By Sister Clare O’Handley
What does religious life mean today? What does the future hold for religious life? These are important questions, especially for younger members of religious congregations. Currently, there is a network of ‘younger religious’, living in different areas of the UK, who meet together from time to time. Most recently, a group met during May for an afternoon together in London.
What does ‘younger religious’ mean here?: this network comprises those in religious life in temporary or final vows who are predominantly in their 30’s and 40’s. These informal meetings occur 2-3 times per year and serve primarily as a way of socialising together. That being said, conversations often turn to sharing lived experiences of religious life and reflecting upon its future. Topics of discussion have included the dynamics of living in intercultural and/or intergenerational communities (often with wide age-gaps), and how to use digital culture and social media in a fruitful and life-giving manner. Regardless of the topic, our reflections centre on how we live a certain reality within our current context of community, Church and world. This leads to identifying areas where we feel change is needed in order that we continue to be witnesses to what we desire to live. For example, given the areas of ministry that are seen as a priority, many of us see the need to find new ways to collaborate with others, be that other religious, lay people, those of other faith traditions or no faith tradition.
Given the change in size of our congregations over the past decades, we also perceive a need to explore different ways of living community on a daily basis as well as different forms of structure and governance within our congregations.
Coordinating diaries is never an easy task between work, studies, community, family, retreats, and other commitments. We meet whenever even a handful of us can come together. For me, it is beneficial as a ‘young religious’ to be able to share my questions, hopes, fears, struggles and joys with others who are close to my age. It is equally important to hear what others have to share. This is particularly true in respect to the future: religious life must change and evolve if it is to remain relevant in the Church and world. Reflecting with this group provides me with insights that are multiplied by the number of people present, which is a gift.
Above all, it is simply a blessing to be able to share a meal together and to get to know each other. Between meetings, we keep in contact via Whatsapp for important events such as vows, sharing information regarding upcoming events, sending wishes for feast days and to organise future meetings. We are always happy to add a new member to our group, including someone in religious life who is in the UK for a short time of formation or ministry.
If this is useful….:
If you, or someone you know is a ‘younger religious’ (having pronounced either temporary or final vows) and would like to know more about our meetings or join our WhatsApp group, you can contact Clare O’Handley, Sister of Saint Andrew, at firstname.lastname@example.org