WASHINGTON (April 12, 2005)—The ordination class of 2005 continues to reflect a trend toward older, better educated men with a substantial percentage born in foreign countries, according to a survey report by sociologist Dean Hoge, PhD.
Hoge, who heads the Life Cycle Institute of The Catholic University of America, wrote the report after considering trends in ordination classes since 1998 and comparing them with data on the men being ordained in 2005.
"The average age at ordination rose from 34.8 to 37.0," Hoge said.
"The level of education prior to entering the seminary rose," Hoge added. "Whereas in 1998, 30 percent had less than a B.A. or B.S. degree, in the 2005 sample only 28 percent had less than a B.A. or B.S. degree. Correspondingly, the percentage who had received a master's degree or a professional degree beyond the B.A. rose from 13 to 32. This is a notable change in only seven years." Among those being ordained are Augustus Puleo, who was a university professor before entering the seminary.
"The percentage born outside the U.S. rose from 24 to 27 percent. The four principal countries of birth today are Vietnam, Mexico, Philippines and Poland," Hoge said. The ordinands include Piotr Gnoinski, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who was born in Poland; Thienan Tran, of the Diocese of Syracuse, who was born in Vietnam; Rommel Tolentino, of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who was born in the Philippines; and Juan Antonio Romo Romo, of the Society of the Divine Word, who was born in Mexico.
Hoge based his "Report on Survey of 2005 Priestly Ordination" on results of a survey conducted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' vocations office. By the March 31 survey deadline there were 286 responses, 251 from diocesan ordinands and 35 from ordinands in religious congregations. Not all dioceses and religious orders responded.
Half of the diocesan ordinands are under age 35, including James Carter, 26, of the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, a student at the Pontifical North American College and one of three men being ordained for the diocese this year. Four percent are over 60, including 70-year-old Joseph Lang, a widowed father of three.
Asian or Pacific Islanders make up 12 percent of all the ordinands, a percentage substantially higher than the estimated two to three percent of the Asians or Pacific Islanders in the total U.S. Catholic population. They include Benjamin Nguyen of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
The percentage of Hispanic/Latino seminarians dropped to 10 percent this year. Last year it was 12 percent. The figure is significantly lower than the 25-30 percent of Catholics estimated to be Hispanic/Latino.
Only one percent of the Class of 2005 is African American. African Americans constitute three to four percent of the Catholic Church in the United States.
For 2005, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have the largest number of ordinands with 16 and 15 men, respectively.
Catholic education is suggested to be a significant factor in cultivating vocations.
"The levels of Catholic schooling among the ordinands does not differ from that in the total U.S. Catholic population. For example, in a 1993 Gallup survey, 54 percent of Catholics 54 or younger reported that they had attended Catholic elementary school. Among the ordinands, 53 percent reported having attended Catholic elementary school," Hoge said.
"But the ordinands show higher rates of attending Catholic high school than the general U.S. population: 40 percent compared to only 26 percent in the general U.S. population," Hoge said.
"In the cohort of 35 to 54 years old in the general population, only 10 percent attended a Catholic college, compared to 45 percent of the ordinands of 2005," Hoge said.
They include Jesuit Mark Carr, who graduated from Jesuit-run Marquette University, and Jesuit Casey Beaumier, an alumnus of Jesuit-run St. Louis University. Both men are members of the Wisconsin Jesuit Province.
Six percent of the ordinands are converts to the Catholic faith. The range of age at conversion is from 11 to 35.
"On the average, the ordinands converted to Catholicism at 22.2 years of age," Hoge said. Alonzo Garcia, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, converted when he was 12. Tyson Wood, from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, served as a Lutheran pastor for six years before joining the Catholic Church. He said he found his call to priesthood while serving in the military.
Many of the ordinands took part in diocesan and parish vocation programs. Thirty-nine percent attended "Come and See" diocesan programs, (a time to visit a seminary or monastery in order to learn more) and 20 percent attended parish vocation programs. A solid number were involved in their parishes, with 59 percent involved as Eucharistic ministers, 76 percent as altar servers, and 68 percent as lectors. Fifty-three percent attended religious retreats. In addition, 27 percent had participated in World Youth Day, including Jesuit Casey Beaumier and Angel Perez-Lopez of the Archdiocese of Denver.
Only 217 ordinands mentioned full-time employment before entering the seminary. Of them, 14 percent worked in education, including Jesuit Mark Carr. Fourteen percent worked in labor and farming, including John Paul Gardner, a farmer from the Bismarck diocese. Seven percent worked in banking, including Kevin Sandberg of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who worked in financial services/securities.
Five percent cited work in the military, including Michael Morris of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, who was a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and Middle East analyst. He was encouraged to enter the priesthood by a military chaplain and expects to return to the Air Force as a chaplain in 2008.
Four percent worked in nursing, including Thomas Quinn; and two percent in law, including Mark Kramer, SJ.
Bishop Blase Cupich, chairman of the USCCB Vocations Committee, noted the wide-ranging background of the Class of 2005. "It is heartening to know that these men are coming from all walks of life and the ranks of the priesthood are being filled by candidates from such diverse backgrounds," Bishop Cupich said. "These men will enrich the Church. They offer great promise."