PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Some Catholic religious orders, shaken by church sex scandals and a drop in priesthood volunteers, are turning to cyberspace to attract new vocations, church officials say.
Among those taking to the Internet for new recruits are the Congregation of the Mission, the Vincentian order of priests and monks who follow the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul.
“Like most religious communities, we’ve gotten smaller and grayer,” said the Rev. John Maher, director of the Vincentian vocation ministry for the Philadelphia-based Eastern Province USA, which has seen its membership shrink from 400 in 1976 to fewer than 200 today.
The order, founded in the 1600s to minister to the poor, has launched its own Web site at www.vincentians.net and begun distributing CD-Roms to prospects. It is also planning an advertising campaign in January.
“More religious communities and dioceses are doing it than not. The Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Benedictines — they’re all doing it,” said Maher.