Religious Life: Discerning the Future

The authors of a new report on women in Religious Life write about its findings. Gemma Simmonds CJ is Director of the Religious Life Institute, and Maria Calderón Muñoz is a Research Fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge.

Is there a future for female Religious Life in the UK and Ireland? Has the age and cultural gap between long-term members of communities and those seeking to join them become so great that integration is no longer possible? These were some of the questions under consideration by the Religious Life: Discerning the Future Project which interviewed women who have entered or explored Religious Life in the Catholic and Anglican churches since 2000. Financed by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the aim of the research was to understand the present state of recruitment to Religious Life and strengthen its future. The statistics are not encouraging. In 2018 a total of twenty-one Catholic women entered Religious Life in England and Wales. While a slight rise in numbers on the previous year, there is a clear downward trajectory over the last thirty years from the seventy-nine who entered in 1986.1

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