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New Generations of Catholic SistersThe Challenge of Diversity$

Mary Johnson, Patricia Wittberg, and Mary L. Gautier

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199316847

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199316847.001.0001

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(p.143) Appendix I Research Studies Used in This Book

(p.143) Appendix I Research Studies Used in This Book

Source:
New Generations of Catholic Sisters
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

The research incorporated in these pages comes from two major national studies of women religious, conducted ten years apart. The first study, which we refer to as the 1999 study, was comprised of three separate surveys—one of the leaders of institutes of women religious, and two of select groups of sisters who had entered those institutes after 1965. For the purposes of this book, we concentrated primarily on the responses in the 1999 study from the sisters who entered their institutes during the first fifteen years captured by the survey (1965 to 1980) and stayed in religious life, to draw a clearer comparison with the respondents in the second study.

The second study, which we refer to as the 2009 study, was comprised of two separate surveys—one of the leaders of both female and male religious institutes in the United States, and one of the men and women who had entered those institutes in the fifteen years immediately prior to the survey (between 1993 and 2008). We focused exclusively on the women’s institutes in this second study: 725 institutes of women religious and 2,147 women who entered them after 1993.

Both studies attempted to gain information from the entire identified population of sisters, not a portion (or sample) of them. Thus, measurements of statistical significance are not meaningful here. The numbers and proportions reported in this book are characteristics of the represented populations (e.g., all institutes of women religious in 1999 and 2009, all women who entered religious life between 1965 and 1980 and stayed, and all women who entered religious life between 1993 and 2008 and stayed). We describe the methodologies of the two studies below and then compare some of the characteristics of the responding institutes of women religious at these two points in time.

(p.144) 1999 Study Methodology

The principal investigator for the 1999 study was Sister Mary Johnson, with funding from a grant from the Lilly Endowment. The study comprised three related surveys: one survey of the leaders of 818 religious institutes of women in the United States, one survey of 4,381 women who had entered those institutes after 1965 and remained in religious life, and a final survey of 2,082 women who had entered those institutes after 1965 but subsequently left religious life.

Institute Survey

The questionnaire for religious institutes was a single informant survey of 56 items, which asked about the characteristics of the religious institute (e.g., province, region, congregation, monastery), as well as the characteristics of members of the institute. The questionnaire also asked each institute for the names of all women who had entered the institute since January 1, 1966, those who were still members, as well as those who had left the institute. Two additional questionnaires were developed for distribution to these women. The “Stayers” questionnaire consisted of 178 items, and the “Leavers” questionnaire included 115 items.

To locate and identify the institutes of women religious in the United States, the researchers consulted the 1996 edition of The Official Catholic Directory (OCD). That volume listed 818 valid institutes of women religious in the United States. The institute survey was fielded in November 1997 and the surveys of “Stayers” and “Leavers” were fielded as the names came in from the institute surveys. Data collection concluded for this study in June 1998, and data analysis began at that point.

A total of 468 completed institute surveys were received. Out of the 818 original surveys that were mailed, nine were returned by the postal service as undeliverable, one institute left the United States and was no longer eligible for the survey, and twenty-six institutes had merged with another institute at the time of the survey, resulting in 782 eligible institutes. Another thirty institutes refused to participate in the study. Thus, the total response rate for the institute survey was 60 percent (468/782).

Responding institutes reported 69,953 total sisters, which corresponds to approximately 80 percent of the 87,443 sisters reported by the OCD in 1999.

“Stayers” Survey

A total of 285 institutes (61 percent of all responding institutes) sent back the names and addresses of sisters who entered the institute after 1965 and remained (the “Stayers”). A total of 101 institutes (22 percent of all responding institutes) sent back the names and addresses of sisters who had entered the institute after 1965 and had since left (the “Leavers”). Three institutes reported (p.145) that they had no sisters enter since 1966, and eleven reported that they had no sisters who entered since 1966 who remained. Finally, thirty-four institutes reported that they had no sisters who entered since 1966 who had left.

In January 1999, some 4,381 surveys were mailed to sisters who entered their institutes after 1965 and remained. This was the total number of names and addresses provided by the institutes. Out of this total, 406 had been misidentified by their institutes and had actually entered in 1965 or earlier. Another sixty-eight were returned by the postal service as undeliverable, nine were too ill or infirm to complete the survey, twenty-eight refused, seven were deceased, twenty-eight were in the process of leaving their institutes, and nine were out of the country. Subtracting the unusable responses from the total resulted in a total population of 3,863 “Stayers.”

After multiple follow-ups by postcard and letter, a total of 2,740 completed surveys were returned by this group, resulting in a response rate for the “Stayers” survey of 71 percent (2,740/3,863). The data collection for the “Stayers” survey was completed in May 1999.

2009 Study Methodology

The principal investigators for the 2009 study were Sister Mary Bendyna and Dr. Mary Gautier of CARA. This study was commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) and funded by grants obtained by NRVC for the project. The questionnaire for religious institutes was a single informant survey of 145 items, which asked about the characteristics of the religious institute (e.g., province, region, congregation, monastery), as well as the characteristics of members of the institute. The questionnaire also asked each institute for the names of all those currently in initial formation (candidates/postulants, novices, and those in temporary vows/commitment), as well as those who professed final/perpetual vows/commitment in the institute since 1993. An additional questionnaire of 190 items was developed for distribution to these “new members.”

Institute Survey

Researchers used mailing lists provided by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) to obtain contact information for 718 institutes of men and women religious (251 units of men religious and 467 units of women religious). CARA also sent the institute questionnaire to superiors of monasteries of contemplative nuns (who do not belong to either LCWR or CMSWR), as well as to superiors of new or emerging communities of consecrated life using mailing lists that CARA compiled for previous research. The institute survey was fielded in April 2008 to a total of 976 entities, with extensive follow-up through (p.146) the summer and fall. At the end of data collection for the institute survey in September 2008, CARA received completed responses from 591 religious institutes, for an overall response rate of 60 percent.

For comparability to the 1999 study, only institutes of women religious are included in this study. The 2009 study contacted 725 institutes of women religious and monasteries of contemplative nuns and received a response from 429 units. Out of the 725 original institutes contacted, seven were returned as undeliverable, and two were institutes based outside the United States and thus ineligible. An additional five were duplicates (institutes with membership in both CMSWR and LCWR), and one had merged at the time of the survey, resulting in 710 eligible institutes of women. Thus, the total response rate for the institute survey was 60 percent (429/710).

The responding institutes of women religious account for 47,114 women religious, or 80 percent of all women religious in the United States, as reported by the OCD for 2009. Many of the institutes or other entities that did not respond appear to be either small, mostly contemplative, communities that may not have had anyone in initial formation for some time, or those that are still in the process of becoming institutes of consecrated life.

“New Members” Survey

The second phase of the 2009 study consisted of a survey of “new members,” that is, current candidates/postulants, novices, and those in temporary vows or commitment, as well as those who had professed final vows or commitment since 1993. The questionnaires were mailed in fall 2008 and winter 2009 to 3,965 new members (including 2,244 women “new members”) who had been identified by their religious institutes. However, some surveys were returned as undeliverable, some responses were from transfers from another religious institute rather than new members as defined by the study, and some respondents were formed and based outside the United States and thus beyond the parameters of the study. When these were removed from the sample, CARA received a total of 985 usable responses from women religious “new members” for a response rate of 45 percent among women religious.