Religious Sisters Empower Women to Discern Their Call Amid Nun Shortage in the United States

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Queens, NY

Sister Shirlee Tremont remembers a time when there was a lot of mystery surrounding the life of a nun. At St. Bernadette Catholic Academy in Dyker Heights, she works every day to break down those walls. Not being visible and approachable to students and young Catholics is one of the reasons she says the numbers of nuns in the United States are dropping.

“I don’t know that young people today see enough religious to know what religious life is all about and there are probably some misconceptions and our kids get a little better picture of who we are and what we do and how we live, come and see come spend time with us,” she said.

In 2022, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported there were less than 42,000 nuns in America, which is a 76 percent decline over 50 years. It’s estimated that there will be less than 1,000 nuns left in the United States by 2042.

“I don’t believe God has stopped calling women to religious life or men to the priesthood, I just think we’re so busy, society is so loud, we’re so rushed we don’t have time to listen,” said Sr. Shirlee.

When Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo took her vows it was, in part the chance to become a professional – something not a lot of women had.

“I mean, it wasn’t I could be president, I could be a lawyer I could be a financial advisor, because those those fields weren’t open to women in the in the long run, religious life was was a good option, especially because it gave you a foot in a professional field,” she said.

As the episcopal delegate for religious in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Sr. Maryann helps religious sisters, brothers and priests get the most out of consecrated life. She hopes her role can empower other young women to trust in their gifts and find where they belong.

“I think there’s something about joining a group that has an identity and stands for something and is actively doing something and that something is giving witness to the gospel in today’s church,” she said.

Both sisters say religious life will look very different in 50 years, but they have hope – knowing God calls all of us toward our own vocations every day.