’Murchu on “the new cosmology.” O’Murchu’s retreat addressed replacing “the patriarchal sky-God with the divine life-force we encounter in the miracle of God’s creation.”


A Simple Sinner said...

So does this mean the Nashville Dominicans and the Ann Arbor Domicans will be merging, maybe with the Franciscans of the Eternal word?

Oh wait... They don't have room enough for their own.

One wonders, why is that?

Brad Watkins said...

Agreed. The reasons seem obvious as to why so many communities are dying out, but their level of denial in terms of reality is pretty impressive. One problem, it seems, is that they have so completely bought into their own self-created ideal (as opposed to ideals of the Church or their founders) that they can't seem to find the communal humility to say, "perhaps we were wrong" or "perhaps we wen't off course somewhere along the line". Sadly it seems that many wonderful communities that have made rich contributions to the Church and the world are going to die out, because the current members are unwilling to make the changes necessary to save their orders.

“The whole question of changes in religious life is huge, and there don’t seem to be any easy solutions..."

I can think of a few easy solutions.

A Simple Sinner said...

A priest friend and I were talking about the future of his orders "sister order" (female religious)... They have mostly retreated to their mother house where they are now several hundred strong. This retreat has allowed them to think they are more viable than they are - they turned their backs on the schools and hospitals they were in...

But it is also pretty much a retirement home where they have not had a vocation in DECADES.

They seem rather recalcitrant - they don't want to reform their reform, and they don't really want new members. Some seem rather concerned with the possibility that a dozen women in their 20s who were traditional would join... in 30 years time (likely far less) none of them will be around to prevent such hypothetical young vocations from "turning back the clock"...

It is interesting to note that these older orders never seem to sell to younger growing orders that need the buildings... Personally, I think many of them are happier with a "scorched earth" policy. Just as some modernist orders and parishes threw out old sacred vestments and church appointments rather than donate them to needy communities... They simply don't want those things to exist anymore or for anyone to have them.

giandon said...

there are two tendencies in the U.s. now. Some orders which keep wearing distinctive habits, continuing the traditional sense of community life still have new vocations every year meanwhile, some which has renewed to the call of Vatican 2 has few new vocations. I wonder whether religious should return to their origin.
Properly it is not a solution. it is said that the habit does not make the nun. I think the religious habit is not the main factor that young people consider religious life but other things.What about the identities of religious life? do they deeply understand what religious life is all about? It is so cumbersome.
what about Asian and African Church. the number of new vocations in those churches is increasing.

Barbara said...

sometimes "call to action" orders are unwittingly promoted...ie: those at a Womens Gathering Place....