Friday, December 6, 2013

Native Vocations

Throughout the years 1960-1985 the number of native Puerto Rican Sisters serving in the mission exceeded the number of those sent from the United States, but they were unable to draw and keep enough native vocations to sustain the work begun in the early part of the century.  At the same time, the Sisters assigned to the early mission began to go to their heavenly reward and land was set aside for a memorial. 

The lack of sufficient native vocations to sustain the ministry in Puerto Rico was not unique to Puerto Rico, but part of a world-wide ebbing in religious vocations following Vatican II.  The Motherhouse in New York, too, became more and more hard pressed to provide the Sisters that were needed to keep their own institutions going at home, let alone those in what intended to be a “temporary” mission in Puerto Rico.   

From 1960-1985 the topic of religious vocations was on the agenda of every chapter and the Amityville Dominican Sisters, like their counterparts all over the United States, dedicated enormous amounts of time, energy and resources to studying and assessing the theology of Vatican II, adapting community life to the times, understanding the needs of the modern world and providing attractive programs to inspire young women to serve the Lord in religious life.   

Despite their best efforts, numbers continued to decline and many of their institutions had to be turned over or closed.  Unfortunately, as the number of vocations declined, the population grew and so did the number of people in need.  In Bayamón the population went from 72,221 in 1960 to more than double that number (156, 192) in 1970. (Carlin) As early as 1964, staffing problems began to threaten the survival of the mission in Puerto Rico.  

In reply to a request from her Vicaress in Puerto Rico for Sisters needed to sustain services in Puerto Rico, the Prioress General of the Congregation wrote, “The Novitiate set is so small and considering the vast number of Sisters who must come out of school because of illness, it will not be possible to assign seven additional Sisters to Puerto Rico.  It will therefore be best if you will list the greatest needs in the order in which you find them.”

The Congregational chapter took up the question of establishing a Regional Government in Puerto Rico, and a new Regional Director was elected.  “Changes made within the Congregation itself were one thing; but trying to meet the apostolic needs that were changing in so many ways, and endeavoring to explain to pastors and/or parents why there were no substitutes for principals and Sister-faculty who were being withdrawn was a task to try the ‘mettle’ of the Congregational leaders.”   

Questionnaires and surveys were employed to assess the needs systematically and plan for formation of Sisters for ministry.  It was discovered that many wanted and needed advanced study but this, as important as it was, also drew Sisters away from full-time ministry.   The Sisters themselves were aging making full-time ministry unfeasible and ways of continuing to serve in more flexible ways such as day care were sought.  Sisters began to study gerontology and elder care as the median age began to climb year by year.