A recent article in the British press suggests the trend of empty seminaries and convents may be leveling off there, too, as it is in this country . Though the Times site is behind a paywall, there’s a partial summary of the piece on the Bridges and Tangents blog:
Until recently, nuns in Britain had fallen out of the habit. In parts of the country, years went by without any women seeking to get themselves to a nunnery. Then, suddenly, convents have reported a spike in interest.
It is not huge in numbers; but in significance it is of a new order. In the past three years the number of women entering the religious life has nearly tripled from six to 17 and there are also many more who have entered convents but have not not yet taken their initial vows. This influx is thought to be a result of the Popes visit to Britain last year. Such has been the sudden surge in inquiries that religious orders have had to ask bishops how to cope, so unused to receiving new vocations have they become, and so accepting of the received wisdom that, with many convents closing and being sold off, their way of life was likely to be coming to an end.
As in the United States, this upward tick, while by no means signaling an ‘end’ to the vocations crisis, does represent a mild reversal of a decades-long trend, and that is cause for gratitude enough. Interestingly, the British article offers a bit of a different take as to why the decline has suddenly leveled off, focusing more on “new movements” and ecclesial communities in the church:
. . . new Catholic movements such as Youth 2000 have been key to the increase. Among the general Catholic population of more than five million across the UK, about 10 per cent have had contact with new movements but among those entering monasteries, convents and seminaries, the proportion is 50 per cent. In a further new development, one in five of the new vocations are converts to Catholicism, compared with the 1970s when nearly all those seeking to become priests, monks or nuns were cradle Catholics.
The statistics mentioned above do lend credibility to this narrative, though at bottom these are still hypotheses (if good ones—as is the observation of the Wall Street Journal authors that a return to the clear enunciation of Catholic teaching is aiding vocation growth by making the choice to enter religious life much starker). In any event, the Church is beginning to turn a proverbial corner with vocations, and that the rebuilding work ahead can only benefit from this renewed spirit of obedience and evangelization.