Younger nuns engage emerging future of religious life

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Tuesday 26, July 2011 | Category:   Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

From July 21-24, 150 Roman Catholic sisters from more than 50 U.S. congregations of women religious across the United States gathered at Loyola University Chicago for the 6th Giving Voice National Gathering. The conference was organized by Catholic sisters under 50 years of age. The sisters, many of whom are the youngest members of their religious orders, explored the emerging future of religious life in the 21st century and their role of leadership in that future.

Religious life is in the midst of a paradigm shift. The large novitiate classes of the 1950s and 1960s are aging and fewer women are entering religious life today. Many of the younger sisters recognize they will be called to leadership in their communities and the church within the next 10 to 15 years.

Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M.—a theologian and leading authority on Catholic women's religious life—shared her insights throughout the conference. “We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it, could really galvanize into a whole new era of American religious life,” she said on the opening night of the conference.

While the main purpose of the gathering was to create a space for the voices of younger women religious, sisters of all ages were invited to participate. The youngest sister in attendance was 25 while the oldest was 88.

“The most meaningful part was the excitement and energy I felt after seeing other great women who are living this life just like we are, with the struggles and joys,” said 40-year-old Ursuline Sister Jeannie Humphries. “Religious life is a viable option and opportunity in our world today—it’s about being open to being with others and growing and learning.”

Giving Voice is an organization of vowed women religious in the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced religious life only since the Second Vatican Council. The July conference was the sixth national gathering of younger women religious women organized since 1997.

For highlights from the gathering, visit the conference blog.

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