rise in drop
out rate for UK novices
by Cristina Odone THE drop-out rate among novices after their first two years is 48% among men and 36% among women, a survey found this week.
Loneliness and the difficulties of dealing with institutional life were listed as the major reasons for the high percentage of failed vocations reported in the survey. The findings were revealed to the more than 200 superiors of religious orders in England and Wales who met this week at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
The figures were based on 691 men and women who entered religious orders over the past 12 years.
An eight-member commission presented the findings at this week's annual Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS). As representatives of more than 8,000 religious met to discuss the challenges facing their orders today, they were presented by Sr Mary Barrow, Superior of the Society of the Sacred Heart, with what Fr Richard Copsey, CMRS Press Officer. called the "alarming figures".
Sr Mary Barrow, who led the commission that drew up the survey, told the Catholic Herald that the importance of the findings lay "not so much in the figures. but in what the novices pointed to as the reasons for their leaving after their first profession." The first profession follows the first. "temporary" vows, which are taken after the first two years of
"When we studied the results of this survey, " Sr Mary said. "we felt we had two pressing questions: were these novices let through the net too easily? Did we not support them enough?" Sr Mary pointed out that the greatest difficulties were experienced by the younger, under-40, novices: "Institutional Life can be very hard on the young, who suffer loneliness more."
Asked if the survey's findings were significantly different from those of previous reports, Sr Mary said: "These are age-old problems: the difference is that they should not be coming up at this stage."
The survey. Sr Mary said, was "welcomed" by the conference. whose members proposed to meet and discuss steps to counter the trend in the novitiate drop-out rate. "We learned that we must reach out more to others." said Sr Mary.
The conference, whose theme was "Speaking of God to People Today". also covered issues such as how young people view religious orders. controversial New Age Spirituality and the role of the religious in modern society.
Also discussed were projects funded by the superiors, such as the Care and Housing for Elderly Religious Project (CHERP).
The week-long conference paved the way for the Bishops' Conference April meeting, which will also focus on the theme of religious life.