ALTHOUGH fully aware of the challenges their communities face, newer entrants to religious life are optimistic about thefuture. That is one of the major findings from a study of newer membersof religious communities in the United States. (See full story on page 40.)
They desire more vocations,which, they believe, go hand-in-hand with young-adult outreachand evangelization, including useof technology and online presence.
They hope to see their communitiesbe bold, take risks, and work collaboratively with other communitiesand lay partners. They hope to gaina deeper sense of community anda clarity of mission and identity.
Many posted messages of faith and hope onsocial media.
Religious who work with the poorhave distributed food baskets, made phonecalls to secluded shut-ins, tutored studentsremotely, and taken many other steps tomeet human needs while practicing socialdistancing.
Even contemplative communities,whose interaction with the outside world islimited, began helping others shelter in placeby publishing descriptions of how they livehealthy cloistered lives. Advice from SisterMary Catharine Perry, O.P., who rarely leavesher Dominican monastery in Summit, NewJersey: Adhere to a routine, be intentionalabout loving others, practice self-reflection.
Wise words with or without a pandemic.
ALTHOUGH some religious
COMMUNITIES MINISTER DURING COVID- 19
been affected by ill-
ness and even death
from the coronavi-
rus, most have found
ways to minister
restrictions. In the
early days of shel-
tering in place in
spring 2020, sisters, brothers, and priests
started to stream Masses and prayer services
online, a practice many continued through
various phases of shutdown orders. Others
fashioned online retreats, continued teach-
ing online, or started sewing face masks.
They want their communities toembrace diversity as they return totheir roots and restore their spiritand mission. All of their hopes haveat the core a desire to continue thegood works of prior generationswhile forging a new path for religious life. Some of their comments:“I hope for growth in many ways!
Fidelity to the charism, more vocations, development of our apostolates, sending members for furtherstudies, and more wisdom in caringfor our sisters as they age.”“My hope is that we work at increasing our numbers by living a joyfulwitness to the gospel. That we consolidate our ministries, but in doingso, that we work at rebuilding them.
I hope that we become men very
deeply rooted in prayer, both per-
sonally and communally.”
“I hope that we continue to read
the signs of the times and work to
spread the gospel and justice in so-
ciety and the world.”
“I hope to be able to give as much
love in community as I have received.”
FATHER FRANK Desiderio,
C.S.P. presides at a
livestreamed Mass from
the Church of St. Paul the
Apostle in New York City.
NEWER ENTRANTS to religious life areoptimistic about the future.
WITH MANY young adults and their families feelingfinancial pressures because of thecoronavirus, economic concernscan arise during vocational discernment. A few things to know:
1) Discernment of life-path takesplace over time, during whichmost discerners continue towork, earn, and pay bills. When aperson considers religious life, amutual exploration takes place,asking, Is this community the person’s true calling?
2) As a person looks at applyingto enter a religious community,any concerns about student debtor other financial obligations areexamined together with the community. The specifics of financialarrangements prior to “novitiate”(the formal first year) are different for each religious institute.
3) Student loans can seem like anobstacle, but there is help. “We’rehere to help young people take thatfirst step into religious life,” saysPhil Loftus, executive director of theNational Fund for Catholic ReligiousVocations. Learn more at nfcrv.org.