92% of Irish religious are optimistic for future

 92% of members of Irish religious congregations said they were 'hopeful' for the future of religious life in the country when surveyed at their recent AGM, the secretary general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, Sr Elizabeth Maxwell said last week. This is despite recent abuse scandals which forced them to sell property to contribute to a state fund to compensate victims and a relentless decline in vocations which all but a few orders have suffered over the past decade. Sr Maxwell said that by taking 'new and bold steps' on the road to healing and reconciliation, the religious orders were expressing their vocation to serve and find innovative ways of spreading the Gospel. "Members of religious congregations in Ireland are ambitious, hopeful and even defiant in facing the challenges ahead" she said. "Despite falling numbers, they are expressing their vocation to serve and to bear witness to the message of Christ in new ways, extending the meaning of pastoral involvement." Though members of orders were older and had few young women or men knocking on their doors to join, reasons for hope included the release of creativity prompted by the orders switch from running schools and hospitals "to pastoral involvement beyond the walls of institutions". "In the main, this pastoral work is undertaken voluntarily, allowing for creativity and imagination and giving expression to the specific gifts of particular religious congregations," she said. Religious orders were now serving people and spreading the Gospel through new exciting avenues, such as TV, video and website production, welcome centres for asylum-seekers, addiction treatment centres and social housing associations, she said

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