February's Solidarity Campaign has netted 708 gifts so far (goal was 700). Let's set a record by the 28th!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Liberal women's religious orders aren't worse off. Or are they?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 08, 2012

Claims that liberal women’s religious orders are dying out “are not based in fact,” according to an analysis by two women religious in America magazine. Yet the article cites statistics that actually buttress the conservative claim.

Sisters Mary Johnson and Patricia Wittberg observe that the women’s religious orders affiliated with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) reported 507 candidates, novices, and sisters in temporary vows, while the generally more conservative orders affiliated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) reported only a slightly larger number: 535.

However, the LCWR orders account for a much higher number of the women religious in the US today. Among the religious communities from which the statistics were drawn for the America analysis, the LCWR orders outnumbered the CMSWR orders by nearly 5 to 1. Yet the much smaller group reported the larger number of women religious in formation. Thus the statistics appear to confirm the claim that the authors set out to disprove.

The America authors also include this curious paragraph:

The median number of entrants to L.C.W.R. institutes is one, which means that half of the responding L.C.W.R. institutes had no more than one woman in initial formation in 2009. The corresponding median number of entrants for C.M.S.W.R. institutes is four, which means that half of C.M.S.W.R. institutes had four or fewer in initial formation in 2009.

The data do indeed show that some CMSWR communities are failing to attract many new candidates. Still, there are attracting four times as many candidates as the LCWR orders. So if some CMSWR orders are in trouble, some of the LCWR groups are probably beyond all help.


An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our February expenses ($6,406 to go):
$35,000.00 $28,593.54
18% 82%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Saint Jimbob of the Apokalypse - Aug. 09, 2012 11:36 AM ET USA

    I did a comparison on priestly vocations 5 years ago, comparing the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. A Catholic man in Lincoln is 7 times more likely to enter the seminary than one in Los Angeles. It just goes to show that faithful witness to Catholic teaching will bring vocations of any stripe. Same thing with our religious sisters. We've got the Marian Sisters, School Sisters of Christ the King, Pink Sisters, Carmelites, and they all wear the habit.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 08, 2012 4:34 PM ET USA

    There's an important statistical breakdown missing there. Some orders belong to BOTH organizations. SO, what are the statistics for those orders, and are they the ones holding the overall CMSWR numbers down? Or bolstering the LCWR numbers?

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

Two good publishers, six new books for Lent 21 hours ago
Another awkward 'clarification' from the Vatican February 25
Former Israeli ambassador explains how to make 'two-state solution' realistic February 25
Solidarity Campaign: Going well, thanks! And how can you help? February 25
Considering the World of Film February 24

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis to address Congress in joint session in September CWN - February 5