Yesterday the USCCB released some information about men to be ordained priests this year. On average, the report states, the men were 17 years old when they first considered the vocation of priesthood, and 71% said they were encouraged in that regard by a parish priest, “as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent).” And the number of men to be ordained is up 20% from last year: “The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.”
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.
“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”
Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”
The average age for this year’s ordinands is 34, and eight in 10 of those who responded and participated in the information gathered by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) are between the ages of 25 and 39. 69% of the men are Caucasian/European American/white, with 14% being Hispanic/Latino and 10% of Asian or Pacific Islander background.
25% were born outside the U.S. “with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam”. Some 20-30% of those ordained in the past 10 years were born outside the U.S.
Most are “cradle Catholics”:
Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
They are well-educated: 60% had completed college before entering the seminary, while 15% entered the seminary after earning a graduate degree. “The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).”
Half attended a Catholic elementary school, and were “somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school…”
Notably, 78% stated that they had served as an altar server, and one in seven had participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary. 70% pray the Rosary on a regular basis and the same percentage participated in Eucharistic adoration before being a seminarian.
Finally, nearly “half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.”