According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate’s (CARA) annual survey, in the Ordination Class of 2018, almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.
The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2018, 430, is a lower number from 590 in 2017.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gives reason for hope as well as provides areas for future growth.
“Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future. It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God’s call in their life and assist them in the discernment process.”
Father Ralph B. O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat, cited the significance of encouraging vocations awareness: “One of the most encouraging statistics to see in this study is that 86 percent of those to be ordained to the priesthood this year were encouraged to do so by someone in their life (most frequently a parish priest, friend or another parishioner). A similar percentage was reported in February in the most recent survey of those solemnly professed. This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response.”
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate gathered the data for “The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 78 percent of the 430 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 334 respondents include 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
Among the survey’s major findings:
The majority of responding ordinands are Caucasian (seven in ten) and were born in the United States (three in four). One in four is foreign-born. By comparison, since 1999, on average each year, 30 percent of responding ordinands were foreign-born.
The four most common countries of birth among the foreign-born are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. On average, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the United States 12 years ago at the age of 23.
On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 17 years old. Responding ordinands were scheduled for ordination on average 18 years later (at the age of 35). Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has fluctuated only slightly each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 35.
Between 39 and 47 percent of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling. Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) participated in a religious education program in their parish for seven years, on average.
Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent) report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary. The most common fields of study are social science, theology or philosophy, business, or liberal arts.
Two in three responding ordinands (64 percent) reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One in twenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves. About one in eight responding ordinands (13 percent) reported that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.
Regarding participation in parish ministries before entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands (74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearly three in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in three served as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry (35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).
In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent) reported participating in “Come and See” weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society.
Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.
One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents).