New York Times profiles “nuns of a new generation”

New York Times profiles “nuns of a new generation” August 10, 2015

That includes, most prominently, the Sisters of Life:

 Mechanical bulls, rock-climbing walls, bounce houses, go-karts: Before becoming a nun, Sister Virginia Joy helped insure them all.

“I was a go-between between the underwriters and the customers,” said Sister Virginia Joy, a former high school soccer star from South Carolina now wearing a habit of white and navy blue. She was fighting Midtown Manhattan traffic, late for a lunch with some other nuns. “I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s generosity in my life, and I wasn’t fulfilled in this job,” she said.

In 2009, at age 28 and then known as Virginia Cotter, she joined the Sisters of Life.

Young women joining religious orders have become increasingly rare over the years. The number of “women religious” in the United States is about 50,000, less than a third of that in 1966. According to a Georgetown University study, “there are more Catholic sisters in the United States over age 90 than under age 60.”

The younger nuns can be a surprising bunch. While many in the older generation moved to the left after the 1960s, in theology and politics — a trend that led in part to Pope Benedict XVI’s investigation of American nuns in 2012 — younger nuns tend to be more conservative. They want to wear the habit. While they work outside their communities, they have a strong focus on contemplative life, making time for hours of daily communal prayer. And they tend to have a strong sense of a particular mission.

Take, for example, the Sisters of Life, the religious order of Sister Virginia Joy. Many of the nuns are in their 20s or 30s and have a commitment that can be divisive even in the Roman Catholic Church: “promoting life,” which in practice includes an emphasis on discouraging abortions.

The members may hold to traditional teachings, but as they see it, there is nothing more countercultural in 2015 than a young woman’s becoming a nun — eschewing careerism, material possessions, sex. Two other traditionalist orders — a Dominican order in Nashville, and one in Ann Arbor, Mich., which has expanded to Austin, Tex. — have attracted national attention; in 2010, the Ann Arbor nuns even made it on “Oprah.”

Read it all. 


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