Learn more about Catholic nuns in Africa

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) facilitates access to education for Catholic sisters (also referred to as nuns) in Africa. While many people in the United States "remember" sisters and nuns as school teachers, nurses and more, their population is on the decline. However, in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world, the amount of women joining religious life is growing at incredible rates.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nuns and Sisters

Here are some frequently asked questions about Catholic nuns and why we are so invested in the service work of Catholic sisters.

Are nuns highly educated?

Every congregation understands the importance of education in living out its charism. Catholic sisters in the USA are known to be highly educated. However, in Africa, about 71% of Catholic nuns do not have higher education credentials. And, because of the great need for their service, they are often underqualified for the positions they hold (like teachers, nurses, bursars, etc). This is why ASEC's work is so important. Our impact

What's the difference between a sister and a nun?

The words sister and nun are used interchangeably in common speech, even among sisters themselves. Technically speaking, sister is a generic term that applies to any woman who takes vows in a religious order (including nuns). The distinction actually comes between nuns and apostolic women religious. Nuns live, minister and pray within the enclosure of a monastery and take public, solemn, perpetual vows. Sisters live an active vocation of both prayer and service, helping people in the society. Sisters take simple vows that can be can be temporary or perpetual. Learn more

Do nuns make money?

Catholic sisters dedicate their lives to service and take a vow of poverty. Many nuns in Africa serve in low or no paying jobs in very poor, rural areas. Even if a sister does earn a salary, the money goes directly to her congregation (which is financially separate from the Catholic church). Sisters are given a small stipend by their congregation to pay for personal items.

Are sisters supported by the Catholic church?

Sisters are regulated by Church law/Canon law, but orders of sisters are NOT financially supported by the Catholic church as an institution. In fact, most Catholic organizations are financially separate from the Vatican. The money that you put in the collection basket on Sunday does not go to sisters, except to pay a salary for a sister who works for your parish.

Get to Know Catholic Nuns & Sisters

Sisters from ASEC's Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program in Kenya, pray together.

Understand the Vows of Catholic Nuns

Jul 9, 2020: [] general Catholic nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; the three evangelical counsels of perfection in Christianity. Some orders also take a fourth vow.

Left: A Catholic sister in Kenya, Africa helps to deliver a baby at her congregation's hospital. Right: Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather left her family, friends and basketball career to become a cloistered nun.

Sister vs. Nun - What's the Difference?

Jul 6, 2020: [] general It’s true that the words “sister” and “nun” are used interchangeably to describe women religious in the Catholic church, but there are several differences in the lifestyle, ministry and vows of nuns vs. apostolic women religious.

Between 2012 and 2018, there has been a 19.5% increase in the number of women religious in the countries ASEC serves.

Number of Nuns on the Rise: Africa's Growing Sisterhood

Nov 18, 2019: [USA] reflections The sisterhood is growing in Africa and ASEC strives to meet the educational needs of Catholic nuns who are serving Africa's poor and vulnerable.

St. Katharine Drexel, the Philadelphia heiress worked to help the minority population in the USA, founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and sought to share profundity of the Cross of Christ in joy.

What Do Nuns Do? 10 Contributions of Catholic Nuns in US History

Oct 3, 2019: [USA] general Throughout the years, Catholic nuns have had a significant impact on building the foundations of America as we know it. Here are some facts about Catholic nuns in US history that you may not know!

Catholic nuns are serving in the poor and rural areas of Africa, where help is needed most.

Educating Catholic Nuns in Africa is Changing the World... Here's Why

May 1, 2017: [USA] reflections Catholic nuns are addressing a multitude of the most pressing development challenges in Africa today. But, they need more skills and education to carry out their important mission work.

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