Some 85 percent of congregations listed a decline in new recruits as a major challenge in the coming years
A Catholic nun visits a sick person in his house in Thua Thien Hue province on April 26, 2023 (Photo: UCA News)
Fewer women joining convents, lack of training programs, and declining finances are among the major challenges facing Catholic nuns in Vietnam, says a new study report.
About 85 percent of women religious groups in the country reported a decline in new recruits as a major challenge, said the study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Washington DC-based research organization, affiliated to the Jesuits-run Georgetown University.
The study released last month was based on three major research components. The results present an overview of women's religious life in Vietnam and their main challenges and needs for support.
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As a first component, researchers contacted 111 major superiors of women religious from June–September 2022. Only 69 of them responded, giving a response rate of 62 percent.They also surveyed 2,906 nuns between September–October 2022, besides taking responses from four focus groups with congregational leaders and individual sisters in January 2023.
When asked to list the main challenges facing their ministries in the next three to five years, some 85 percent of the responding congregations said listed a decline in new recruits as a major challenge.
Some 70 percent said facing challenges related to formation training programs was a challenge while some 60 percent said they also face challenges related to their member’s mental and physical health.
Half of the responding institutes reported low income and financial issues (54 percent) as their main challenge. More than a third (36 percent) reported facing challenges related to financial sustainability.
Recovering from the Covid 19 pandemic was also a challenge for another one-third (35 percent).
Some 40 percent said finance “is at least somewhat of a concern" when faced with health treatments (cancers, diabetics), said the report prepared by Jesuit Father Thomas P. Gaunt and Sister Thu T. Do of CARA.
CARA conducts social, and scientific studies about the Catholic Church, and offers a range of research services to dioceses, parishes, religious communities, and institutes.
At least 20 percent of respondents reported challenges related to clericalism. Another 20 percent said the integration of younger and older generations of sisters was a major challenge.
The majority of responding religious institutes were founded in Vietnam (67 percent). Some 20 percent of responding religious institutes were founded in France while four were founded in Spain and one each in Holland, Switzerland, Japan and Algeria.
The responding religious groups have a total of 16,081 temporally and perpetually professed members. About 33 percent of members are aged 35 or younger, 33 percent are aged 36-45, about 24 percent are 46-65 and the rest are 66 and above.
Some 67 percent of the congregations are diocesan, and 33 percent are pontifical. The majority (91 percent) are apostolic orders, and the remainder are contemplative institutes.
About 67 percent of the groups have more than 100 members and the rest have 99 or fewer members.
About 74 percent of nuns have obtained high school to associate degrees, 24 percent have a bachelor’s degree and two percent have a master’s degree. Only 42 nuns have a doctoral degree.
About 34 percent of nuns are engaged in evangelization ministry including parish work, 34 percent in education, 15 percent are in internal ministry such as leadership, 10 percent in social services and five percent in healthcare.
Most respondents (91 percent) are satisfied with their current ministry.
However, seven in ten reported they are somewhat concerned over “a lack of professional expertise” in ministry, and 56 percent said they are concerned about “excessive workload” is at least somewhat of a concern to them.
About 90 percent of the respondents reported the need for more training for personal, spiritual, and professional development.
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