A new report shows that Catholic nuns in the U.S. face a more serious challenge to their existence than the Vatican-led investigation of the American sisters: A rapidly aging membership and a decline in vocations that afflicts even the most traditional orders, the Religion News website reports today (October 14, 2014).
"The overall change in the population of women religious in the United States over the past 50 years is one of dramatic decline," wrote the authors of the report, published on October 13 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
The CARA researchers track the widely noted rise and fall in the number of nuns, noting that membership in women's religious orders grew rapidly in the first half of the 20th century, reaching a high point of 181,421 sisters in 1966. Since then, the numbers have steadily declined, to below 50,000 today, a 72.5 percent drop-off.
"There are about as many women religious in the United States now as there were a hundred years ago," they wrote.