Mary E. BENDYNA, Editor, Emerging Communities of Consecrated Life in the US. Second Edition. Washington, DC: CARA, 2006. pp.126. $35.00 pb.
Reviewed by Miriam D. UKERITIS, The Southdown Institute, 1335 St. John’s Sideroad East, Aurora, ON Canada L4G 3G8

This volume follows a 1999 publication with a similar title. As with the first edition, Emerging Communities of Consecrated Life in the US is an effort to address the question of the future of consecrated life. And, as with the first edition, this volume is a collaborative effort between Patricia Wittberg (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Georgetown University).

The statistical overview that comprises the first portion of the volume provides a thorough analysis of the community type and canonical states of these Roman Catholic religious institutes along with summary information on community size, membership, lifestyle and apostolates. It also explores assumptions typically related to new/emerging communities and provides related data that supports or contradicts some of the frequently made assumptions. Areas considered include the question of relationship between traditional emphasis and new members, spirituality emphasis, youth emphasis, and location/affiliation. Finally, information related to growth and decline of these groups is offered.

The directory that comprises the major portion of this volume provides the names, addresses and membership information for 165 emerging communities of consecrated life and lay movements. Selection criteria used to identify the communities/institutes included good standing in the diocese, having at least three or four members, and a post-1965 foundation in the United States.

Trends and patterns noted in communities profiled in this volume include the following:

- importance of prayer and contemplation
- attractiveness of poverty, both as lifestyle and as ministerial focus;
- relative decline in traditional active apostolates of nursing, social work, and (to some extent) teaching;
- continued attractiveness of Benedictine, Franciscan, and Carmelite spiritualities; and
- mixed indications on the value of conservative models of religious life.
Emerging Communities of Consecrated Life provides a wealth of information for persons interested in following the development of consecrated life in the Roman Catholic Church. While steeped in the canonical language that describes the various categories and aspects of consecrated life, the authors provide explanations of these dimensions that enable the naïve reader to comprehend the complexity and richness of the research and the phenomenon it considers.

The data and information discussed in the statistical overview takes an historical perspective, considering not only the changes since the 1999 publication but also a longer-term perspective that includes the growth and development of religious communities in the 1800’s. As such, it greatly expands the notion of “statistical overview.” Similarly, the exploration of assumptions regarding apostolate, spirituality and conservative theology represents the best of such research in that it is clear, enlightening and free of ideological bias.

The authors worked hard to ensure consistency in the information included in the directory portion of this volume. However, idiosyncratic elements in community/institute information were preserved, and provide fascinating insights into these groups.

As the authors noted, previous historical studies have found that consecrated life tends to go through repeated cycles of growth, decline and rebirth. Data in this directory provide a glimpse of those elements that may mark a cycle of rebirth.

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