LCWR / CMSWR and all that

This was updated in July of 2013.

Perhaps you have no idea what the above means, but I will explain. You might have heard that the Vatican asked the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) to reform themselves by producing a new set of statues, under the guidance of Archbishop Sartain.

Before going any further, let me point out that the average age of LCWR sisters in 2009 was 74.

In 1992, a number of women’s religious communities decided to leave the LCWR and start their own group: the CMSWR or Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which was approved by the Vatican in 1995. Some will try to portray the CMSWR as “Vatican created,” but it really came from some communities basically saying that things are rather hippy-dippy with the LCWR and we want out. The LCWR represents 292 communities and CMSWR 90 (probably more now). So, it was not a negligible number of communities that thought the LCWR did not represent them.

Among CMSWR communities, there are such high profile ones as the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, with an average age of 36 (probably lower now). The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, founded in 1997, is growing quite rapidly, now numbering around 100.

As I mentioned earlier, a 2009 survey found the average median age of a women in perpetual vows in a LCWR community to be 74, while the average median age in CMSWR is 60 (NRVC CARA survey PDF). So, there are still a number of CMSWR communities that do not have many vocations, if any. However, it is safe to say that LCWR communities have very, very few vocations (the 2009 survey found less than 1% under age 40 in perpetual vows, while 8% under 40 for CMSWR). The vocations that LCWR communities are getting tend to enter after age 40.

Now with the average age of women in LCWR communities to be 74 in 2009 (perhaps 76 or 77 now?), it seems a bit late in the game to ask for reform. The lack of interest from the young toward such communities has multiple reasons, but one of the major ones is a huge generation gap. Even I struggle to understand young men in formation born in 1989 or 1990, and I’m 43. I entered religious life in 1995, so I don’t have a lot of common cultural reference points.

It seems that a recent article in America has used some statistics that appear to show that LCWR and CMSWR communities had about equal numbers of postulants, novices, and temporary professed according to the 2009 CARA survey, and thus things were somewhat equal in terms of vocations. However, the LCWR represents over 3 times as many communities as the CMSWR. This is definitely not a fair use of stats. The article wants to be “devoid of distortions.” I am not convinced.

Another thing that the article points out is: “The vast majority of both L.C.W.R. and C.M.S.W.R. institutes do not have large numbers of new entrants.” This is true, but of the few that do have large numbers, it should be noted that they are all CMSWR communities. It may be “unfair” to put the media spotlight on them, but having lots of vocations attracts attention, does it not? This seems to be part of a “writing off” of the more successful communities. The few “Nuns on the Bus” get lots of media but the rapidly growing CMSWR communities are, well, shall we say “unfaithful to the narrative,” and thus not worthy of much media attention.

Some have said the the CARA study gave the wrong impression. A National Catholic Reporter article says there is a “slight tilting in the direction of traditional groups” (CARA Study Given Wrong Twist). But traditional groups are genuinely doing better, and a few much better. The return of women’s religious vocations is happening, but it is, for the most part, gradual.

I would like to point out that, of the women that I have seen join religious communities within the past 15 years, most of them have joined communities that started in the 20th century, and all of the communities wear habits (which would generally put them in the “traditional” category). Ironically, many of them started in the last half of the 20th century, so they are “new” in time but to many older communities they haven’t gotten with the “times” (the “times” are already a generation ago, though). Here are communities that women I know personally have joined:

Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Prayer Town, TX
Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Bronx, NY
Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, founded in Argentina
Nashville Dominicans (St. Cecilia)
Missionaries of Charity
Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, Toronto, OH
Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Discalced Carmelite Nuns, Lake Elmo, MN

Five out of these eight communities started after Vatican II. There is indeed a future to religious life, but it belongs to the youth and the communities they are presently in.

In the end, the communities that are doing the will of God (and that God wants to continue) will survive. Divine Providence has the last say.

(I also comment further on this in a more recent post.)

I Finally Saw October Baby.

I’ve wanted to see the movie for a while, but Holy Week was particularly busy, as was the time around Mercy Sunday, and then there have been other things that have come up.

My main reaction is, “Wow!”

I don’t feel adequate to review the film, but here’s something from an interview with Jon Erwin (director of the film) that sums it up pretty well:

“I believe the film is much more than just a pro-life film. I think it’s a celebration of life. It’s about forgiveness, it’s about love, it’s about knowing who you are, it’s about a lot of different things, and most of all it’s about the power of forgiveness.” – Jon Erwin, 5 Questions With Jon Erwin

Indeed. I think I recommend this about twice as much as I would recommend Bella. This movie does have some dialogue written for a Catholic priest that, I suspect, was not written by a Catholic, but it’s a mild complaint.

Yes, if you can, you should see it. I’m also excited that there will be some scenes in the DVD that were cut from the film, per the above referenced interview.

I also note that one of the executive producers, Dave Allen Johnson, was the creator of Sue Thomas FBEye. I’ve been rather impressed with his work over the years. I’m glad he was part of this success.

My Review of October Baby in IMDB

Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

Although the Marians do not exactly have a corresponding women’s community, our renovator, Blessed George Matulaitis, founded a community in Lithuania called the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The community was founded on September 15, 1918.

This community had to stay underground in Lithuania during the Communist years, but was able to operate freely in the United States. The sisters in the U.S. have this website:
Immaculate Conception Spiritual Renewal Center

A Wikipedia article explains a little about the sisters:
Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The website in Lithuania is only in Lithuanian, but here it is via Google Translate in semi-English.
Sisters Website from Lithuania

St. Lawrence of Brindisi’s works in English

This topic has become near and dear to my heart. I would like to point out that all of the Opera Omnia of St. Lawrence of Brindisi has been translated into English by Fr. Vernon Wagner, O.F.M.Cap., of Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, and most of it has been published. All of his sermons are included in the English Opera Omnia, but the Lutheranismi Hypotyposis and his commentary on Genesis are not included. Franciscan University of Steubenville is one of 4 libraries listed on WorldCat that has the English volumes available in their collection. Some of the sets can be found in libraries of Capuchin houses.

It is possible to order this set of St. Lawerence’s works, or individual volumes from the set, direct from the publisher in India. As far as I can tell, shipping is included in the price (even international shipping). To order, visit this page.