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Typical new US nun: 43-year-old who prays Rosary, comes from large family

February 03, 2011

The typical newly-professed woman religious is a 43-year-old cradle Catholic who prayed the Rosary and participated in retreats and Eucharistic adoration before entering religious life, according to a survey released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

583 major superiors of US women religious responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. 79% of superiors who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (which is under Vatican investigation) responded to the survey, while 58% of superiors who belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (which emphasizes fidelity to the Magisterium and the wearing of a habit) responded. Only 31% of superiors of contemplative communities responded to the survey.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 84% of superiors reported no new religious professions in 2010, while 13% reported only one
  • 64% of newly-professed women religious came from families with four or more siblings
  • 13% of the newly professed are converts, typically from Protestantism
  • 62% are white, while 19% are Asian and 10% are Hispanic
  • 71% were born in the US, while 14% were born in Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria; the typical foreign-born newly-professed religious entered the US in 1993
  • 51% attended a Catholic elementary school, while only 26% attended a Catholic college; 7% were home schooled
  • 59% have at least a bachelor’s degree
  • 20% participated in one of the World Youth Days, and 6% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference as a high school student
  • 74% had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 65% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 64% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration
  • the typical newly professed woman religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 20, was familiar with her institute for six years before entrance, and made her profession at the age of 43
  • 51% reported that a parent or family member discouraged them from entering religious life; only 26% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and an even smaller 16% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation
  • 52% say they were encouraged by a religious sister to consider religious life, 44% by a friend, and 39% by a parish priest
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