Pope Francis just announced 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life. In a class I’m taking, I’ve been reading literature addressing the decline in numbers of women religious in the U.S. since the mid-60s, from a sociological perspective. While many valid theories have been proposed, some empirical studies have focused on decreased numbers only, but not on what drives those numbers. Others have asked the question, “Why did you leave?”
Why a woman chooses to leave religious life is as much a personal call from God as are her reasons for entering. Those reasons are so important, but they are also frozen in time. They are what they are. An equally important question, which seems more dynamic and visionary, is:
“Why do you stay?”
I suspect that many women would respond differently to “why did you enter?” than to “why do you stay?” We evolve, our understanding of life and our place in it evolves, our relationship to God evolves… we simply are not the same people today that we were one year … or many … ago.
Yet we are still called. And we stay. What a mystery. What grace.
With deep gratitude to all women and men who have followed God’s call to consecrated life, thank you. To those who may be considering that call, why don’t you hang out with some of our Sisters and Brothers. Find out why they entered, but ask them, “Why do you stay?”
Sr. Kathy Flynn