'Taster weekend' to try life in religious order
Religious orders are offering 'taster weekends' to encourage young women to become nuns.
The Catholic Church in Ireland is grappling with an unprecedented decline in vocations over the past decade with the number of nuns down by almost 25pc in that time. This is almost double the corresponding figure for the decline in the number of priests.
However, various religious orders are now offering live-in "taster weekends" which allow young women to experience the reality of convent living.
Some participants rise for prayer at 3am, take their meals in silence and embrace "spiritual awareness" through readings and periods of prayer up to seven times daily.
The ExploreAway programme has been developed by Vocations Ireland, and is offered to both women and men aged between 21-40.
"The feedback from participants is that they've found these experiences very helpful," said Margaret Cartwright, director of Vocations Ireland. "Some have gone on to enter into religious life - some have gone on to priesthood."
Ms Cartwright said it is too early to determine the long-term effect this approach will have on the vocations crisis.