WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Priests in the United States are as varied as the country in which they live — some are past retirement age, others were not born Catholics, and others have sought the priesthood after other careers or vocations.
“The Class of 2008: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood” was performed by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The annual survey was prepared for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
“We are blessed with the enthusiasm the newly ordained will bring to the mission of the Church,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “We pray that through their good work and example more men will generously respond to the Lord’s call to serve as priests.”
The report reflects a response rate of approximately 84% of the 401 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 335 ordinands include 242 for the diocesan priesthood and 77 for the religious priesthood. Another 16 ordinands did not specify whether they were being ordained to diocesan or religious priesthood.
Some of those to be ordained have unique histories: Hai Duc Din, 46, of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, spent a year in a Vietnamese labor camp.
Doctor Martin Laird, 40, of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, comes to the priesthood after a medical career. Kevin Bauman, 47, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, is a former vice chairman of the Romance Language Department at the University of Notre Dame.
David Link, 72, of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, is a former dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a widow. He heard the call to priesthood through prison ministry.
For some, religious service is a family affair. Thomas Niehaus, 30, of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, has two brothers who are priests and a sister in the Schoenstatt movement.
Some of the 2008 class began their journey in another denomination. Mark Barr, 29, grew up as an Episcopalian and converted to Catholicism in college. Jeffrey Wharton, 38, a former Episcopalian minister, is being ordained for the Diocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Brandon Jones, 37, of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, has an identical twin brother, Chandler, who is an Anglican minister. Both were raised as Southern Baptists.
The average age is 36 for newly ordained diocesan priests and 39 for newly ordained men in religious orders. About 30% of new priests are between 25 and 29 years of age. About 39% are in their thirties.
About one-third of this year’s new priests were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland and the Philippines. The percentage of foreign-born is nearly the same in 2008 as in 2007 but has increased from the 22% reported in 1999.
Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian ordinands are over-represented among diocesan and religious order priests, relative to their proportion of the U.S. adult Catholic population, while Hispanic/Latinos are somewhat under-represented. Asians/Pacific Islanders constitute 3% of U.S. Catholics overall but are 12% of responding ordinands.
By contrast, Hispanics/Latinos constitute approximately 35% of U.S. adult Catholics but only 16% of responding ordinands.
The ordinands identified a total of 31 countries of origin.
Most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, although close to one in ten (9%) became Catholic later in life.
Half of responding ordinands (51%) attended a Catholic elementary school. Ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college.
The youngest ordinand is 25 and the oldest is 76. Five ordinands are being ordained to the priesthood at age 65 or older.
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More information: www.usccb.org/vocations/classof2008