The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a survey to be released shortly that shows the numbers of religious (monks, nuns, brothers and sisters) in Australia has halved since 1976, from 17, 029 to 8422.
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.
In 1976, around half of religious worked in education; now only 12% do.
The raw numbers do, I suspect, conceal some different trends.
Some monasteries and Orders, such as the Josephites, Good Samaritans, Arcadia and New Norcia seem pretty much doomed unless somethng changes drastically. Others are doing better.
Signs of life?
In recent years the Dominicans have managed to find a few excellent recruits who have even managed to stay the distance despite their more liberal elder brethren (though you could still have knocked me over with a feather when I saw an ad for an upcoming chant workshop in Melbourne run by them, particularly when I saw that one of the presenters is my parish priest. I'm looking forward now to seeing his expertise bring to an end the 1970s pseudo-hymns normally served up at Dickson (and Watson), and the use of even one piece of actual Gregorian chant regularly at a Mass in the parish!
The conservative Tyburn sisters continue to grow and expand around the world, having recently added a second monastery in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, Australia has no traditionalist monastery, and only a handful of Australians are in overseas traditionally oriented monasteries. And it is in the new traditional communities that the revival of monasticism is really happening around the world...