According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate’s (CARA) survey of the Ordination Class of 2019, encouragement and accompaniment are key to fostering priestly vocations. Of all responding ordinands, 92% reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life, giving credit to an average of four individuals for influencing their vocation. A majority of respondents (69%) stated that their parish priest was a key figure in their discernment process. Support from friends (43%) and fellow parishioners (39%) also had considerable impact. The ordinands also cited parents, other family members, teachers/catechists, school chaplains and campus/youth ministers as having contributed to their discernment of a priestly vocation.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations reiterated the importance of individual accompaniment in vocational discernment. “As Pope Francis stated in his exhortation, Christus Vivit, sensitive and patient listening is key when helping young people discern. Priests, consecrated men and women, and the laity can all echo the voice of Jesus who calls men to serve in the holy priesthood as good and faithful shepherds.”
CARA is retained each year by the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations to conduct a survey of the men scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in the coming spring. This year, CARA identified and contacted a total of 481 men to be ordained to the priesthood in 2019. Of that number, 379 responded for an overall response rate of 79%. Of those respondents, 284 (75%) were ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 95 (25%) were ordinands to the religious priesthood. Some of the major findings of the study are:
o The average age of responding ordinands was 33, slightly younger than the previous two ordination classes. By comparison, respondents of the Ordination Class of 2018 were an average of 35 years old and respondents of the Ordination Class of 2017 were an average of 34 years old.
o A majority of responding ordinands (75%) were born in the United States. Of the remaining 25% who were foreign-born, the most common countries of origin were Mexico (5%), Nigeria (3%), and Columbia and Vietnam, each representing 2% of the foreign-born ordinands.
o More than half (55%) of the respondents completed their undergraduate education before entering the seminary and 68% reported having worked full-time, with education being the most common work experience (11%).
o A total of 89% of respondents were baptized Catholic as an infant. Of those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 18.
o Eucharistic Adoration (75%) and the Rosary (73%) were the most popular and influential prayer practices that respondents regularly engaged in before entering the seminary.
o Regarding their activity in parish ministry, 78% of respondents served as altar servers, 53% served as lectors, and 44% served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
o Vocation programs also demonstrated significant impact upon the respondents’ discernment with 68% having participated in at least one vocation program before entering the seminary. Of these programs, “Come and See” weekends were the most popular (52%) followed by Quo Vadis/Discernment Retreats (15%).
o Among the ordinands who had access to a Spirituality Year, Pastoral Year or other programs outside of the seminary, 80% reported that the Spirituality Year, Pastoral Year Internship, and Thirty Day Retreat contributed to their discernment at least “somewhat.” Notably, 73% of respondents indicated that the Spirituality Year contributed “very much” to their vocational discernment.
The entire CARA survey, as well as profiles of the Ordination Class of 2019, can be accessed at: