NY Times features Sr. of Charity Tracy Kemme and addresses the question of why the idea of entering religious life seems relevant to young Catholic women.
When Tracy Kemme first got the calling, at age 22, she had an active social life, an internship in Ecuador, and a serious boyfriend. A sparkly blonde with an easy laugh and a penchant for dangly earrings, she had literally never thought about becoming a “woman religious” before—in laymen’s terms, a nun.
“Not at all!” she says remembering her first response to the notion that maybe God had plans for her to work as a Catholic sister. “It was, like, panic, terror, and resistance. It was like, I will do anything, but please not that!”
Today, at 29, Kemme is a professed Sister of Charity with a commitment to “sustainable living and living in the margins.” She shares close quarters with a few other young Sisters of Charity in a low-income neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, where the group’s mission is to build faith and social justice. One of her jobs is as a Latino Ministry Coordinator, helping to smooth tensions in a nearby parish for Guatemalan families new to the area. You can hear passion in her voice when she speaks of her vocational focus, which includes climate change and immigration.
But as it happens, Kemme is far from the only 20-something to embark on what had seemed until recently like a declining career choice. Though the Church does not provide recent statistics, a slew of media reports from People Magazine to the New York Times suggest that increasing numbers of Catholic millennials are feeling the call of God in growing numbers across the country. (A recent report in NPR showed a similar jump in enthusiasm among male 20-something Catholics as well; in fact, they’re the only age group whose enrollment in the priesthood has increased rather declined.)
The question is not so much why so many women in our secular age would opt for a religious life, since most Catholic sisters will tell you it’s a mystery and gift to be so chosen. But why now?