Late vocation

Here's a story from upstate that caught my eye (via CathNewsUSA): a brand-new, 65-year-old Sister of Mercy. She's a mother and a grandmother, and she won't do much for the order's overall demographics. But her story may be a small reminder that the health and "quality" of religious life can't be measured entirely in statistics. I wonder whether this is something we'll be seeing more of, as religious communities age and people enter retirement with (hopefully) many healthy years ahead? The demographic shift that (according to speculation) makes these orders less attractive to young women may make them more attractive to older women, as a way of dedicating their final decades more completely to Christ. The lay associates program is already popular -- via the Sisters of Mercy Web site, I see that, in parts of the province this sister has joined, there are as many associates as there are sisters. And this woman started out as an associate, according to the story. Will those programs begin to feed more often into full membership in the order, or is this instance an unusual blessing?

Speaking of the aging vowed-religious population: the "Share in the Care" collection is around the corner. While you're considering your contribution, perhaps you might like to visit, a Web site collecting messages from people about how they have been formed and helped by women religious. I could pen a letter or two to Sisters of Mercy, among so many others.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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