- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

NEW YORK

One was a successful corporate lawyer, another a Mercedes-Benz driving businesswoman and a third a Navy officer who steered warships and hunted down cocaine smugglers in South America.

They are among a growing number of women in their 20s and 30s across the United States who have shed high-powered jobs, career ambitions and boyfriends for a nun’s veil and a life devoted to the church.

Though the trend is by no means spreading like wildfire, several Roman Catholic communities throughout the country say they have noticed a surprising and welcome phenomenon in the past decade as younger women join their ranks.

“The inquiries in recent years have been coming from younger and younger women, most of them in their early to mid-20s,” said Sister Agnes Mary, mother superior at the Sisters of Life community in New York.

The Catholic community, which counted seven members when it was founded in 1991, has grown to 52 women who live in six convents scattered throughout the New York area. A seventh convent is planned within two years.

“I think young women are searching for something, and culture is not giving it to them, so they are turning to God,” said Sister Mary Karen, 33, the superior at the Sisters of Life Formation House in the Bronx, where 18 women are being groomed for a life of obedience, poverty and chastity.

They include a Yale graduate, a former Navy officer, a former medical student, an opera singer and a Web designer.

All have college degrees, are well-traveled and were more cosmopolitan than cloistered growing up.

They have abandoned cell phones, IPods, daily Starbucks runs and, in some cases, fiances for dormlike rooms, or “cells” as they call them, and a wardrobe that consists of a veil and habit.

“I was in the Navy for a total of 10 years because I wanted to do something great with my life, but I realized I could never be passionate about it,” said Angela Karalekas, 28, who entered the convent in September and will receive her habit and new religious name in June. “I was raised Catholic, but my decision has been hard on my father and three brothers.”

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