vocations

Underground ghosts? Dallas Morning News goes inside convent, but buries good stuff

Underground ghosts? Dallas Morning News goes inside convent, but buries good stuff

After a year packed with news articles on religious orders, a Dallas Morning News feature on a convent in Texas stands out.

This piece is smart, insightful and multi-sourced. Unfortunately, the best stuff is buried five or more paragraphs deep. Here's how it starts:

There were once no vacancies at the Jesus the Good Shepherd Convent in Grand Prairie. Now there are plenty of open rooms.
In decades past, the convent, a sprawling complex on a large plot of land just off the Bush Turnpike, housed around 40 members from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Fifteen women from the order live there now, with four of them ministering to the outside community.

Where have we read that before?

Pretty much everywhere. And that's a pity, because the 800-word Dallas story has much to offer.

It quotes six sources -- including a 51-year veteran, a sister who just took her vows in October, and the order's national director of vocations. It interviews two women who are exploring religious life over a weekend visit. And it includes details like:

The order’s dwindling numbers reflect a broader trend in the sisterhood across the U.S. In the past 50 years, researchers at Georgetown University reported, there has been a 75 percent decrease in the number of Catholic nuns in the U.S., from 180,000 in 1965 to fewer than 50,000 last year.
Perhaps more significant, there are now more sisters over the age of 90 than there are under the age of 60.

But these sisters aren’t just watching the falling numbers, as the Morning News reports.

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NYTimes: Why did two towns produce so many priests?

At least once a year, a major newsroom in the United States produces a big story about the OTHER Catholic crisis in this land, which is the declining number of men entering the priesthood (and women and men entering religious orders, as well). The American priesthood is getting smaller and older. It is possible to write this story over and over, year after year, covering the same ground and pretending that this is a “news trend.” However, skilled journalists can find new wrinkles within this decades-old story and, thus, do fresh reporting.

That’s good. And that is clearly what The New York Times national desk was going for in an interesting news feature that ran under the headline. “In Two Michigan Villages, a Higher Calling Is Often Heard.”

So what is the new angle? Well, it appears that there are small, intensely Catholic communities that are producing way more than their share of priests. Why is that? What does that look like on the ground?

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