The question about the habit being the answer to vocations recruitment comes up every now and again on the blog in various forms. It’s an interesting question that is way more complex than a simple “yes” or “no” can account for. Here is one of those questions that came in from Hilary:
Nuns are practically invisible nowadays, even in my very Catholic area, which is probably part of the reason why more women are not becoming nuns and even do not realize that that is an option. Perhaps if more orders wore some sort of habit – not necessarily the full, traditional habit – to distinguish them, to make them visible to the public, more young people would answer a call to vocation?
A couple different ways to look at this … one would be to look at the visibility issue by looking at priests, for example, who are clearly dressed as priests during liturgical events and often in other settings. One might say they are clearly visible yet why are U.S. seminaries not overflowing?
Another way to look at this is to consider the Internet. In this day and age, it is possible to get bounds of information about any subject (provided one has access to the Internet). One can easily, “visibly” find any number of Catholic sisters, nuns, brothers, priests, monks, friars, deacons, hermits, consecrated virgins, etc. There is more information accessible to a larger number of people than ever. Yet seminaries and houses of formation are not overflowing — of course that begs the question, do they need to be? Is quantity what we are aiming for here?
What do you think? Is the habit the answer to vocations recruitment? Are there other other ways that the issue of “visibility” could be addressed?