Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate Georgetown University Washington, DC
The Class of 2019: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood Executive Summary
This report presents findings from a national survey of seminarians scheduled for ordination to the priesthood in 2019. The report is a part of collaboration between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The purpose of this report is to compile information regarding men who are ordained to priesthood within a particular year.
The data collection for this report involved identifying the responding ordinands to the priesthood in 2019 by contacting all theologates, houses of formation, dioceses, archdioceses, eparchies, and institutes of men religious in the United States for the names and contact information of all men scheduled for ordination to priesthood in 2019 . The resulting contact list was used to administer the survey. The survey was administered between February 3 and March 20. The survey invitation was sent by email to 481 identified ordinands. Follow-up emails were regularly sent to the ordinands who delayed their response and one follow-up email was sent to major superiors and vocation directors asking for assistance with encouraging the ordinands to participate in the survey.
A total of 379 ordinands completed the survey (79 percent response rate). The responding ordinands included 284 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood (75 percent of all responding ordinands) and 95 ordinands to the religious priesthood (25 percent).
2 Major Findings
Three-quarters (75 percent) of all responding ordinands are preparing for ordination to a diocese or eparchy. Responding ordinands from religious institutes comprise the remaining 25 percent. The biggest group of responding ordinands (one-third) is completing studies at one of the seminaries in the Midwest. One in seven is completing studies at a seminary abroad.
On average, responding diocesan ordinands lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 18 years before they entered the seminary. Responding ordinands from religious institutes knew the members of their religious institute for six years, on average, before they entered the seminary.
Age On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 16 years old. Responding ordinands were scheduled for ordination on average 17 years later (at the age of 33).
Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has been in the mid-thirties, trending slightly younger, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 33. Race/Ethnicity and Culture
The majority of responding ordinands is Caucasian (seven in ten) and was 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, Nigeria, Colombia, and Vietnam. On average, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the United States 14 years ago at the age of 22. Education
About one in ten (11 percent) responding ordinands report being home schooled. Those who were home schooled report eight years of home schooling, on average.
Between 38 and 47 percent of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling. Six in ten responding ordinands (61 percent) participated in a religious education program in their parish for six years, on average.
More than half of responding ordinands (55 percent) report that they completed college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary.
The most common fields of study responding ordinands who attended undergraduate or graduate school before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy, liberal arts, social science, or engineering.
3 One-half of responding ordinands (46 percent) entered their seminary program at the pre-theology level. A quarter (24 percent) carried educational debt, which averaged $27,662 at the time they entered the seminary. Responding ordinands from religious institutes were as likely as those from dioceses to carry educational debt, but their debt was smaller in comparison to responding diocesan ordinands. Work
Two in three responding ordinands (68 percent) reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One in ten of those responding ordinands worked in education. Responding ordinands from religious institutes are equally likely as responding diocesan ordinands to have prior work experience (69 percent as compared to 67 percent).
About one in six responding ordinands (17 percent) reported that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces. One in twenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves. The percentage of those with experience in different branches of the military varies considerably from year to year. Vocational Discernment
Almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (89 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was
18. Three in four responding ordinands (77 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (34 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.
Three in four responding ordinands participated in Eucharistic Adoration (75 percent) on a regular basis before entering the seminary, a similar proportion (72 percent) prayed the rosary, half (47 percent) attended prayer group/Bible study, and two in five (38 percent) participated in high school retreats.
About three in ten attended Lectio Divina (36 percent) and/or participated in college retreats (30 percent). Responding diocesan ordinands were 10 percentage points more likely than responding ordinands from religious institutes to participate in high school retreats.
In regard to participation in various activities before entering the seminary, more than half of all responding ordinands participated in a parish youth group (53 percent). About three in ten responding ordinands participated in Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center (30 percent).
In regard to participation in parish ministries, more than three-fourths of responding ordinands (78 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. More than half (53 percent) served as lectors and about four in ten served as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (44 percent) or as catechists (38 percent). About a third served in campus ministry or youth ministry (33 percent) or as a confirmation sponsor/godfather (30 percent).
4 In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (52 percent) reported participating in “Come and See” weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society. During their seminary years, eight in ten ordinands who participated in available programs reported that a Spiritual Year, a Pastoral Year internship, or a Thirty Day Retreat contributed at least “somewhat” to their vocation.
Nine in ten responding ordinands (92 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, the parish priest, a friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.
Less than half of responding ordinands (45 percent) indicate 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)