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In an essay that appeared some years back in the Huffington Post, Eve Fairbanks asked why after fifty years of decline, millennial women were discovering religious vocations. Fairbanks is not alone in her confusion. Many Catholics are also puzzled: not long ago, traditional women’s religious life, with all the trappings of habits and wimples, appeared to be an artifact from a long-dead world.

Hadn’t Vatican II said we weren’t supposed to be weird anymore? The Catholic Church is bleeding young people, but for those who have remained the answer seems to be no: young Catholics want to do something radical for the Gospel. They tend to be more devout and, frankly, yes, weirder, running to a Church that had promised to come to them and to give Her their young lives.

What is it about these aspiring religious that captures—or vexes—the modern secular imagination? And what is the Church to do with them, as they enter communities that have themselves often aged into the modern world?

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