By Joe LaGuardia
Everyone is making a stink out of the rise of the “nones,” people who do not subscribe to any organized faith or denomination.
What about the rise of the “nuns”?
A bad pun with a nun? Not quite. The Catholic Church in England and Whales is claiming a 25-year record for women recruitment in holy orders. Seems that the Catholic Church is growing in a most unusual way.
Here in Rockdale County, I heard that Father Randy was leaving us and departing St. Pius X Catholic Church. When the news broke, I wondered how long St. Pius might hobble along without a priest. It is no mystery that the number of priests has waned in recent years, although the number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood has increased and posit a more hopeful future for tomorrow’s Catholic church.
Other thoughts ran through my head: If the Vatican would only let priests get married, maybe more would become available.
And if the Vatican ever allowed women to be ordained to the priesthood, there might not be any shortage at all. According to my friend in Decatur, a nun of some 60 years, I am not alone in this assessment.
Little did I know that women have been entering convents and other “contemplative communities” in record numbers across the Pond. Reasons and theories vary:
Some say its because people realize that the meaning of life can only be found in the womb of the church.
Higher-ups in the Church pat themselves on the back and claim that charismatic priests and bishops are monopolizing and marketing the strengths of cloistered living, including the trendy notion that the priesthood can change the world in ways that can be quantified and qualified.
Others cite frustrations surrounding relationships, sex, and intimacy (or lack thereof).
An article with the BBC quotes novice Theodora Hawksley as saying, “If our society is obsessed with money, sex and power and the games people play with them, then vows of poverty chastity and obedience represent a profound freedom. That’s what has drawn me to religious life. It’s not a fleeing from the world – it’s a finding your place in it.”
Nor can we keep God out of the picture. For all of the ways (and often times, the gimmicks) churches use to grow, gain members, and attract people to full-time ministry, its the Holy Spirit that does the transforming, convincing, and convicting.
We saw this years ago at Trinity Baptist Church when we were affirming our core values of being a place that emphasized inter-generational worship, social justice, and inclusivity.
Back then, we felt we were going against the grain of congregational development and growth, but now we find numerous articles describing how young people are attracted to churches that have similar core values in place, Catholic Churches not withstanding.
Perhaps I’m getting too spiritual here. Maybe its just something in the water in England. Perhaps there is just the right group of women who came along at the right time to convince so many other women (many under the age of 30) to enter an alternative life that values celibacy, obedience, and poverty.
We are not sure, but we are certain that trends are finicky things — (Have you heard about the African American lesbian physical fitness trainer in Philadelphia who is finishing her last year of seminary to become a rabbi? You’ll have to Google that one yourself.)
And, at the end of the day, I’m just a Baptist. When it comes to all things Catholic, what do I know? It’s none (or, is it “nun”?) of my business anyway. (Now that was a bad pun!)
On behalf of Trinity Baptist Church, we want to welcome Father Greg Goolsby to St. Pius X. May we share ministry together, transform our community for the sake of Christ, and work for the common good of all, attracting people to the light of God rather than our own agendas. Amen.