Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Title IX for women religious

It's time to step up awareness of female religious communities, both active and contemplative.

The Diary of a Parish Priest column in February's issue of Today's Parish Minister illustrates an issue I have been thinking about lately.

A quick synopsis of the column, since it's not available on-line: Father and the female pastoral associate take the altar servers (boys and girls) to the diocesan altar server Mass at the Cathedral, at the end of which is a priestly vocation spiel, followed by a fleeting mention of cloistered women religious. The pastoral associate is furious, believing that the girls are shortchanged because there is no presentation of lay ministries. She holds her own self-described "damage control" session for her parish's servers to inform them of this potential.

I agree with the pastoral associate in a way. And I think lay ministry gets plenty of air time, so I'm going to approach the situation from a different vantage point. A concern with female altar servers is that they are presented with an unsustainable model for service to the Church. By promoting the priesthood while neglecting women's religious communities, the impression is given that the only way for anyone (versus any man in the most exclusive sense) to serve the Church in an official leadership capacity is as a priest.

A devastating combination occurred soon after Vatican 2: a number of women left religious orders and many of these women's roles were easily replaced by lay people. People realized that you didn't have to be a religious to be a teacher or a nurse, at least not in America. Many female religious that people encounter today are visiting missionaries, rather than resident members of the community. Women's religious orders no longer have anything but a stereotyped role in many people's Catholic consciousness.

Look at your average diocese's website. Walk into your average parish. Most of them do a great job of promoting vocations to the priesthood- I'd be surprised if you didn't see a recruitment poster for the seminary.

But for women? Frankly, while there are diocesan congregations,there isn't a standard religious community that plays an active role in most dioceses, and certainly not the type of promotion for women's religious communities that you get with priestly vocations.

And that's a crying shame. It is a travesty that women's religious orders don't get the promotion they deserve and that young girls don't get the education they need about this beautiful state of life.

The Church Ladies intend to make up for this negligence by providing a list of our favorite women's religious communities. While at Our Lady's University, many of us were fortunate to go on nun runs and have visited these places, so do feel free to ask questions!

Ann Arbor Dominicans
Teaching Dominican sisters, many of them quite young. Their website even has an image of their visit to Our Lady's University for a Eucharistic Procession

Chicago Poor Clares
A cloistered monastic order interceding for us on earth

Discalced Carmelite Nuns
Links to communities all around the US

Nashville Dominicans
Another order of young teaching sisters, these ones with sweet tea

USA Dominican Nuns
Links to Dominican communities across the US

Little Sisters of the Poor
A nursing order, caring for the elderly

Missionaries of Charity
You might know them better as Mother Teresa's order. Rosaleen, the third of the original Church Ladies is an MC postulant.

Monastery of Our Lady of the Perpetual Rosary
A cloistered Dominican community in NJ

Poor Clare Nuns of Virginia
A contemplative community in the spirit of St Clare

Regina Laudis
Contemplative Benedictines in Bethlehem, CT

Sisters of Life
a contemplative/active religious community dedicated to protecting and advancing a sense of the sacredness of all human life

Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration

A contemplative/active community in Indiana

[image source: The Liverpool Museum]


Anonymous said...

Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood
700 Bridge Street
Manchester, New Hampshire 03105
(603)623-4264 Fax: 647-8385

Another New England cloistered community, this one in Mancester, NH.

Anonymous said...

Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters)

Founded by St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello. Their spirituality is centered on seeing Christ in the young, and the young in Christ.

This contact info is for the vocations office:
14 Old Swartswood Rd
Newton, NJ 07860
Tel: (973) 383-2620

You can also visit (Eastern Province) or (Western Province) for more information.

Mitch said...

Sister of Mary, Mother of the Church

Margaret Mary said...

I heard a rumor once that someone was working on a web site along the lines of a dating site where a young woman could fill out a personality survey and get a list of orders (and their contact information) that might be right for her. Has anyone else heard of this?

Anonymous said...

Yes, contemplative monastic life seems to have fallen off the radar screen for many in our Church, especially priests and active religious. Seems strange that while people enjoy reading about and having devotion to Therese, Teresa, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernadete and many others, they do not make the transfer to the value of that contemplative life in today's world. Thank you for treating that issue. I am a nun in the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptoristines)- small but international. We began in 1731outside of Naples, Italy. St. Alphonsus Liguori began the Redemptorist missionary congregation in the guest house of our first monastery only one year later. Our foundress was instrumental in persuading him to follow the inspiration he had received from God. In brief, our charism is to be transformed into "Living Memories" of Jesus Christ through living our vows in community dedicated to unceasing prayer for our world and our Church.Our community website is
Our blog is
I currently serve as our vocation/formation director.
In Jesus our Redeemer,
Sr. Hildegard

Anonymous said...

Sister Servants at Casa Maria Retreat House, Irondale, Alabama.

Regina Terrae said...

@ Margaret Mary