USCCB News Release
April 20, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ethnic Diversity Shows in New Priests Ordination Class
Most New Priests Attended Catholic Schools
Median Age of New Priests is 33
Ordination Class 2009 Has Many Asian-Born, Despite Low Percentage of Asian Catholics in United States
WASHINGTON—The ordination class of 2009 claims 11 percent Asian-born men, though the percentage of Asian Catholics in the United States is only three percent. Six percent of the class is from Vietnam and two percent from the Philippines.
The percentage of Hispanics in the class is also 12 percent, though the percentage of Hispanic Catholics is estimated at 34 percent. Five percent of the class is from Mexico and one percent from Colombia.
Three percent are African American, the same percentage as African American Catholics in the United States. The majority of the class, 72 percent, is Caucasian, although Caucasians make up only 58 percent of U.S. Catholics.
The ethnic analysis is part of The Class of 2009: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, an annual national survey of men being ordained priests, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Georgetown University-based research center. The entire report can be found at http://usccb.org/vocations/classof2009/ . The survey was commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, noted the quality of the Class of 2009.
"These new priests reflect a tremendous dedication to the Church and show great promise. They reflect God's blessing on our Church," Cardinal O'Malley said. "Those who formed them in the faith both in their families and schools can be proud of their efforts. The Lord planted the seeds of their vocations, and the surrounding community helped them grow."
The survey had a response rate of approximately 70 percent of the 465 potential ordinands reported by theologates, houses of formation, dioceses, and religious institutes. They included 239 men being ordained for dioceses and 71 for religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans. Another 15 ordinands did not specify whether they were being ordained for dioceses or religious orders.
In other findings, CARA reported as follows:
- The average age for the Class of 2009 is 36. More than half (57 percent) are between the ages of 25 and 34. This is approximately the same as it was in 2008 and consistent with the average age of ordination classes for the last five years. The youngest ordinand in the class is 25; the oldest, 66. Two ordinands are 65 or older.
- One quarter of ordinands were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland and the Philippines. Religious order ordinands are slightly more likely than diocesan ordinands to be foreign-born. The percentage of ordinands who are foreign-born increased from 22 percent in 1999 to 38 percent in 2003, but has declined since that point and is now at 24 percent in 2009.
- Most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, although one in ten (10 percent) became Catholic later in life, on average at 21. Ordinands who converted from another denomination or faith tradition are about evenly divided among those who came from a mainline Protestant tradition (Episcopalian, Lutheran, Anglican, United Church of Christ) and those who came from an evangelical or conservative Protestant tradition (Church of Christ, Baptist, non-denominational Christian). Five ordinands who converted were raised without a faith tradition.
- Before entering the seminary, two in three ordinands completed college (65 percent), and one in five of those had a graduate degree (19 percent). Compared to the Class of 1999, those of the Class of 2009 were less likely to have a college degree before entering the seminary (35 percent in 2009, compared to 25 percent in 1999).
- Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a slightly higher rate than that for all U.S. Catholic adults. Ordinands also are more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. The responding ordinands are highly educated. More than six in ten completed college before entering the seminary. A number of ordinands report that they were recognized for academic achievement. Recognitions they received include Dean's List – 55 percent; Honor Society (other than Phi Beta Kappa) – 38 percent; Magna cum laude – 16 percent; Summa cum laude – 16 percent; Phi Beta Kappa – 7 percent; Salutatorian – 6 percent; and Valedictorian – 5 percent.
- Whether or not they ever attended a Catholic elementary or high school, 57 percent (65 percent of diocesan ordinands and 54 percent of religious ordinands) participated in a religious education program in their parish. On average, they completed seven years of parish religious education. Five percent of ordinands (five percent of diocesan and three percent of religious ordinands) report being home schooled at some time. The average length of time they were home-schooled was six years. Among those who reported at least some college before entering the seminary, 75 percent say they attended a Catholic college or university. This is significantly higher than the adult U.S. Catholic population, which has about seven percent attending a Catholic college or university.
- Ordinands have been active in parish ministries, with between about half and three-quarters indicating they served as an altar server, lector, and/or Eucharistic minister.
- About two-thirds of ordinands report having full-time work experience before entering the seminary, most often in education.
- Responding ordinands represent 112 dioceses/eparchies and 46 religious congregations.