In beginning to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” it is often smart to look at where we came from and where we’ve been.
The same is true when it comes to vocations. We can gain an understanding of how religious life is changing by looking at its history.
The first type of religious life to appear were monks and nuns, who lived lives in solitude and quiet prayer. Well-known saints like St. Augustine and St. Benedict developed rules for cloistered life. Mendicant religious orders such as the Dominicans and Franciscans began in the 12th century; their primary task was to spread the message of the Gospel through preaching and responding to the needs of the poor.
Apostolic religious orders, like the Sisters of the Precious Blood, are fairly young in terms of church history. They take on a wider variety of ministries than mendicant orders, who live in poor conditions with those they serve. Apostolic communities began to form in the 16th century to minister to God’s people, especially in the fields of education and health care. It was then that the first communities of non-cloistered sisters emerged.
Each type of community is still active today. As the needs of the church and the world have changed, religious communities have also adapted to meet those needs. I believe we are on the brink of a new way of living religious life. The church and the world are both crying out for justice — and religious communities are responding.
We see this striving for justice in the “Nuns on the Bus,” which some Sisters of the Precious Blood have joined for a time.
We see this striving for justice when Sisters of the Precious Blood traveled to El Paso to assist migrants from Mexico and Central America.
We see this striving for justice in the letter — co-signed by Sisters of the Precious Blood — released by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, in which 663 LCWR members called on President Trump to stop using divisive and polarizing rhetoric.
Our Sisters continue to create a more just society through Precious Blood spirituality — proclaiming God’s love by being a life-giving, reconciling presence — and in active, hands-on ministries of conflict resolution, healing, teaching and service.
The advent of this way of living religious life — striving together for justice and reconciliation in our fractured world — will attract more men and women to discern God’s call. Women will see the support and time that a religious life can provide them, enabling them to risk more in their justice efforts. The rhythm of religious life allows for radical availability and provides freedom for intense prayer lives, extended efforts to challenge injustice, and the support of a community and guiding charism.
The history of religious life is marked with groups of men and women constantly reimagining ways to meet the needs of the church and the world through their call to holiness. So, I am not surprised that we are seeing an increase in the number of women who are finding religious life attractive. After all, it is in our history.
– Story by Jenna Legg