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Vocations to religious life have tripled within just eight years

Missionaries of Charity at Westminster Cathedral (Photo: Mazur/

Vocations to religious life in England and Wales have tripled in just eight years, revised figures show.

Last year 64 people joined a religious congregation, compared to just 19 in 2004. The number is at its highest level since 1995.

The figures, from the National Office for Vocation, were revised this month to include data from enclosed female orders. They show a big jump among entrants to orders of priests, from 19 in 2011 to 30 last year.

Sister Cathy Jones, religious life promoter at the National Office for Vocation, said the surge had been evident “across the whole range” of religious congregations, from Dominicans to Franciscans to Salvatorians.

She said some communities had new members joining after a gap of 10 years or more.

The Society of the Sacred Heart, for instance, had three novices last year after 15 years without any vocations.

Sister Cathy said one reason for the surge was that there were now “more processes to help people on their [vocations] journey”.

She cited discernment events such as the Invocation festival, organised by diocesan vocations directors, and Compass, a residential programme over several weekends at Worth Abbey. Some communities also organise “come and see” weekends where interested people can stay and find out more about religious life.

She said once a few enter religious life then others of a similar age tend to think: “If he can do it, why can’t I?” Now, she says: “I would guess that at least half of the very committed young Catholics consider [religious life] seriously at one point or another.”