Who We Are

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is composed of the major superiors and their vicars of 112 communities of women religious (approximately 5,700 sisters) in the United States. The Council was founded on June 13, 1992 in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for the renewal of religious life based on discipleship to Jesus Christ.

Its purpose is to serve the major superiors of women religious and their communities by providing mutual support in sustaining among its members the transcendent nature of religious life and the centrality of common life, common prayer, community-based apostolates, religious obedience, and the witness to consecration and poverty by a garb that is both common and simple.

CMSWR is a vital resource for the ongoing revitalization of religious life, serving to promote and support the new evangelization and guide newly established communities. The Council is a collaborative body of life-bearing women religious committed to the full flowering of religious life in the United States.

The most recent demographic survey of the Council’s membership (2020) confirms encouraging trends in the revitalization of religious life in the United States. A few of the key findings from the 2020 survey include the following:

Canonical Status and Level of Governance of the Responding Communities

The chart below shows the distribution of all 112 CMSWR communities based on their level and canonical status as well as their status in CMSWR.

Age Distribution of Sisters
in CMSWR Associate and Full Membership Communities

Postulants, Novices, Temporary Professed, and Perpetually Professed Combined

The chart above shows the sisters are relatively evenly distributed across age categories from the 30s through the 80s, with somewhat smaller percentages of sisters younger than 30 or older than 90.

Apostolates of Professed Sisters
in CMSWR Associate and Full Membership Communities

Sisters in Temporary Vows and Final Vows Combined

Respondents were asked to report the number of professed sisters (temporary vows and final vows) who serve in various apostolates.  The respondents were instructed to count each sister only once, using the category that best describes her primary apostolate.  The actual number of sisters engaged in some of these apostolates is likely considerably higher than the figures shown above.

Institutions in which the Sisters Serve

This chart shows the number of the various types of institutions in which sisters serve in the associate membership and full membership communities combined.

Fast Facts

1. Our sisters live and/or serve in at least 140 different dioceses in the United States.

2. Overall average age of sisters (58 years old) in our communities is well below the average age of women religious nationwide. Average age of sisters by stage of formation

  • Postulants = 27 years old
  • Novices = 30 years old
  • Temporary professed = 33 years old
  • Perpetually professed = 55 years old

3. Almost 900 sisters (16%) are currently in initial formation (postulants, novices, and temporary professed sisters). Temporary professed sisters are the largest group in formation followed by novices and postulants.

4. Over 84% of professed sisters in CMSWR membership communities are engaged in active ministry.

5. Sisters in CMSWR communities serve in well over 440 educational institutions and nearly 300 health care facilities, as well as in almost 300 parishes and 50 retreat or spirituality centers. The sisters also serve in many other institutional and non-institutional settings.



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