Numbers of Catholic Nuns Dwindling; Mississippi Order Fighting to Leave Their Legacy

October 10, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 10, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that "during Barbara Dreher's first year as province director of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, 27 elderly nuns died. More important, no young women enrolled to take their place. Those who remained were aging rapidly, and the order lacked the long-term resources to care for them. A mortality study showed that the 350-year-old order was destined to disappear one day without a trace. Dreher's leadership team took drastic action. They sold property and cut living expenses. They asked former parochial school students and hospital patients served by the nuns to dig deep. They raised enough money to cover the order's future expenses and build a nursing home for aging sisters. They even launched a $ 10-million renovation of their stately 19th century convent on the banks of the Mississippi, so their presence will still be felt long after the sisters themselves are gone. 'Imagine opening up the chapel to everyone, inviting everyone to come pray with us on Wednesday evenings,' mused Dreher, a trim, energetic woman of 52 who could easily pass for a corporate executive. 'The renovation enables us to say we're here to stay.'"