WASHINGTON (May 23, 2001) -- Ordination of foreign born priests is on the increase according to a survey conducted by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Vocations Committee. The largest number, five percent each, came from Mexico and Vietnam.
The committee annually surveys ordination classes and releases information in the Spring, when ordinations generally occur.
The profile of the Class of 2001 was developed by Dean R. Hoge of the Life Cycle Institute of The Catholic University of America. The analysis included data on 343 seminarians who submitted information by March 31.
Still incomplete survey results indicate that more than 400 men have been or will be ordained in 2001.
Among the highlights of the class of 2001:
- Fifty percent were under 35 years of age.
- The mean age is 36.2.
- Thirteen percent are Hispanic.
- Seven percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.
- One percent are African-American.
percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the total U.S. Catholic population. The one percent that are African-Americans is less than the estimated 3-4 percent of African-American in the U.S. Catholic population.
Twenty-eight percent of the class were born outside the United States, and 35 percent of these men came to the United States before they were 20.
Catholic school education showed a strong influence with 64 percent attending a Catholic elementary school, 54 percent a Catholic high school and 56 percent a Catholic college before entering the seminary.
A total of 39 men cited military experience.
Parish involvement proved to be significant, with 53 percent reporting they had been Eucharistic ministers, 59 percent, lectors; and 61 percent altar servers.
In analyzing the report, Hoge noted "two small changes in the ordinands since 1998."
"The percentage born outside the United States rose from 24 percent to 28 percent, and the percentage of those who have earned a master's degree rose from 9 percent to 17 percent. Otherwise, the ordinands in 2001 have changed little from those in 1998," he said.
The 2001 questionnaire introduced a series of questions about the ordinands' experience with vocation programs.
"The vocation encouragement most often remembered was personal contact, especially by a priest, friend, or seminarian. Second most common were retreat programs," Hoge said. "Most of the ordinands have a history of activity in parishes and the form of activity was usually as altar servers, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers. Of various advertising methods in use to encourage vocations, the most effective is personal contact."
Archbishop Roger Schwietz, chairman of the bishops' vocations committee, noted that "this is a group of talented men."
"It also shows the importance of reaching out to men we sense have what it takes to be a priest," he said. "The vast majority cited personal contact as a reason for their having the courage to pursue becoming a priest. We need to do more reaching out."