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Rise in number of women becoming nuns
RELIGIOUS orders in North Yorkshire say they have noticed a increase in women seriously considering or deciding to become nuns.
Nationally, 40 women are training to become nuns this year – a steep increase on the 24 training in 2011, according to the Conference of Religious, which represents the majority of religious communities in England and Wales.
The increase in numbers has been reflected in York's Bar Convent in Blossom Street, which currently has one novice and may be home to three women who are currently expressing serious interest in joining the order.
The Carmelites in Thicket Priory in Thorganby, which currently has ten sisters aged between 35 and 92, said they have noticed an “encouraging” number of inquiries, with two women expressing very serious interest in joining them.
Sister Gemma Simmonds of the Congregation of Jesus, which is based at the Bar Convent and is currently home to 18 nuns, said she believes the increase is partly due to the secularisation of society and the recession.
She said: “Because Britain has become hostile to faith, for some people that has strengthened their sense that their faith really matters. I think that has sharpened people’s awareness of their own faith commitment.
“The recession makes people question, ‘what is really important in my life?’ For some, when they start asking those sort of questions they find that what really matters is God. We are consciously trying to live a life that is not about consumerism – that is appealing to people when they see what a waste of time it is.”
She said the current novice at the convent was in her fifties but recent candidates had been younger women in their twenties and thirties.
Sister Ann, of the Carmelites in Thorganby, said she had also noticed an increase in women seeking a greater meaning in their lives.
She said: “I think inquiries are coming from women who are slightly older. I think generally maybe the recession has something to do with it generally, but I don’t think it’s so in these cases. It has come at the end of a search as to what their own life means to them.”
Meanwhile, Ampleforth Abbey, which has more than 70 monks, has not noticed a change in interest but hopes for a rise in applications.
Liam Kelly, spokesman for the Abbey, said: “There is an increasing search and thirst for God. The search for the spiritual has not yet translated itself into numbers, but it’s certainly there.”