4.27.2008

online vocation exploration

While I was eating my cereal and drinking a nice hot cup of coffee this Sunday morning, I ran across this article in the Sunday Star-Ledger:
Using the web to scale cloistered walls
Sunday, April 27, 2008
By Sarah H. Lynch
For the Star Ledger

The day Lauren Franko was inspired to become a nun, she did what many people her age would do: She logged on to the internet in search of answers. ...

The cloistered lifestyle may seem incompatible with the internet. Unlike "active" communities of nuns and friars, who devote themselves to community service and are often seen in public, cloistered nuns and monks rarely leave the monastery. Typically, they also limit their usage of mass media so that the outside world does not distract them from a life of silence and perpetual prayer.

But now, more cloistered communities are launching websites as a way to increase their visibility and assist young men and women who are exploring religious life. And while there are no statistics to suggest that the internet is bolstering interest in the life, many cloistered monasteries that have embraced the technology say they are starting to receive more inquiries about their lifestyle through the internet and, in some cases, experiencing newfound growth. ...

The Dominican Monastery of our Lady of the Rosary got its introduction to the online world about eight years ago, when the sisters invited two aspiring priests to give a talk about the pros and cons of the internet. Despite some initial concerns, the women took a vote and decided it could be used in a positive way to educate interested women about their life, recalled Sister Judith Miryam and Sister Mary Catharine, two of the more internet-savvy nuns.

In 2004, the two women decided to launch a blog to engage people and take them inside the monastery walls. The blog is written from the cloistered community's perspective and it talks about everything from the handmade soap they sell to the problem with rabbits eating their garden.

"This is how these young women communicate, and this is how they want to be communicated to," said Sister Judith Miryam, who maintains the website and believes the blog has helped spur the interest of six new women there, all of whom found the monastery on the internet. ...

It's hard to say if the internet is helping to bolster growth in cloistered communities. But the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Georgetown University, is planning to launch a survey that will look at recent membership patterns in active and cloistered communities. The survey also will include questions about the internet's role in vocations, said Sister Mary Bendyna, the center's executive director.

The whole article is worth a read. It makes a similar point to an article I highlighted here in February about the Marist brothers online vocation efforts.

It is a different world, but not that different. A number of our elder Sisters met our community through a little magazine our community published to raise funds for our ministries. It shared the stories of the Sisters, told about their ministries, and including a vocation pull-out form in the back. (Sounds an awful lot like a website in printed form, doesn't it)? I've been told that a number of young women who never knew our Sisters entered via this route. Remembering this reminded me of a story I told on this blog more than 3 years ago about one of our Sisters who entered in 1922 answering a vocation advertisement in a Catholic magazine.

The difference of course is that young people exploring vocations today have the world at their fingertips. They might find a community next door or across the world. And even though the article highlights cloistered and contemplative communities, young women and men are also finding active religious communities online! We're also contemplative by the way, we just live out our contemplation in an active way - but that's for another post.

Like the young woman at the beginning of the Star-Ledger story, the day I decided I might possibly want to become a Sister someday, I logged onto the internet in search of answers. In fact, I met my own community through the internet! I am so very grateful that the community had a website and that whoever it was invented the internet, because who knows how I ever would have found the place where my heart is so filled and content without that.

3 comments:

Sr Eleanor said...

With exactly this kind of thinking in mind - that the internet is the first place that enquirers today go to seek information about vocations - I've just this week begun a blog-type site to supplement our main website. It will be dedicated to things that I hope will be of use or at least interest to anyone thinking about monastic life.
It's only just begun, but there's plenty more to come.
Check it out at http://cistercianvocation.wordpress.com
Blessings!
Sr Eleanor ocso (vocations director, Glencairn, Ireland)

ulrich said...

That is why we have an interdenominational list at Yahoo of 400 members on monastic subjects, spirituality, contemplation, Christian mysticism since 2000 at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/monasterion

John (hermit monk)

Anonymous said...

good share, great article, very usefull for us...thanks!