The National Office for Vocation of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has recently published the executive report and appendices for a study of Religious Life in England and Wales undertaken on behalf of the Compass Project, which is sponsored by a group of Roman Catholic Religious Orders and Congregations.
These documents contain some interesting new statistics about the ministry of vocations. They derive from a survey sent out this year to all 1,465 Roman Catholic religious houses in England and Wales. They represent 310 congregations of which 68% replied.
The report and appendices can be found at:
For all the women’s congregations combined average annual entrants for the period 1999-2009 were 22, with a 60% average retention rate. For men’s congregations entrants numbered 14.5 each year, with 61% retention.
Only 3% of female and 8% of male religious were under 40 years of age, while 87% and 69% respectively were over 60. The latter figures included 49% of the women and 23% of the men who were over 80.
Both sets of data are disaggregated by vocations to contemplative and apostolic ministries, as well as by gender.
Appendix III contains a somewhat speculative calculation of the number of discerners, unmarried Catholics under 30 considering the possibility of a religious vocation, who went on to enter formation to the religious life.
From an objective standpoint, the statistics seem bleak, seemingly pointing to the eventual disappearance of the religious life in England and Wales. However, the tone of the report and associated press coverage (for example, Catholic Herald, 16 July) is far from being consistently downbeat.