With just a fifth of the number of nuns in Maine today as there were 50 years ago, the Roman Catholic church is augmenting prayer with social media in the face of declining numbers. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and more have become a way that some convents are trying to attract new members.
According to Dave Guthro, spokesman for the Diocese of Portland, there were 1,131 sisters in 1967 in the state and that number shrunk to 226 by 2015, the most recent year for which he had statistics.
“Various factors have contributed to the decreasing number of sisters,” Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and chancellor for the diocese, said. “Women have greater opportunities for education and careers than they did decades ago. It’s also become acceptable to be a single woman without being a sister.”
Much like what’s being seen in Maine, the number of women around the country entering the convent has declined steadily over the last 50 years, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA. In 1965 there were 179,954 religious sisters in the U.S. By 2016 that number dropped to just 47,170.
It’s a brave new world for the faithful
There was a time, said Sister Cynthia Serjak, spokeswoman for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, when a Catholic girl had daily interactions with nuns, either at school or through the church.
“Things are different now and that world no longer exists,” she said. “Many women grow up very Catholic but never meet a sister because there are not so many of us left, so as those girls come into adulthood they may not know sisterhood is an option.”
Serjak is based in the order’s institutional office in Silver Springs, Maryland, and works with new members. There are 61 Sisters of Mercy of the Americas living and serving in Maine. At its height, there were 365 in 1960.
“As of August we will have 26 young women becoming sisters,” Serjak said. “About…