CATH NEWS REPORT: The number of religious in Australia's Catholic orders has shrunk by more than half since 1976, according to a census of nuns, brothers and clerical priests, and the tradition of entering holy orders has almost entirely died out, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The newspaper reports from a survey that was carried out in 2009, to be launched publicly today. It found there were 8422 religious personnel in Australia compared with 17,029 at the last census in 1976.
These numbers include retired ''religious'', as nuns, brothers and priests attached to an order are known. The median age is 73, and only 8.2 per cent are aged under 50, whereas 26.6 per cent are aged 80 or more.
''The age profiles of the religious ... indicate that numbers will continue to decline steadily for the foreseeable future,'' the report says.
Its co-author, Father Noel Connolly, said that although the religious were ageing, they were more motivated than ever. ''There is a great deal of energy in these people even though they might be fewer and older,'' he said. ''I think on the whole they are more hopeful.
''There are no cowards in this game any more because we haven't always had a lot of success. If you keep going when there are all these problems, that's a fairly mature and tested hope.''
Despite what many would see as an existential crisis, radical reform is not on the agenda for most orders. When asked what effects ageing and the thinning of their ranks were having on plans for the future, 40 congregations out of 109 said they were ''not contemplating change''. http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=24181