Three years ago things were not looking too good for the global population of nuns. The vocation seemed likely to be in danger of extinction, with a 2014 report from the Vatican confirming that its workforce had decreased by over two thirds since the 1960s, with the average age of a Roman Catholic nun in the region of seventy-five to eighty years old. These numbers were reflected elsewhere in the world, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, with the numbers of nuns in the United States dropping a significant 72% from the figure reported in the 60s, The Vatican report found that sisters cited the lack of recognition they receive within the church as a possible reason for their decline.
The world movement seems to suggest that, with an aging population and few younger women willing to take up the mantel, the sisterhood is likely to be wiped out within twenty-five years. However, in the UK, we buck the trend. The sisters have acted and the numbers have trebled in the last five years which is ‘The Sound of Music’ to the Catholic Church’s ears.
The most interesting question is why? The most likely reason is that, recent years, the Catholic Church has undergone somewhat of a rebranding. After years of band press relating to contentious issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, the Church has opened its doors so young people can see the good works nuns do in the community, such as with young single parents living below the poverty line.
Historians should consider the good work the changing place of nuns throughout time. Human, Social and Political Science (HSPS) hopefuls would be prudent to consider the impact of religious good works upon the community and the impact of an aging population on established orders. Philosophy and Theology should consider the impact of the modern times on established religions.