· Vatican City ·

The Ideas

The enterprise of religious women

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02 October 2021

In this month’s Women Church World, we address the question of how nuns and sisters make ends meet, how they go about providing for the necessities of daily life, and how they organize themselves to do so. Though the aspects of money, salaries, work, and expenses seem far removed from sacred life, we should clarify that, unlike the clergy (priests, parish priests, bishops, and cardinals) nuns and sisters do not receive a salary.

Each convent and each congregation has to find its own means of subsistence and income.  Therein, each nun regulates her life and work, and connects it, in different ways, with the world of production and consumption. 

We have encountered monasteries that barely make ends meet by selling garden produce, while others that have been turned into businesses, administered by nuns with degrees in economics, where social pensions and regular salaries are received; from modest roles to lofty professions. Telling the story of the lives of consecrated women has been like navigating in an archipelago with small and large, flat and rocky islands, with reefs beaten by the sea and larger territories, which are crisscrossed by rivers. Different profiles, choices, and options.  Then, only to discover that those islands that appeared to be different had the same nature, the same climate, the same trees were established there, and where the same wind was blowing. A world that at first glance seems so diverse, but in fact, it is united by common principles and practices. Moreover, there is an uncommon interweaving of charity and production, faith and the need to make ends meet, sobriety and managerial skills, solidarity and the market, creativity and business plans.  This is a world that is capable of responding with intelligence and competence, with flexibility and imagination, to the demands of modern work, of overcoming the limits imposed by globalization and technology.

When the pandemic overwhelmed the planet, we all realized that production and consumption would require new approaches and values. In addition, that the old, hierarchical, exclusively mercantile models, based on competition and inequality could no longer work. What should we look to in order to build a new world?  In the articles in this issue of Women Church World there is a suggestion. The work of consecrated women provides examples, directions, and models that can be exported to the secular world, in how to get organized, become ingenious, and create our own work. Do not take anything for granted, but maintain an open and vigilant heart, take care of our neighbor, do not accept the body and soul’s misery, but adopt sobriety as a lifestyle, share even when we have little, do not reject modernity but entrust ourselves to others, trust in Providence and humanity, and exercise charity.  This is what we seek to speak of this month.

Ritanna Armeni