A hunger for depth

From left: Benedictine Srs. Susan Lardy, Hannah Vanorny and Nancy Miller celebrate Vanorny's perpetual monastic profession Oct. 12, 2013, at Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel in Bismarck, N.D. (Jerald Anderson Photograpy)

In an American culture that often seems to divide along political lines, stories about new vocations to religious life often seem to follow a similar narrative arc by focusing on the more traditional congregations attracting younger members.

Yet conversations with those engaged in what can be a lengthy discernment process, the men and women charged with guiding them, and church experts suggest a more nuanced and varied picture.

As a 2014 America column focused on women religious states, religious institutes of all kinds continue to attract young adults who bring a variety of backgrounds and aspirations to the table. Perhaps not as readily apparent are the ways that, in seeking to help guide young women and men through a discernment process suitable for a new generation, religious institutions have themselves been altered.

This process of institutional self-assessment and cultural engagement is by no means new.

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