At the big-picture level, however, the most striking findings focus on what the next generation of religious women and men will be like. In terms of ethnicity, CARA found that 21 percent of new members are Hispanic, 14 percent Asians or Pacific Islanders, and six percent Africans or African-Americans, meaning that about 58 percent are white. Since 94 percent of older members are white, religious life is obviously becoming more ethnically diverse — which means no more than that it’s coming into alignment with the demographic breakdown of the broader Catholic community. (According to a recent Pew Forum study of religion in America, by 2030 only 48 percent of the Catholic population in America will be white, 41 percent will be Hispanic, and 7.5 percent will be Asian-American.)
With regard to theological and spiritual outlooks, the CARA study found clear differences between the “Millennial Generation,” meaning religious born after 1982, and the “Vatican II Generation,” meaning religious men and women born between 1943 and 1960.
Millennials are far more likely to say they entered religious life out of a desire for commitment to the church, and that they entered their specific community because of its reputation for fidelity to the church. They’re more likely to wear habits, more likely to say that devotions such as Eucharistic adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours are “very important,” less eager to do ministry in non-Catholic or non-confessional settings, and more positive in their attitudes about authority.
The corollary is that religious orders which foster a more traditional ethos tend to have better luck attracting younger members. One sign of which way the winds are blowing: Just one percent of women’s communities belonging to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, known for having a more liberal outlook, currently have more than 10 new members in initial formation, whereas a robust 28 percent of communities belonging to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women, known for being more conservative, have 10 or more members in the early stages of membership.
To put all this into a sound-bite, the next generation of religious will be more ethnically diverse and more traditional.
‘High tension’ and ‘low tension’ religious life | National Catholic Reporter
settembre 2, 2009 di channelman