I recently saw some statistics on a particular community of religious women, and I now have a better understanding of why some communities (well, actually there are a number of them) haven’t had vocations for quite a while, and if they do have any, they aren’t very young.
This community listed all living members and the year they took first vows. Most took first vows in the 1940s or 1950s. Some took vows in the 1960s, but when you get to 1964, that is the last year for almost all of them. There are a few exceptions, a 1968 here, a 1970 there, and even a 1977! Most, however, that are still living and still in the community entered before 1965.
I’m sure there were many that entered from 1965 to, say, 1973 or so, but almost all of them left.
Those who had their novitiate and took vows before all the changes seemed to have a greater sense of the profound nature of the vows. They were marrying Christ for life in a particular religious community–this was not just about the community but about Christ and the Church. They weathered all the storms.
Now, though, some groups are merging with other groups, and this is taking its toll on even existing members. If I vowed to a particular community and the community no longer really exists, do I continue on in this new “merged” community with a different constitution?
It’s getting tougher and tougher, but the answer has been there all along, every day, 24/7: return to orthodoxy. True, it may not guarantee vocations, but it will definitely not hurt.
Sometimes, the answer is so close you don’t see it. It’s so clear that it is transparent to you. For many of these “most from the pre 1965 era” groups, it’s too late.
We are now celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. I think some groups are mourning the poor implementation within their communities. (This is not entirely their fault, because often “experts” presented workshops that told them what was “expected” of them, and the experts had an agenda that had nothing to do with Vatican II.) At least some members of the communities are mourning. Unfortunately, the leaders tend to forge ahead, rearrange those deck chairs, and prepare to leave behind a legacy once they are all gone.