2,000 years ago, there have been
several cycles of expansion and decline—with communities forming to
meet a pressing need within church
and society and then dying out
because of changing needs, internal
laxity, or both. Chandler takes the
long view, which is shared by many:
“The form of religious life will shift,
and we’re probably in the middle of a
shift now.” she foresees an emphasis
on contemplation combined with
service, on public witness, and on
communal living and mission.
younger religious also have a
sense of their moment in religious
life’s history. “We entered knowing
have a sense
of their moment in
religious life’s history.
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that there are small numbers now.
i have empathy for the older men
who have been through a lot,” said
Brian Zumbrum, o.s.F.s., 23, referring to the changes that took place
in the 1960s and 70s following the
second Vatican Council.
“i have a realistic view that in
40 or 50 years our community fading out of existence is a possibility,”
said Zumbrum, who is a novice in
Washington, D.C. preparing for life
with the oblates of st. Francis de
sales. “That came up in my discernment process. i believe i’ve been
called to be here. if i’m the last one
called here, that’s oK.” still, Zumbrum is anything but gloomy. When
he discusses his life, he has the
sound of a man giddy in love—and
he’s fallen hard for his community.
That strong sense of calling
is a trademark of young adults in
religious life today. They didn’t just
wake up one day and decide the
convent or seminary seemed like a
good idea. Most of them struggled,
were challenged by friend and foe,
and kept hearing God calling them
to their particular community.
Old and new approaches
These “kids” or “babies” (as many of
their elders called them) know they
are where they belong. They are in
the right place, but the right place
can carry with it some tensions.
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