Ordination Class 2002 Shows More Priests from Mexico, Vietnam
WASHINGTON (September 3, 2002) -– The ordinations class of 2002 reflects an increase in the number of priests born outside the United States, particularly in Mexico and Vietnam, according to the U.S. Bishops' annual survey or men ordained to the priesthood.
According to the survey 15 percent of the Class of 2002 are Hispanic, a figure higher than in recent years and more than double that of 1984, when that percentage was seven percent. Of the class, seven percent were born in Mexico. The increased percentage, however, is still lower than the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. church, a figures estimated to be 25-30 percent.
The survey showed that nine percent of the class are Asian or Pacific Islander, a noticeably high percentage since the percentage of Asian Pacific Islanders in the Church in the United States is estimated at two to three percent. Six percent of the ordination class was born in Vietnam. One of them, Ly Chu, who was ordained for the Diocese of des Moines, attended an underground seminary in Vietnam for seven years.
A total of 32 percent were born outside the United States, the highest percentage since research on the ordination classes began in 1998, when the figure was 24 percent.
The survey data was analyzed by Dean Hoge of the life Cycle Institute of The Catholic University of America. Ordinands included in the survey were 326 seminarians who completed the survey by March 31. An estimated 500 men were ordained in 2002.
"The ordination of these fine men offers hope for the entire Church," said Bishop Kevin M. Britt, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Vocations. "In a noisy world, they heard the voice of God calling them to serve His people in this unique way. As a Church, bishops, priests, religious and laity, we need to help more men listen to hear the call to embrace the priesthood.".
The survey of this year's ordained also noted that
- 47 percent were under the age of 35.
- 64 percent were on European American background
- 68 percent were born in the United States.
- 4 percent were African American, the same percentage as African Americans in the Church in the United States.
- 57 percent had graduated from college with a bachelor's degree before entering the seminary. Twenty percent had earned a master's degree, two percent, a law degree, and 3 percent a doctorate.
- 61 percent attended a Catholic elementary school.
- 52 percent attended a Catholic high school.
- 53 percent attended a Catholic college.
- The average age at ordination rose from 34.8 to 36.7.
- The level of education prior to entering the seminary also rose. Whereas in 1998, 30 Percent had less than a bachelor's degree, in the 2002 sample it was only 17 percent. Correspondingly, the percentage who had received a master's degree or professional degree rose from 13 to 27 percent. This is a noteable change in only four years.
The number of men ordained in each diocese and religious order varies.
The Diocese Raleigh, North Carolina, for example, ordained five men, including four Hispanics from Colombia, Bill John Acosta-Escoar, John Alex Gonzalez, Walter Ospina-Briceno and William Hernando Rodriguez.
The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, ordained one man, 31 year old Patrick Ike William-Nwokoye, a Nigerian who holds a doctorate.
The Diocese of Mobile ordained three men born in the United States: Erik Walters, 27; Michael Labadie, 28; and Jan Zagorski, 41.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart ordained one man, Joseph-Thien Dinh, a 32 year old man born in Vietnam who came to the United States when he was 16.
Several lawyers were in the class, including Peter Ignatius Hahn, 45, a marathon runner who was ordained for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Three men born in the United States were ordained for the Archdiocese of Dubuqe, including Henry Patrick Huber, 32; Dennis Miller, 27, and Thomas Patrick Rastrelli, 27.
The new priests hold advanced degrees in a variety of areas. John O'Farrell of Rockville Centre, New York. For example, holds a doctorate in education and was a high school principal. Ronal Schmelzer, of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, holds a doctorate was a full professor and university administrator. John Mark Nolte, one of seven men ordained for the Archdiocese of Omaha, is an optometrist. John Kartje, one of nine men ordained for Chicago, worked as a university researcher and teacher.
Some have military background. Albert Bremer, of Owensboro, Kentucky, spent four years in the Coast Guard. Thomas Smithson of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, was on active duty in the Air Force, 1967 to 1971. Gary DeRouchey, of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, had a career as an officer in the U.S. Army. Robert Scmidt, a Jesuit, was in the Army from 1966-1990.
A variety of accomplishments mark the class. John Grimm, of the Diocese of Wilmington, for example, was managing editor of his Law Review in law school. Jay McKee of Wilmington was an Eagle Scout. Stephen Toth of Newark worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Joseph Howard, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, was a 1976 State Forensic Champs.