Nuns unhappy with convent life: Church study

published on January 27, 2009

VR Jayaraj | Kochi – Daily Pioneer

as the Catholic Church in Kerala is trying to get out of the several
controversies surrounding convents, Sathyadeepam weekly, the official
organ of the Syro-Malabar Church, has admitted that almost 20 percent
of the nuns are feeling mentally insecure or unaccepted in convents.
The weekly says that five per cent of the nuns are feeling permanently

A study report by Fr Joy Kalliath of the CMI and
endorsed by Bishop Yvon Ambroise of Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, published in
the latest edition of Sathydeepam, says that some nuns sought solace in
suicide as the feeling of being unaccepted turned into total
disillusionment. Church sources admitted that the report of Fr Kalliath
had particular significance in the context of events like the suicide
by a nun, Sr Anupa Mary, in a Kollam convent in August last.

new report has come close on the heels of the Church’s observation that
there was a 30-40 per cent fall in the number of girls opting to be
nuns due to various reasons. There are about 45,000 nuns in Kerala at

The report in Sathyadeepam argues that the gap
between the haves and have-nots is rampant in the convents and the
have-nots used to get isolated from the rest of the convent community.
Fr Kalliath says that nuns coming from low-income families looked
unsettled in the nun’s life and this has been growing into gross
disillusionment and thereby to mental disturbances.

“The nuns
who came from the middle class and below were more unsettled in their
religious life, mainly due to the strained economic background from
which they had come. They had come with very big ambitions, which they
could not fulfill,” he says. These ambitions are mainly about getting
quality education and better jobs that ensure good income.

priest’s study found out that those with higher qualifications – coming
normally from well-off families enjoyed greater influence and their
views and ideas carried more weight. “There is no equal acceptance or
status for all in our convents,” says the priest. “When disillusionment
sets in, some commit suicide and some elope with someone,” says Fr

“What we see now are the symptoms. The graphs of
suicide and eloping are steadily rising. Some nuns are also choosing to
go out of the convent and live alone… As far as the church is
concerned, it is a very serious threat,” he points out.

He says
that the nuns’ community itself is graded according to the professional
status of the inmates. “As a result, the less influential group feels
dejected and sidelined. This in turn pushes them gradually into
negative thinking and disillusionment. And if they are offered a chance
to go outside for higher studies, they take more freedom than they
should. They are usually so cut off from the world that they get
carried away by the freedom they get outside,” Fr Kalliath says.

priest adds that almost five per cent of the nuns never come to terms
with the religious life they lead. “They are not happy being in the
religious life and yet they continue in it. Nuns do not get enough
affection and acceptance in their communities. It naturally follows
that, in such an ambient, they cannot also achieve anything
worthwhile,” he says.

According to the study, almost all ills
of the modern-day society have affected the convents. The consumerist
mentality has been playing havoc with religious life, Fr Kalliath
writes. “We are living in a society that is highly influenced by
consumerism,” he says, adding this has influenced religious life also.
“The glamour of luxury is affecting convents and monasteries very
badly. It can slowly kill religious life,” the priest warns.

priest’s study was based on sixty nuns, all Malayalees, of an average
age of 30-40 years from four congregations under the Kerala diocese of

He had taken fifteen members each from the
congregations of Clarists (FCC), Carmelites (CMC), Holy Family and
Samaritan Sisters for the study. Some of these nuns frankly told the
priest during the study that they had not freely accepted their
religious life.

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