Culture, Family Ties among “obstacles” to Female Religious Vocations in Cameroon: Nuns

Sr. Lylie Florette Nguening, Superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary community in Yaounde. Credit: Emmanuel Ayuni/ACI Africa

Attachment to traditional culture and family ties are among “obstacles” to growth of female religious vocations in Cameroon, Catholic Nuns in the Central African nation have told ACI Africa in interviews.

In a Tuesday, September 12 interview, the Superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary community in Yaounde said, “For about four years now, we have been grappling with a shortage of vocations in Cameroon.”

“Several obstacles hinder female vocations including cultural, traditional, and familial pressures,” Sr. Lylie Florette Nguening said, and added, “In Cameroon, parents exert significant pressure on their children, believing that a girl's purpose is solely for procreation.”

Sr. Nguening further said that she found it regrettable that in Cameroon, “parents often fail to acknowledge the potential for their daughters to choose their own paths and instead push them into early marriages or motherhood, even outside of wedlock.”

“Even the young girls we sponsor in secondary school with the hope of them continuing with us eventually disappoint us,” she lamented, and explained, “As soon as they obtain their certificates, they abandon their calling. Recently, one of our candidates did just that, leading us to stop sponsoring girls in secondary schools.”


The Cameroonian Catholic Nun further said, “Some parents who invest heavily in their children's education expect them to provide financial support in return.”

“Allowing their daughters to join the Consecrated Life, where they will receive minimal financial or material benefits, is viewed as a waste of time,” she said, adding that as a result, “many parents discourage their children from pursuing a religious calling.”

Also speaking to ACI Africa on September 12, a Congolese member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart said, “Our congregation has struggled to attract female vocations in Cameroon.”

“Since our establishment in the country, we have yet to see any female candidates,” Sr. Yvette Zembi said, and added, “While cultural factors may pose a hindrance, other factors, such as modernism challenge today's youth to detach themselves from worldly possessions.”

Sr. Zembi explained, “Some girls already possess gadgets at an early age, like during their third year of school. When they enter our community, they are asked to relinquish these devices for the duration of their formation.”

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“This separation proves difficult for them, as they become accustomed to constant communication with their families,” she further said, adding, “The strict discipline and rigor of Religious Life often deter young girls. They prefer their independence over adhering to stringent rules and regulations.”

In the September 12 interview, Sr. Nguening highlighted initiatives they were undertaking to address the challenge.

“We now invite young people to visit our communities and spend time with us without pressuring them to join,” she said, and added, “Another strategy involves reaching out to regions with higher vocation rates and engaging with young people.”

The Superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary community in Yaounde continued, “We must live joyfully so that when young girls witness our way of life, they will be inspired to join us.”

“A willingness to make sacrifices and detach from worldly distractions from the outset is crucial for a successful religious formation, as it prepares individuals to resist temptations that may arise during their journey,” the Cameroonian Catholic nun told ACI Africa September 12.


Emmanuel Ayuni in Yaounde, Cameroon contributed to the writing of this story

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