Number of US women religious about the same as a century ago

Cover of FADICA report, "Understanding U.S. Catholic Sisters Today."

A new study of Catholic sisters opens with information that will jolt some assumptions about the state of religious life: The number of vowed women religious in the United States today is approximately the same as it was a century ago — just under 50,000.

A deeper look at those statistics exposes some significant differences between then and now, but it also shows that the church of the mid-20th century, often held up as the ideal to which the church today should aspire, was a short-lived bump on the demographic landscape.

"Contrary to widespread assumptions, the crowded novitiates and overflowing convents of the mid-twentieth century represent an anomaly in the history of U.S. women's religious life rather than a standard to which sisters could or should return," writes Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame.

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report.

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