New Study About Associate Growth

NACAR North American Conference of Associates and Religious

CARA National Study

New Study Shows Solid Growth of Associates in Religious Orders

Part I
New Study Shows Solid Growth of Associates in Religious Orders

A new study entitled Partners in Mission: A Profile of Associates and Religious in the United States announces exciting growth in the numbers of associates affiliated with religious orders. Over 25,400 associates are counted, a growth of almost 11,000 since 1995 when the last survey was taken. Since not all religious institutes reported the current number of their associates, the actual number is higher than the 25,400 recorded.

Associate directors of 1,100 religious institutes of women and men religious received questionnaires concerning the statistics, goals and activities of associates affiliated with their congregations. With a response rate of 75% and tightly defined parameters for the term "associate", an accurate picture is emerging of laity who desire affiliation with religious congregations while living an independent life style as married or single folks.

Published by CARA (The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) at Georgetown and NACAR (The North American Conference of Associates and Religious) this is the first associate survey to involve all religious congregations, including institutes of religious men. While there are fewer recorded male associates (3,789) and nearly 50% of associate groups affiliated with men religious began only in the 1990s, already there are definite characteristics for these associates, who include both women and men. Associates in men's communities are greatly attracted by the ministries of the institute and a desire to work with vowed members. There is also a desire for community that draws them. In institutes of women religious, associates are more attracted by a desire for deeper spirituality, especially the spirituality of the institute. They seek opportunities for prayer and faith sharing with other association members and associates. Both men and women associates agree on the main focus of association as living the mission, charism and spiritual tradition of the institute, all of which involve a deeper living of Gospel commitment.

Ninety-two percent of associates make a formal commitment to live the mission of the religious institute as associates and 94% of them renew that commitment. Also, as reported in the survey, a growing reality is the attraction of women and men of mixed racial and ethnic background to join associate groups. Twelve percent of male and 3 % of female associates are of African American/Black descent and 8% of male and 7% of female associates are of Hispanic/Latino descent. For men's religious institutes, Asian/Pacific Islanders are counted the second highest ethnic group after Caucasians at 9%.


Part II

CARA Publishes Study of Associates-Vowed Religious Relationship in the U.S. Catholic Church

 Washington, DC - A new study at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University released this week shows the important role that lay associates play in the life of a religious institution, and the impact that formation of associates has when conducted by vowed religious and other associates. Associates are lay people who affiliate with a religious institute and go through an official formation period to learn about the institute's charism and mission. Although associates do not take formal vows as Religious do, they commit to living the mission and charism of the religious institute within their independent, lay life style.

  In Part I of the Study, published in 2000, entitled Partners in Mission: The Associate-Vowed ReligiousRelationship in the United States, a total number of 25,500 lay associates was counted. Part II of the Study, released this week, records attitudes of associates and vowed Religious to this newly emerging form for living the mission and charism of a religious institute. It increases the estimated number of associates to 27,400+.

  The North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) commissioned this two-part study in collaboration with CARA, The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

  Among the important findings of the study is the statistic that women outnumber men among associates by about seven to one, and that about nine in ten associates report that their institute has a formal formation or orientation program for associates. Associates in some ways are helping to carry on the charism in a religious institute through their prayer, daily lives, work and through connecting with vowed members of the institute. Why do associates affiliate with religious congregations? Factors that attracted associates to the religious institute with whom they are associating include a general desire for a deeper spiritual life, as well as the institute's spirituality, charism and mission. 74% of women religious and 63% of men religious "very much" support the idea of associate relationship. Associates also report that they are encouraged to participate more often in the prayer life and social activities of the institute than in institute committees, chapters or financial meetings. As they gain familiarity with the religious institute, 90% of associates report a growing desire to serve others and to become involved in various forms of ministry. The associate relationship is fostered by regular contact with vowed religious and other associates, a formal formation program and participation in the institute's prayer and mission.

  The relationship between associates and vowed religious changes with the age of the vowed religious who responded to the study. Older vowed religious were less likely to have relationships with associates in their institutes and to be less familiar with the formation and orientation process for associates. Although associates report that a desire to work with vowed members and a sense of being called by God to this commitment "very much" attracts them to the institute, vowed members are 15 to 16 percentage points less likely to perceive these as being very attractive to associates. Younger vowed religious are much more likely to interact with associates in prayer and faith-sharing, and are aware of the commitment of associates to live the charism and mission of the institute.

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