Who is the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious? 

CMSWR is composed of the major superiors of 120 communities of women religious (approx. 6,000 sisters) in the United States who belong as either full members or associate members. 

Information was collected from the CMSWR annual surveys of the communities whose major superiors (or those analogous to a major superior) are members (or associate members) of CMSWR.

A few of the key findings from the most recent survey* of our membership, include the following:


 * The data reflect 104 communities who responded to the 2016 CMSWR Membership Survey


The chart above shows the sisters are relatively evenly distributed across age categories from the 30s through the 80s, with somewhat smaller percentages of sisters younger than 30 or older than 90.

Respondents were asked to report the number of professed sisters (temporary vows and final vows) who serve in various apostolates.  The respondents were instructed to count each sister only once, using the category that best describes her primary apostolate.  The actual number of sisters engaged in some of these apostolates is likely considerably higher than the figures shown above.


1. Our sisters live and/or serve in at least 137 different dioceses in the United States.  

2. Overall average age of sisters (57 years old) in our communities is well below the average age of women religious nationwide. Average age of sisters by stage of formation

• Postulants = 27 years old
• Novices = 28 years old
• Temporary professed = 32 years old
• Perpetually professed = 63 years old

3. Over 900 sisters (17%) are currently in initial formation (postulants, novices, and temporary professed sisters). Temporary professed sisters are the largest group in formation followed by novices and postulants. 

4. Over 85% of professed sisters in CMSWR membership communities are engaged in active ministry. 

5. Sisters in CMSWR members’ communities serve in well over 400 educational institutions and nearly 200 health care facilities, as well as in more than 300 parishes and 50 retreat or spirituality centers. The sisters also serve in many other institutional and non-institutional settings.