The dying out of women religious, and the crisis of religious, priestly vocations. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

If anyone in the English speaking world knows what the status quaestionis is concerning American women religious it’s Ann Carey. She has written insightful books about, especially, why some orders are imploding from their own suicide pact with modernity.  See in particular the thoughtful and balanced Sisters in Crisis Revisited: From Unraveling to Reform and Renewal.

A few days ago, Carey had a piece at National Catholic Register which, if you missed it, you should track back to.

She spotlights a real nut-job as exemplary, though she must be counted an extremist. I’ve written about her too: Sr. Donna Quinn, OP – a Sinsinawa Dominican (based in the Diocese of Madison where I am, founded by the titanic Ven. Samuel Mazzuchelli whose cause is stalled for no good reason.)  I wrote about here in my legendary post: NUNS GONE WILD!  Let’s have a look at Carey:

‘Progressive’ Orders are Passing Away—the Future Belongs to the Faithful
Young women are rejecting the dissent perpetrated by women who use their status as religious to get attention for their attacks on settled Church teachings.


The other headline I saw — “Decade after dust-up, nun firm on abortion: ‘Choice is the woman’s’” — was in the Oct. 27 Chicago Sun-Times. It describes an interview with Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Donna Quinn about her 10-year pro-abortion activism, which she summed up by saying: “The choice is the woman’s … do not interfere.”

Sister Donna also told the Sun-Times that the Vatican and Church hierarchy have no authority, and she voiced her support for the ordination of women and dismissed Church teaching on the Eucharist. As the Sun-Times wrote:

Quinn sees the Eucharist as not necessarily ‘something you go to and that only the priest has this power to change this into something else, but I see Eucharist as being part of our everyday life.’

‘A grandparent who embraces his little grandchild … is Eucharist to me.’

Yet, incredibly she insisted: “I still belong to the community called Sinsinawa” Dominicansand “could have left” the Catholic Church, but staying gives her a stronger voice.


This nutty heretic, like so many of the other weird sisters, Jesuits and their companions in prevarication, and, I’m sure, lib catholic writers for outlets like Fishwrap, stay in the Church because they have a bigger platform, not to mention their four hots and a cot.

Carey contacted the Sinsinawas for information about Quinn and received back a slithery non-response about “values” and “compassion” blah blah.

Donna Quinn escorts women into abortion clinics, by the way.



While the Quinn story is an extreme example of dissent by a so-called religious, this sad situation also raises serious questions about why higher Church authorities allow such scandal by religious to persist. [JAMES MARTIN, SJ] It also dramatizes how some formerly outstanding religious orders have self-destructedadversely affecting the image of religious life and slowing vocations to a trickle.


This phenomenon is not limited to women religious.  Although, as I write this, I recall a breakfast chat I had years ago with a bishop, now, an archbishop.  He had just had an early meeting with his local ordinary: “John,” he said wearily, “never forget this: there are old women of both sexes.”

The same dynamics affect the growth or dissolution of religious vocations for men as for women.  They are also the same for diocesan priests.

When these groups conform themselves to the world, they die.  When they embrace and maintain a strong identity and their charism, they grow.

This isn’t rocket science.

We have to get down on our knees constantly and pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Let’s not pray for generic “vocations”, lumping them all together.  No.  We need a public, manifest, constant call for vocations to the priesthood from our own homes and families, not someone else’s.

Here is a prayer for vocations which has in the past proven itself to be effective. 

At my home parish this was prayed immediately after the Gospel at every Sunday and Holy Day Mass.  There was, on average, a First Mass every year for 30 years.

At the parish where I serve now, the pastor and I had cards printed.    From now on, at every Sunday and Holy Day Mass, after the Gospel and before the announcements and sermon, everyone will kneel and say this prayer:

LEADER: Please kneel for our prayer for vocations.  Let us ask God to give worthy priests, brothers and sisters to His Holy Church.

ALL: O God, we earnestly beseech Thee to bless this (arch)diocese with many priests, brothers and sisters, who will gladly spend their entire lives to serve Thy Church and to make Thee known and loved.

LEADER: Bless our families. Bless our children.

ALL: Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.

LEADER: Mary, Queen of the Clergy!

ALL: Pray for us. Pray for our priests and religious. Obtain for us many more.

Fathers… use the prayer, but leave it as it is, only changing “archdiocese” to “diocese” where necessary.  Don’t fool around with it.

A friend back home – whom I miss rather a lot – sent me one of the original holy cards, which I prize.



Note that key line:

Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.

We had cards made with beautiful artwork on the front and this very prayer on the back.  Soon it will be so much a part of the regular Sunday and Holy Day practice that everyone will know it by heart.  It will ring in the ears of young people and keep the idea of a religious vocations constantly present and active.  I don’t doubt the outcome over time.

This is an ACTION ITEM.   Fathers, consider implementing this in your parishes. Do NOT junk the prayer up with additions about “married life” or “single life” or “permanent deacons”.  Just leave it as it is.  We’ve done the heavy lifting by already printing the cards if you want to drop a line.

Lay people!  Especially you who are in sound parishes!  Go to your priests with this post and ask them to implement a prayer for vocations to the priesthood.  Keep at them.

Thus endeth the rant.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, PRAYER REQUEST, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants, Women Religious and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Elizabeth D says:

    I am an active promoter of priestly and religious vocations, for instance to my catechism kids. If everyone were capable of a religious vocation that would be good to all-consumingly promote that. But you know what, it might be best to not give other persons made in God’s image and loved by Him and called to union with God and holiness in heroic virtue the impression they are junk, that their vocation is eccleastical junk. Some of us already are disposed to think that way. It’s perfectly true that simply on our own we are not worthy of the promises of Christ, no matter our state in life. But priesthood or religious life is always on one level a human status in the world that generally has tremendous human as well as spiritual benefits. Others who lack that status and those benefits also are called and part of God’s plan, and often have a more difficult path.

  2. Gripen says:

    I recently visited St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, Texas. After Mass the above prayer for vocations was led by the pastor, along with the Angelus. I’m happy to say it was word-for-word identical with the version you show, with the one necessary exception: “archdiocese” was changed to “Ordinariate”.

  3. Sandy says:

    My introduction to the “inner workings” of these “convents” was reading Donna Steichen’s “Ungodly Rage” many years ago. It’s enough to curl your hair. I also had a dear elderly friend who was, I believe, a Sinsinawa. When she went back to the mother house, she was horrified by the “eucharist” they performed themselves. I’m sure she is now praying for them from Heaven or Purgatory.

    The Sacred Heart nuns who taught me in college are another example. They left the cloister, got advanced degrees, went the way of the world and now……… Come Lord Jesus!

  4. iPadre says:

    Why have these people continued on for so long unchecked, while so called “traditionalists” and “conservatives “ are beaten to death by the powers at be? It almost seems as if we, the Church, have a death wish.

  5. Sawyer says:

    If the parishes I have attended in my local area besides my regular novus ordo parish are any indication, the Church ought to be praying for and doing effective things to get teens and young adults to attend Mass and grow in faith and their knowledge of the faith. Where are the religious vocations going to come from? As I look around, there aren’t many potential recruits.

    Bishop Barron recently wrote a column about young people’s lack of interest in matters religious in his review of the book “iGen”. It’s worth reading. The Church is facing a massive demographic collapse within 20-30 years; I mean Church attendance falling off a cliff from its already abysmal numbers. Unfortunately, Barron’s column doesn’t provide any answers. That’s one thing that annoys me about Bishop Barron, by the way: he seems to diagnose problems well enough but doesn’t offer solutions. Well, a diagnosis is part of what’s needed but that’s the fairly easy part in the Church these days.

    I’m not certain that “flourishing” extraordinary form parishes can be hailed as the solution either. Many such parishes are the only E.F. parish over many square miles and people drive long distances to attend Mass there, so a packed church (when that occurs, which isn’t often) is more a result of a small percentage of people over a wide area congregating in the same place by choice. The one E.F. parish (FSSP) in my diocese has a very, very small but highly committed parish community, and some people do drive long distances to attend Mass there. But every novus ordo Sunday Mass in the diocese has more people in the pews than the total number of people who attend the two E.F. Masses at the FSSP parish.

    I’m with those who hold that reverently and authentically celebrated novus ordo Masses, imbued with the spirit of the extraordinary form (not the “spirit” of Vatican II), would have more beneficial impact than an exclusive return to the E.F. One big problem for accomplishing that is that there aren’t enough priests, lay parish liturgy directors nor lay parish liturgical musicians who are imbued with the spirit of the E.F.; indeed, very few are even remotely familiar with it or knowledgeable about it. Quite a large number aren’t even that knowledgeable about the Church’s liturgical theology or Tradition; they’ve just taken a class or two to get diocesan “certification”, if that, but they believe their parish positions give them automatic expertise in preparing liturgy and choosing music. Not having sufficient theological grounding, they fall back on what they are familiar with or what they see happening at other parishes or what the music publisher recommends. Thus the novus ordo Mass ends up being a sort of mildly Christian, heavily secularized religiously themed jamboree instead of an authentic and holy celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

    To return to my original point about small numbers of teens and young adults attending Mass, I believe they are rejecting the shallow religious jamboree model of the novus ordo Mass, and understandably so because that doesn’t offer a substantial and mysterious sacramental encounter with God. It’s bad entertainment whereas what has to be offered is something that is unmistakably a sacramental encounter between heaven and earth.

  6. Ave Maria says:

    Meanwhile the young ladies I know are entering Orders where the sisters are faithful to their charism and wear habits and, in particular, are searching out the traditional ones who are able to have the TLM such as the Carmelites in several places. One young friend is entering a traditional Carmel at the end of November. It takes some searching to find the faithful Orders sometimes but it is a disaster to try to enter the corrupted ones and it does not work out if one is faithful.

  7. Unwilling says:

    Nuns etc. causing more harm than good. Oh darn? Sometimes what happens they intended.

  8. e.e. says:

    The Diocese of Toledo this year began a diocese-wide prayer before Mass:
    “Heavenly Father,
    with the redeeming
    cross of Christ Jesus
    your Son,
    and the gifts of your
    Holy Spirit,
    renew and
    strengthen us,
    so that by our prayer,
    fasting, and almsgiving
    we may foster
    Holy Disciples,
    Holy Families and
    Holy Vocations, [Generic. We must boldly pray for PRIESTS.]
    so as to become
    a more Holy Diocese of
    We turn to Our Lady,
    Queen of the Most Holy
    for her intercession
    and never failing
    Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  9. Glennonite says:

    —This nutty heretic, like so many of the other weird sisters, Jesuits and their companions in prevarication, and, I’m sure, lib catholic writers for outlets like Fishwrap, stay in the Church because they have a bigger platform, not to mention their four hots and a cot.—

    That’s the money-line. Thank you boiling away the irrelevancies. This is now the lens through which we are forced to assess our ‘clergy and religious’ these days. So many traitors to the Faith these days.

  10. aquinasadmirer says:

    This prayer, except it’s “Your” rather than “Thy” (which I’d prefer), is on the inside cover of our hymnal, and is recited before every weekend mass.

    Our parish has had 2 ordinations in the past three years, and there is typically at least 1 seminarian from our parish on “that poster of fellas in the seminary” typically seen in the vestibule.

    It’s not rocket surgery!

  11. Anneliese says:

    How is this Quinn woman a) still in her order; b) still allowed to be in the Church? The pro-choice stance is bad enough, but her view on the Eucharist should be grounds for excommunication, or at least a chastisement from her superiors. St Dominic is rolling over right now.

  12. mthel says:

    In the Diocese of Belleville, IL, we were lucky this past week to have our Diocesan paper do a front page story on the cloistered Poor Clare nuns in our diocese. Great read!

  13. Mxpxlcp55 says:

    Anneliese your points are good. In regards to the part of the article that says she actually escorts woman to the abortion clinic; doesn’t that entail an automatic excommunication? Or does that only apply to the “doctor”?

  14. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    I was going to make my usual joke about the last “a” in Sinsinawa being long. But I fear there is a matter seldom discussed and too important for a digression into mere tomfoolery.

    These apostate – essentially – religious have lost the virtues of Religion and Piety. They don’t seem to believe in the personified, transcendent God or Israel, nor in His Son and His Incarnation, nor in His sending His Holy Spirit to guide a Church that is the unique and Supernatural means to eternal salvation. Having lost those virtues, they will have lost the the moral compass that would make them feel that they owe anyone anything, not fidelity, not preservation from scandal, not obedience, and not anything else. So when they are all getting ready to shut down and have no new brothers and sisters from whom to draw support, they will have not the slightest compunction about commandeering the wealth and property they have inherited from the faithful of the past commended to them for the sake of the faithful of the future, and they will sell it for their own grubby gain. It will be – is perhaps even now – one of the greatest mass thefts of all time and on par with the Protestant deformation. Watch.

  15. ChesterFrank says:

    It isn’t just those religious orders that are greying and shrinking: I see a mirror image of that in the pews. There are no grade school, or high school, or college people in attendance. Young working people are absent to. The parishioners were young in the sixties and the seventies. For those religious orders, they have too be relevant to the times that they live in. For some that might be the traditional orders and traditional habits, for others it might be something the Church has not seen yet. It does seem obvious that the 1970s style religious order is dated and without much future.

  16. Sword40 says:

    Last Sunday, after the 10:30am Sung High Mass, we were having coffee in the parish hall. My wife and I are among the elderly. I was looking around and became aware that we were in the distinct minority. Almost all were young parents with anywhere from 3 to 10 children each. God has blessed us with this vibrant FSSP parish and two priests. The 8:00am low Mass has fewer children attending but a distinctly higher percentage of gray haired folks. Can’t figure that out. I truly love the High Mass. And, yes, we have a seminarian that is due for ordination this coming spring.

    [Tradition belongs to the young. But, in contrast to the libs, they don’t want to “retire” you early.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  17. Robert of Rome says:

    It was good to see the reference to your ‘legendary post’, NUNS GOND WILD. Oh the memories!!

    [Lest people forget about the impact that women religious have.]

  18. Absit invidia says:

    These nuns shirking the traditional teaching of the Church and all of the sacred Traditions are like the teenager who shirks the parent as being “out of touch” … “simpleton” … “not with-it” … etc. only to discover 20 years later how right their parents really were. These nuns are applying this same teenage pride to the Church.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    Sawyer wrote:

    “The Church is facing a massive demographic collapse within 20-30 years; I mean Church attendance falling off a cliff from its already abysmal numbers. Unfortunately, Barron’s column doesn’t provide any answers.”

    Part of the problem is the radical autonomy being fostered among the young by social institutions such as secular schools, the media, etc., all undergirded by a false humanistic theory of psychology. There are, in fact, many young people who are preparing for the priesthood – the secular priesthoods of psychology, sociology, and the hard sciences. For every Dominus vobiscum that a young person is likely to hear, they will hear ten Doppler Shifted Ogg Vorbis in its place. They think that if they can pass a psych evaluation they will inherit eternal life.

    More than because of the creeping social Marxism that has been put forth by the radical Left, the Magisterium of this new priesthood has been developed, to call a spade a spade, because of the Catholic Church’s desire, since WWII in particular, to share in the development of truth with science (of course, this goes back much earlier, as it is the foundation of Modernism, but this idea of mutualism between science and religion was a Protestant stance, only, being resisted by the Church until La Nouvelle Theologie took off at Vatican II).

    Science, however, is not the search for truth, per se, as science can never render anything but a tentative speculation about truth. Science is an exclusionary pursuit, eliminating what is not true, but never does it know, definitively, that it stands on truth. It is like throwing darts at a dartboard hoping that if you have eliminated enough of it, pace Sherlock Holmes, whatever remains must be the center – but Holmes never mentioned that, in many cases, you have no idea how big the dartboard is. In fact, science is a blind man playing darts. He can tell where the center is not, but he needs a sighted man to tell him if he has hit the bullseye.

    The Catholic Church is the sighted man. Unfortunately, it tried to mindmeld with blind science in, “The New Theology,” and the result is a type of murkiness that has led to the absurdities of thinking that cohabitation, for example, so denounced since forever by God-fearing men, is a loving response between a man and a woman. Why? Because the priests of psychology have declared it so. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a church that tells you that your opinion is just as valid (i. e., true) as anyone else’s and will never, ever, tell you that a dumb idea is a dumb idea?

    The Church will no longer claim its status as the investigator of the Divine Law, putting science in its place in the lower tier as the investigator of the Natural Law. It has lowered itself to exalt science. The result is that man, whose intellect proceeds upwards from the base to the sublime, has, especially among the young, mistaken the lights of science for the lights of Eternity because of the murkiness with which the Church expresses its accumulated wisdom of Divine things, these days.

    Why do some young join tradition-minded religious Orders? It is, mostly, because these Orders keep a sharp picture of the correct order of truth: Divine, Natural, Positive. Restoring this sharp picture, in the end, is all the Church needs to do to stop the hemorrhage of young people. It will not do this because it knows that to do so means to stand in judgment of progress, of science, in such a way as to demand that its members condemn progress where it is evil, no matter the cost. Because the Church appears to no longer be serious about this, fewer and fewer people take it seriously. Excommunicate politicians who support abortion or homosexual activists: this, the Church will no longer do. Who, really, takes seriously a man with a loaded gun that never defends himself?

    No longer do we have a St. Leo the Great riding off to meet Attila the Hun to convince him to leave Rome alone; today, we have a Church that invites the barbarians into the city and cooks them lunch. The saints of steel have been replaced with the servants of Kleenex. [!]

    Until the bright lines of truth have been restored, the Church will never re-claim its right as a lamp shining in the darkness. At the moment, it is a headlight smeared over with mud. I suppose that is a fitting definition of the Novus Ordo Mass – you can still see that there is a light shining forth from it, but it is smeared over by the mud of relavency. The EF Mass, being originally conceived when the hierarchy of truth was more strongly maintained, raises the mind and heart above the science of nature to contemplate the science of God. If quantum theory is mysterious, how much more mysterious must be the Mind of the One who created it? People love a good mystery. That is exactly what the Novus Ordo Mass isn’t. Mystery can be frightening and everything in the Novus Ordo Mass looks like it was created by a psychologist worried about going to jail for frightening its patient. When did the Mass morph into a form of child abuse, eh?

    When will vocations skyrocket? When mystery returns to the Church; when the Church returns to being the detective of the Divine; when the mere thought of excommunication makes a person go weak in the knees. Here is a true story (unfortunately, probably improperly remembered by me). In the city in which I currently live, in the 1920’s, if memory serves, the fire department decided that the Cathedral was a fire hazard and set off to lock the doors until renovations could be made. They were in the process of locking the doors and putting wood across them when the bishop heard about it. He was not pleased. He walked into the back of the Church and saw what was happening. In a loud voice he proclaimed, “If the doors to the Church are not opened in five minutes, I will begin the solemn declaration of excommunication for anyone involved.” The fireman, being mostly Irish, had the doors opened immediately.

    If you want vocations to soar. Give us bishops like that!

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  20. Cafea Fruor says:

    In addition to praying for vocations, I think we also very much need to pray for the conversion of these scandalous religious, A) because they’re in serious spiritual danger and B) because we shouldn’t really don’t want these them to die out–we should want them to give up their shenanigans, come back to the Faith, and live their religious life as it was meant to be. Imagine the good that could come from the conversion of someone like Sr. Donna Quinn. I fear most of us are just assuming these religious are totally lost already, but let’s pray to bring them back!

  21. Aquinas Gal says:

    Even in the liberal convents, people like Donna Quinn are not typical–how many other sisters are actually escorting women into abortion clinics? She is an extreme example and should be booted out of the religious life. But there are a lot of sisters in those communities who are still believing Catholics, who pray, do Eucharistic adoration and their mission. I’ve met many of them.

    In 1965 there were 180,000 sisters in the USA. Now it’s somewhere around 40,000–a tremendous decline. But you know what? There’s no way the few traditionalist communities out there are ever going to get numbers like there were before. We’ll be waiting a long time before there are 180,000 sisters in the USA again. Look at the root problem here: the decline of Catholic families. When they have only 1 or 2 children, they don’t want their daughters going into the religious life. The real root problem is contraception and even abortion. It’s no secret abortion rates among Catholics are not that much different from other groups.
    So before condemning all the nuns, you’ve got to also remember that most of the Catholic laity have not been living their faith either.

  22. hwriggles4 says:

    For those who do not regularly see Catholic Young Adults in the pews:

    First, I define young adult as 22 to 35, single, or married, with many single young adults looking forward to a happy marriage in accordance with the Church and her teachings.

    Second, many of the young adults as defined above are going to Mass, but not necessarily at the Parish up the street. The reason for this is because young adults are looking for fellowship with other young adults, and from experience I can attest that young adult Catholics serious about their faith oftentimes have to seek out a group, which may not always be at a nearby parish.

    Third, these young adults are seeking a balance between spiritual and social. Some of these groups have time for Holy Hour, Scripture Study, Book Club, Mass and dinner, as well as things like softball, movie night, or even a dance. Several good Holy Catholic marriages have come from groups like this too. However, dating and cultivating friendships with the opposite sex should not be 95% of the young adult focus, but happen over a period of time as friendship develops. I have several friends who met through groups like this, and the faith, the balance, are helpful. Believe me, a guy who shows up at an event and is 100 percent focused on finding a girlfriend will often be ostracized after a few visits to a group like this.

    Fourth, take a little time to reach out to a young adult at your parish. Make him or her feel welcome, and if you know of a good Catholic Young Adult group in your area, please refer them to one.

  23. un-ionized says:

    Putting the SIN in Sinsinawa!

    [Which could go on a button at a rally.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  24. dallenl says:

    The good nuns who were with me during 12 years of Catholic school are greatly missed. This crew pictured here (no habits noticed), not so much. The Church is the poorer for it. A note to The Masked Chicken: Radical autonomy and creeping Marxism are antithetical to each other. A reading of Karl Marx juxtaposed with Ayn Rand will clarify that.

  25. Augustin56 says:

    True vocations are always a function of a faithful community. I have noticed that those dioceses that are most obedient and faithful to the teaching of the Church have, by far, the most vocations. Those that are not, have very few vocations. It’s not rocket science.

    With regard to the nuns, one cannot have one foot in the world and one foot in the religious world. It’s either one or the other. We cannot follow and be faithful to both Christ and the world. These wayward nuns have chosen to follow the world rather than Christ. May God have mercy on their souls!

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