There is a young and vital presence of religious sisters, novices and postulants in U.S. Catholic life, a new survey has found.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious has released its latest survey of its 120 member communities in 137 U.S. dioceses.
Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., council chairperson and superior general of the Sisters of Life, said the council is “blessed” to have both older and younger institutes in its membership.
“The presence of the well-established communities lends a wisdom and guiding presence to the newer communities,” she said. “I am sure that without the mentoring support and generosity of these superiors, communities such as ours would never have come to fruition.”
The council membership survey report, released in May, drew on 106 responses from the major superiors of the 120 member communities.
There are about 6,000 women religious among the council’s member communities. This is only a section of the 48,546 religious sisters in the U.S. in 2015, according to figures from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University.
Among the council’s member communities, the average age of the sisters is 57 years old. The council said this is “well below” lower than the average age of women religious in the U.S.
The postulants’ average age is 27, while novices have an average age of 29. Temporary professed sisters have an average age of 32.
About 16 percent of women religious are in the age cohort of 30-39. It is the largest cohort, but just slightly larger than in the cohorts aged 60-69 or 70-79.
Almost 1,000 sisters are in initial formation, making up about 15 percent of the membership of the council’s member communities.
Over 80 percent of professed religious are engaged in active ministry. 19 percent are engaged in education, 17 percent in health care and 11 percent in evangelization, catechesis and religious education.
About one-third of the council’s 120 member communities were founded in the last 50 years.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious was founded in 1992 with the approval of Pope John Paul II.