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Home > India > News > PTI

Catholic Church facing shortage of nuns

April 02, 2008 11:50 IST

The Catholic Church in India is facing an increasing shortage of aspirants to convent life, with girls preferring more worldly professions, church authorities feel.

"Consumer culture seems to have overtaken the young girls who are no longer challenged by the call of ascetic life," says Father Paul Thelekat, Church spokesperson.

Women congregations in the country are no more getting enough vocations from the urbanised areas of Kerala [Images]. But there are enough vocations to priesthood, Father Thelekat told PTI.

In European countries, the nuns are becoming extinct as a social species and the same situation may be seen in India soon, he feels.

"Fifty years ago, young girls may have found the life and work being done by a sister or a nun challenging. But that is not the case today," Father Thelekat said.

This could lead to a situation when existing congregations of women would be forced to abandon many of the institutional work they are doing in educational and medical care sectors, he said in a series of articles published in SatyaDeepam a church periodical.

Increasingly, nuns are also feeling disillusioned as there seems to be a discrimination in the churches, the articles said.

According to Sister Inigo, SSA from New Delhi, women do not enjoy equality of status in the church. "Equality for women is a non-negotiable element as far as she is concerned," sister Inigo said.

"You cannot be quietly pious or quietly holy without critically considering this inequality," she said in one of the articles.

Sister Alice Lukose, director, WIN Society, says unless the church is able to offer the women a 'new vision' and a 'new way' of committed life, the religious congregations for women would be facing a crisis of existence.

"Today, in every field, women are equal; in every field women have come up, except in the church. The moment the church acknowledges and allows women to be different, the church would be different," she said.

According to Sister Ingia, young girls are not willing to join religious life as they have number of fields open today. Earlier, it was not like that.

Women are not being offered the opportunities their male counterparts are getting in the church, she said.

"How many theologians have come up from among the religious women?" she asked, adding, "Not many, as they are not being allowed by men into what they consider their privileged area".

With fewer women joining the convents, the church would find it difficult to run the educational institutions under them.

"Church was still entrenched in the patriarchal system of domination of women by men. The net result is that women in religion feel a lot of insecurity within the church," the articles said.

Sister Dr Elizabeth, MMS, Kerala, said the church has always promoted clericalism - centralisation of the Church and its functioning around ordained ministers who have an upper hand on matters related to women. In general, women are given 'second class' citizen status and are considered emotional, who lack objectivity and reasoning, she said.

"In our religious structure, we do not allow our people to excel. Unless independence is given to each individual to blossom and excel, there will not be much of a future for the religious life," she said.

"Today, religious life is not a creative one. We are in a rut. We are in a traditional mould and are even going backward. In the name of obedience, we are too rigid and the individual does not have space to blossom," she says.

She felt the church was still 'patriarchal' and women in religion were getting a 'raw deal' from the church. There is need for 'fresh air' to come in for things to change, she said.

Father Thelekat said there was need to 'reinvent' vocation and 'rewrite' their path by honestly re-interpreting the evangelical counsels to suit the demands of the modern world.

"Our nuns must learn to step out the closets traditionally created for them and make their feminine voice heard in the Church and the society," Father Thelekat said.

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