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Liturgical Press

God’s Call Is Everywhere

A Global Analysis of Contemporary Religious Vocations for Women

Patricia Wittberg, SC, Mary L. Gautier, Gemma Simmonds, CJ, with Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ; Foreword by Patricia Murray, IBVM

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God’s Call Is Everywhere

ISBN: 9780814669136, 6913

Details: 248 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 1/2
Publication Date: 10/02/2023
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Religious life is vitally necessary to the Catholic church today. But it will exist in new and varied forms which speak to the spiritual hungers of different societies, ethnic cultures, and generations. God’s Call Is Everywhere is the first comparative analysis of research in six countries investigating women who have entered vowed religious life in Catholicism in the twenty-first century. The data include survey responses from institute leaders, formation directors, and the women themselves, conducted in the United States, Canada, Australia, and France, along with focus groups and interviews in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France. Through a careful summary of these studies and comparing differences, readers of this book will have a better understanding of the hopes and concerns of those discerning a vocation to religious life and learn how to move forward in the future.

God’s Call Is Everywhere includes six major points of comparison:

  • Demographic characteristics of the women entering religious life and their personal and familial backgrounds
  • What attracted them to religious life and to their specific religious institute
  • What they find most satisfying and most challenging about religious life
  • Their hopes and concerns for the future
  • Experiences and programs that were helpful in their vocational discernment
  • Aspects of the larger society, of the Church, and of the religious institutes which make vocational discernment difficult for women today

The analysis is followed by six reflective essays, two of which discuss the implications of the findings for future vocational discernment programs and four of which compare the findings to religious life in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Patricia Wittberg, SC, is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago, is emeritus professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and is currently a research associate with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). She is particularly interested in generational continuity and change among Catholics. Her academic research focuses on the sociology of religion, community, and church and nonprofit organizations. She is the author of numerous books and articles on Catholicism and Catholic religious life, most recently chapters in Migration for Mission: International Catholic Sisters in the United States, (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Faith and Spiritual Life of Young Adult Catholics in a Rising Hispanic Church (Liturgical Press, 2022).

Mary L. Gautier retired in 2019 as senior research associate at CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, a position she held for twenty-one years. Mary holds an MA and PhD in sociology from Louisiana State University. Before coming to CARA, Mary taught sociology at Louisiana State University and at Texas Christian University and served as a lay pastoral associate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for six years. At CARA, Mary specialized in Catholic demographic trends in the United States, managed CARA databases, and conducted demographic projects and computer-aided mapping. She also edited The CARA Report, a quarterly research publication, and other CARA publications. She is co-author of twelve books on Catholicism in the United States, most recently Migration for Mission: International Catholic Sisters in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2019). She currently serves on the board of directors for Liturgical Press and for ASEC, the African Sisters Education Collaborative.

Gemma Simmonds, CJ, is a Sister of the Congregation of Jesus. She is a senior research fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge, UK, where she is director of the Religious Life Institute, teaching Christian spirituality and pastoral theology. An international speaker and lecturer, she is an honorary fellow of Durham University, past president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and chair of trustees of the ecumenical Community of St. Anselm based at Lambeth Palace, London. She lectured in theology at Heythrop College, University of London, specializing in spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition and has been a spiritual director and retreat giver for over thirty years. Gemma has been a missionary in Brazil, a chaplain in the Universities of Cambridge and London and a chaplaincy volunteer in Holloway Prison for twenty-five years. She is a regular broadcaster on religious matters on the BBC, Radio Maria England and other radio and television networks. Her most recent publication is Dancing at the Still Point: Retreat Practices for Busy Lives (London, SPCK Publishing, 2021).

Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, is a Sister of the Xavière Sisters, Missionaries of Jesus Christ in France. She earned her master’s degree from HEC Paris in 1992, with a major in entrepreneurship and studied theology and philosophy at the Centre Sévres of Paris and sociology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS). Before becoming a sister, she worked as a consultant in marketing and advertising. After entering, she worked in marketing for Paulist Press, was the national coordinator for a scouting program for poor urban youth, director of a university chaplaincy program, and a member of the bishop’s council of the Diocese of Nanterre, France. She played a large role in the preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment in Rome at the Vatican—as speaker, coordinator of the pre-synod, and observer at the synod. She was director of the national office for youth evangelization and vocations at the French Bishops' conference from 2012 to 2018 and was appointed a consultor to the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church in 2019. In February 2021, she was appointed by Pope Francis as Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops and in December 2021 was appointed a member of the Dicastery for Communication. Her most recent book is The Spirit Renews Everything (Paris, Salvator Press, 2020).

ISBN: 9780814669136, 6913

Details: 248 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 1/2
Publication Date: 10/02/2023


"The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) is grateful for the inclusion of two of its major studies in this new book as it noticeably recognizes the global impact of our mission. The NRVC endorses this book and its contributors as it broadens the key messages about the women and men who have entered religious life since 1993. As God continues to call, the NRVC research in this book amplifies the response of newer entrants who have abundant hope amid changing demographics."
Deborah M. Borneman, SSCM, National Religious Vocation Conference Director of Mission Integration

"God’s call is indeed everywhere, and we can learn from how it is manifested in the lives of young women all over the world! This book offers a big picture understanding of women’s religious life through the qualitative study of the words of its newest and youngest members. The true benefit of this book is the insights gained from considering a global experience of the gifts and challenges of religious life today as experienced by its newest members. Knowledge of global perspectives offers opportunities to consider how religious life as we know it is consistent with the rest of the world. Understanding challenges faced elsewhere helps us grapple with our own complex local contexts as we seek to share the gifts of religious life with the next generations."
Sarah Kohles, OSF, editor of In Our Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World

"This book is a hopeful and realistic window into religious life today. The authors provide clarity around the needs and desires of recent entrants to religious life in several countries. Religious institutions can find hope for the future alongside challenges for paving the way for that future, all based on solid data. The needs of those who are just starting their journey of religious life are clear: prayer life at the center, some adaptation to more mature entrants, preparation of formation directors, and solid community life. In addition to the statistical and qualitative information provided here, clear suggestions for improving the lives of young religious were laid out. Instead of the typical focus on diminishment and aging of women religious, this book gives a hopeful outlook by focusing on what is present and the joy and hope held by those who are still hearing God’s call. It should be required reading for all who are involved in the administration of women’s religious institutes and the formation of newer religious."
Juliet Mousseau, author of Prophetic Witnesses to Joy

“The book serves as an enlightening guide that sheds light on the beauty and significance of the consecrated life. The wisdom, knowledge, and personal experiences shared within its pages have the power to inspire, educate, and transform the hearts and minds of many religious. What sets the book apart is the authentic and genuine voice that emanates from its pages. Furthermore, the book's structure and organization are commendable. Each chapter, thoughtfully crafted and filled with spiritual wisdom, guides the reader through the various aspects of the consecrated life. It is evident in the book that the collective effort of our sisters has been fueled by a sincere desire to help others discern and embrace the call to consecrated life.”
Metti Amirtham, SCC

"God’s Call Is Everywhere should be recommended reading for anyone involved in vocational ministry. It truly is a snapshot of the current generation of young women who are discerning and developing their response to the call of God. While there is a decrease in women choosing religious life, this book clearly indicates that God is still calling. However it is a noisy world with many distractions and it can be hard to find suitable people to ‘walk together’ on the path of discernment."
Gerard Gallagher, Communications and Membership Services, Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland