The inpulse to selfless generosity among the 120,000 Catholic religious in the United States remains strong, but structure, focus and leadership of the orders requires significant revision to survive in American society as a relevant social institution.
For religious orders to continue as a vital force in the Catholic Church, in the United States, and in the world, they must change in dramatic and significant ways. Fidelity to the mission of the founder and responsiveness to critical and unmet human needs are fundamental to the ongoing mission of religious orders. New forms of poverty and the genuine opportunity to serve new and emerging groups of those most in need certainly challenge the ability of any single group to respond in today's world. Since the Second Vatican Council, the changes in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States have effected the way members of religious orders live and work more thoroughly than any other single population. According to National Catholic Reporter, this comprehensive three-year study, which was funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., is one of the most significant occurrances within the Catholic Church since that Council was convened almost 30 years ago.