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Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Nuns on recruitment run seek single, young Sisters"

The Catholic Church in Ireland is increasing efforts to sign people up as nuns and priests as part of a special year of vocations

From the TimesOnline

By Gabrielle Monaghan

Fancy a weekend away with the girls, with free meals, board and no men to bother you? Look no further. All you need is a love of prayer, silence . . . and a devotion to God.

The Redemptoristine Sisters, an enclosed order at the St Alphonsus Monastery in Drumcondra, is looking for single women aged 25 to 45 to join in their life of “prayer, liturgy and work” next weekend. Guests, however, must be interested in “finding out more about a monastic vocation”.

If a more rural getaway appeals, the Sisters of Mercy will be holding a “vocation discernment” at the same time in Glenstal Abbey, Limerick and Spiddal, Co Galway. Potential nuns can also stay with the Poor Clares in Carlow the last Sunday of every month.

The invitations are part of increased recruitment efforts during the Irish Catholic Church’s special year of vocations, which runs through May 2009. Other steps to swell the ranks include targeting careers and graduate fairs.

“We have limited room so we usually take four women at weekends,” said Sr Gabrielle Fox, prioress of the Redemptoristine Nuns in Ireland. “There are no strings and we don’t chase after them if they are not interested in joining.”

In the past three years, five young women have joined the sisters, but Sr Gabrielle said prior to that the figure was “nil” for “some time”.

Sr Monica Boggen, 25, a former secretary and childminder from Co Meath, was one of three young women to join this year. She spent a weekend with the sisters in April 2007 after seeing a notice in Maynooth College and stayed.

“I felt called at the age of 12, but it took me a while to find the right place,” Sr Monica said. “I tried Mother Teresa’s order in Italy in 2006, but after three months I came home. It was a positive experience but I felt there was something missing.

“Because I was invited in by the Sisters, I felt they were really open. I joined in January. It’s an enclosed order, but I don’t feel closed in. I felt at home in the community.”

Sr Gabrielle is hopeful that new recruitment methods and the Catholic Church’s growing use of technology to give lay people an insight into life at religious orders — the monastery has a webcam in its chapel — will persuade more people to join religious orders.

In 2007, 228 nuns died but only two new recruits took final vows, the most recent figures from the Irish Catholic Directory show. Only nine men were ordained last year, while 160 priests died. “The year of the vocation is an opportunity for everyone to ratchet up their energy around the area of recruitment for religious life and priesthood,” said Fr Paddy Rushe, national co-ordinator of diocesan vocations, at his parochial house in Dundalk.

Recent initiatives from Vocations Ireland include an exhibition stand at the Fas Opportunities careers fair and the GradIreland graduate recruitment fair.

“We like to think our presence at recruitment fairs is getting the details out there. People see priests with fresher eyes than in the past,” Fr Rushe said.

Other initiatives include ads for priests in the Garda Review, the education sections of Sunday newspapers, personal ads in the Irish Times and advertising on the Eircom website.

“Because of the fast pace of life, people don’t take the time to listen if they are called to God,” Fr Rushe said. “Sometimes you need an obvious reminder, like a poster or an ad to prompt you to look within again. It’s like a little wake-up call.”

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