Nuns feel ‘unaccepted’

via By Babu K Peter @ published on January 24, 2009

KOCHI: If a few dead nuns could not ravage the Catholic Church enough, here comes a group of living ones who might. After the sensational cases of the deaths of Sr Abhaya and Sr Anupa and shocking exposes on suicides of 14 nuns in the past few years, a new study that could virtually rock the Church is out.

The study held among Catholic nuns says 25 percent of them feel ‘unaccepted’ in their convents. The study, ‘Psycho-social adjustment problems of religious nuns in the community life,’ was carried out by Fr Joy Kalliyath CMI as part of his social work thesis. The findings of the study have been published in the English edition of ‘Sathyadeepam,’ the organ of the Syro-Malabar Church.

The study gains significance in the wake of the recent recommendation by the Kerala State Women’s Commission that parents who force their daughters to become nuns should be punished. Reportedly, 14 nuns had committed suicide in the past nine years.

In the interview with Sathyadeepam, based on the study highlights, Fr Kalliyath says that around five percent of the nuns interviewed feel like ‘fish out of water’ while 20 percent feel accepted some times and unaccepted at other times.

“When they feel unwanted in the community, they lose self-respect,” says Fr Kalliyath. “This leads to disenchantment and mental depression resulting in suicide, eloping or quitting the convent altogether.

Though spiritual guidance could be a help in such situations, few go for it.” The study also reveals the presence of glaring class differences among the nuns. Nuns who are highly qualified and are in wellpaid jobs enjoy greater power and there is no equal acceptance or status for all in convents, says Fr Kalliyath’s study.

“As a result, the less influential group feels dejected and sidelined.

This gradually leads them to disillusionment.

If they get a chance to go outside for higher studies they pursue it for more freedom in their lives,” he says.

The study was conducted among 60 nuns of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, Sisters of The Holy Family, The Samaritan Sisters and the Congregation of Mother of Carmel — all under the Diocese of Irinjalakuda.

The respondents fall in the age group of 30-40 and had responded to a written questionnaire.

Among the respondents, nuns from affluent families form 15-19 percent while the middle class members form a little more than 50 percent. The study says nuns from middle class and below were more unsettled in their religious life due to their strained economic background.

“They had come to these convents with big ambitions which they could not fulfill,” it says.

On the decision to publish the candid study in the Catholic organ, Fr Paul Thelakkat, the Chief Editor of Sathyadeepam, says the issue ought to be discussed in the Church and among the congregations.

“Such issues certainly would affect life in religious communities,” says Fr Thelakkat who is also the spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church. “We do not deny that there are problems in religious life. The Church will take a look at these issues and will take action,” he says.

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