In an interview at The Pillar, Sr. Mary Bendyna, OP, the executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), discussed the current state of religious life and where she sees its future. The center of religious life, she notes, is the following of Jesus Christ in a “particular way of life,” echoing Perfectae Caritatis 2a. Quoting Canon 663 §1, she adds that prayer is of utmost importance to those in religious life: “If it’s not first and foremost, well, then we run into some difficulties.”

Although many communities in the US, Western Europe, and Australia have declining numbers of vocations, some communities are growing. Sr. Bendyna studied these communities during her time at the Center for Research in the Apostolate (CARA), and found that common life was central to the growth of a congregation:

We did see some things in common among communities experiencing growth: common prayer, common life, even a common apostolate, which is not an essential part of religious life but can be important. If sisters are in the same apostolate, they have a common set of experiences and an easier time scheduling time together.

There is something about being together. And I think this last year has shown us just how important being together is, because that has been limited.

Nevertheless, she notes that in the US, Western Europe, and Australia, there is likely to continue to be a decline in the overall number of women in religious life.