GREEN BAY - Women who have given more than seven decades of their lives to the Catholic Church received a special honor today.
Green Bay Catholic Diocese Bishop David Ricken held a jubilee Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral for the nuns.
"It's a great joy to think about that because I've been in 75 years," said Sister Jean Jarvis.
One of the honorees at this jubilee Mass, Jarvis, has given her life as a teacher and administrator in the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.
"I started right after grade school as an aspirant," she said.
Jarvis was one of 41 women serving 50 years or more in religious life who were honored Sunday.
As Jarvis' generation of nuns ages, the diocese says fewer women are taking their places.
Sisters like Guadalupe Munoz are considered the young nuns, even though they've served for decades.
"Since 1974. Close to 40 years," said Munoz.
In 1965, 179,954 nuns served the Catholic Church in the U.S. As of last year that number had dropped to 54,018.
These sisters say they attribute the lack of vocations to a shift in culture away from religion.
Some say they originally joined for educational opportunities, a barrier that no longer exists for most women in the U.S.
"I didn't think of praying a lot or anything like that. I just said I want to be a teacher, and I want to be like Sister Rose," said Jarvis.
Sisters say the way those in the religious orders serve others is changing. They're coming out of the cathedrals and convents, and coming into the communities.
"We're not going to be large communities like before. We're not going to be as institutionalized. We might be in groups of two or three but with the same passion, desire," said Sister Guadalupe Munoz.
These sisters say despite the changing world, there will always be women called to serve the Church.
And for their lifetime of service?
They wouldn't change that for the world.
"Religious life is a wonderful life. I would do it all over again," said Jarvis.
Sisters we spoke with say while the number of women joining religious orders across North America and Europe are decreasing, religious vocations have become more popular in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Overall, numbers of nuns worldwide have declined significantly in the past 50 years.
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