By John Norton
A snapshot of America's priesthood class of 2009
To mark today's annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations to priesthood and religious life, I'd like to highlight some fascinating results from a survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of the men who will be ordained priests this year in our country.
The purpose of the annual survey — performed by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University — presumably is to figure out what works and what doesn't in fostering priestly vocations. Some of the answers may surprise you.
The survey managed to draw responses from 310 of the 465 potential ordinands, both diocesan and Religious. Similar to previous years, their average age is 36 and range from 25 to 66. About 10 percent are Catholic converts. Two-thirds had full-time work experience before entering the seminary.
Here are some other findings:
- Asians and Pacific Islanders constitute 11 percent of the 2009 ordinands, but only 3 percent of U.S. adult Catholics. In contrast, Hispanics are 34 percent of the adult Catholic population, but only 12 percent of the ordinands.
- Nearly a quarter of the ordinands are foreign-born. The top five countries of origin are Vietnam, Mexico, Poland, the Philippines and Colombia.
- More than a third have a relative who is a priest or a Religious.
- Home schools are generating vocations. While only a tiny percentage of Catholics are home-schooled, some 5 percent of the ordinands report coming from a home-school background (on average, six years' worth).
- Sticking with Catholic education through and beyond elementary school makes a difference. About 51 percent of the ordinands (compared to 42 percent of the adult Catholic population) attended Catholic elementary school, 43 percent (compared to 22 percent) attended Catholic high school, and 42 percent (compared to just 7 percent) attended a Catholic university or college.
- Of the ordinands who said they were encouraged by someone to consider the priesthood, most -- 85 percent -- said they were encouraged by a priest. "Mother" came in at No. 4 in the list of encouragers, for 37 percent of the ordinands.
- Perhaps shockingly, 15 percent of the ordinands said they were discouraged from considering the priesthood -- by a priest (and 6 percent by a Religious woman or brother). Almost 60 percent said a parent or family member tried to talk them out of pursuing a vocation.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, a full 70 percent of the ordinands reporting having been an altar server.
- Nearly a quarter said they had experienced a World Youth Day.
- No form of vocational advertising was cited by more than 17 percent of the ordinands as influential in their discernment.