Maryland nuns embrace social media to help connect

BALTIMORE - Do you know your calling? Your passion? Your vocation?

To a few hundred young women every year, a calling is a literal journey into a life of service and a devotion to the Catholic faith.

It’s a devotion that is fading for many women younger than 30.

“But it’s still something I’m asked about,” says Sister Hilda Marie Sutherland, a nun with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. “I tell young women that before making that decision, thing hard about what you are looking for.”

Sister “Hildie” became a nun at 17. For most of her adult life, she has been a loved figured at Institute of Notre Dame, an all-girls high school in Baltimore.

Over the years, she has answered questions from students curious about becoming nuns themselves.

While Hildie embraced the sisterhood as her calling. It was something she thought about for a long time.

Across the state, many religious organizations are working to revamp their vocation practices to encourage more women to follow their passion of devotion to the Catholic Church.

Since 1998, the number of nuns in Maryland has decreased from around 1,300 in to just less than 900 in 2014 according to published media reports.

Research compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2014  wrote that  32 percent of nuns today are 72 years old or older. Only 1 percent of nuns are under 40.

Sister Julie Vieira, who co-founded the website A Nun’s Life Ministry said historically, religious orders were typically smaller communities.                       

“We are seeing a return to that, women (and men’s orders as well) coming together to pray with one another, live in community, and serve those in need," she said.

Social media has helped many people express their interested in faith. Questions have run on every topic from how to become a nun to what is under the veil.

“Now we are connecting with people across spiritual traditions and throughout the world. We help people engage with sisters and experience who we are and what it means to be a nun.”

Social media has helped many people express their interested in faith. Questions have run on every topic from how to become a nun to what is under the veil. 

Angela Conti, 27, of Glen Burnie, dreamed of becoming a nun. Her only setback was college debt.

She set up a gofundme page to help pay down her school loans. From there, she hopes to become a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville.

The Glen Burnie High School alumna started working at Little Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville and started feeling a pattern of joy when she was with the sisters and residents.

RELATED: Woman must pay off debt to become Little Sister of the Poor

"Little Sisters, you don't make an income, you take a vow of poverty so because of that I cannot enter with debt," Angela said.

Eileen C. Burke-Sullivan, provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. said many women today are looking for a place that provides a sense of community and friendship.

“Those connections are imperative especially for millennials,” she said.

She added that a loss of visibility among many orders who no longer wear traditional habits also has made a difference.                                                

“I’m not saying that getting rid of habits was bad; there are reasons to change that,” she said. “But one consequence of that is a loss of presence.”

With her website, Viviera said she has been able to bring a presence to those curious about living a nun’s life.

The site has also grown into a roadshow. On Wednesday, Viviera will be in Silver Spring with the Sisters of Mercy as part of the Motherhouse Roadshow.

As part of the mission, the show will work with different religious groups to help connect them to social media.

A podcast can be found here.

“The roadshow is just that; a way to come together and educate,” she said.

Print this article Back to Top