WASHINGTON (April 30, 2007)—The average age of men ordained in the United States to the Catholic priesthood in 2007 is 35, and one out of three of them is foreign born. In addition, most entered the seminary with a college diploma, some with advanced degrees in areas such as law, medicine, and education.
The information was compiled by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for The Class of 2007: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood. CARA conducts the survey annually for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation.
Researchers gathered information from 282 seminarians, estimated to be approximately 60 percent of the 475 potential ordinands. These 282 seminarians include 221 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 60 to the religious priesthood.
Major findings noted that
* The average age of ordinands for the Class of 2007 is 35. This is approximately the same as it was in 1998, the first year for which data are available.
* On average, diocesan ordinands lived in the diocese for which they will be ordained for 17 years before entering the seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before they entered the seminary.
* Seven in ten responding ordinands report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian, European American, or white. Compared to the U.S. adult Catholic population in general, ordinands are more likely to be Asian, but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino. Religious ordinands are less likely than diocesan ordinands or the U.S. adult Catholic population to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
* One in three ordinands was born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Vietnam, Mexico, Poland, or the Philippines. Religious are more likely than diocesan ordinands to be foreign-born. The percentage that is foreign-born (31 percent) is nearly the same as it was in 2006 (30 percent), but has increased from the 24 percent reported in 1998. On average, responding ordinands who were born outside the United States have lived here ten years.
* Nearly all ordinands have been Catholic since birth, although 6 percent became Catholic later in life.
* More than six in ten ordinands completed college, and one in five had attained a graduate degree, before entering the seminary.
* Half of responding ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school, as have almost half of all U.S. Catholic adults. Ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school. They are much more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic college.
* About two-thirds of ordinands report having full-time work experience before entering the seminary, most often in education. Slightly less than one in ten has served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
* On average, the responding ordinands report that they were about 17 and a half when they first considered priesthood as a vocation.
The complete survey report can be found at www.usccb.org/vocations.
Half of the ordinands are age 32 or older. Thirty-six percent of men ordained for dioceses were between the ages of 25 and 29. Three percent were 60 or older.
Ordinands to the diocesan priesthood approximately reflect the race and ethnic diversity of the U.S. adult Catholic population overall. Ordinands to the religious priesthood are more likely than the U.S. adult Catholic population to be Asian/Pacific Islander or Hispanic/Latino.
Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian ordinands are over-represented among survey respondents, relative to their proportion of the U.S. adult Catholic population, while Hispanic/Latinos are under-represented. Asians/Pacific Islanders constitute 3 percent of U.S. Catholics overall but are 11 percent of responding ordinands. By contrast, Hispanics/Latinos constitute approximately 36 percent of U.S. adult Catholics (CARA Catholic Poll, 2005) but only 11 percent of responding ordinands. Five percent of responding ordinands identified themselves as African/African American or black. This is the same percentage of African Americans as is found in U.S. Catholics in general.
Among ordinands who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Those who converted from another faith tradition or denomination are about evenly divided between those who came from a mainline Protestant tradition (Episcopalian, Methodist, Anglican) and those who came from an evangelical or conservative Protestant tradition (Evangelical, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Southern Baptist). One ordinand converted from Buddhism.
Half of responding ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school. More than a third attended a Catholic high school and two in five attended a Catholic college.
Ordinands are not significantly more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic elementary school. In a 2007 national telephone poll conducted by CARA, 49 percent of U.S. adult Catholics report having attended a Catholic elementary school, compared to 50 percent of ordinands who have done so. By contrast, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (36 percent of ordinands, compared to 23 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (42 percent of ordinands, compared to just 8 percent of U.S. adult Catholics). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are more likely to have attended a Catholic high school but less likely to have attended a Catholic college.
Only 2 percent of ordinands (four diocesan and two religious ordinands) report being home schooled at some time. Among those who were, the average length of time they were home-schooled was nine and a half years.
Ordinands who mentioned prior work experience were most likely to report that they were educators. Among religious ordinands the most common category of prior full-time work experience was in the areas of skilled labor, farming, or fishing.
Almost one in ten ordinands reports having served in the U.S. Armed Forces (9 percent of responding diocesan ordinands and only one religious ordinand). Among those who have served, more than a third served in the Air Force.