Class of '03 Priests Younger, More Educated, and More Diverse
WASHINGTON (May 21, 2003) -– Priests ordained in 2003 are younger, more educated, and more diverse than their average diocesan and religious order counterparts, according to a recently-released survey of the class of 2003.
"This year's class demonstrates once again that the Lord is calling gifted and talented men from all walks of life to the priesthood," said Father Edward J. Burns, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation. Among the graduates of this year's class are doctors, professors, and engineers, as well as a former Navy SEAL, firefighter, police officer, and actor. Most of the candidates will be ordained in May or June.
The average age of this year's graduate, 36.8, is significantly younger than the average age of priests in the United States, which is approximately 61 years old. Seventy percent of the class of '03 are under 39 years of age. Thirty percent hold a master's or professional degree beyond a bachelor's degree, up from 13 percent in 1998. Fourteen percent of the class is Hispanic, an increase of two percent from 1998. The number of foreign-born priests – five percent of whom hail from Vietnam and six percent from Mexico – ordained this year has grown to 28 percent, up from 24 percent in 1998.
At the request of the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, the Life Cycle Institute of The Catholic University of America conducted the survey. The results are based on responses from 348 of the approximately 500 members of the class of 2003. Findings of the survey were released May 1st. Currently, 5,598 seminarians at 173 seminaries and houses of formation are preparing for the priesthood nationwide.
"The witness of local priests who engage and encourage their parishioners about their calling in life continues to show that most vocations are local and personal," said Father Edward Burns. Seventy-eight percent of respondents revealed that their first consideration of the priesthood came about in a conversation initiated by their own priest.
"In particular, it shows the impact of a priest's personal invitation for a man to consider the priesthood," said Burns. An overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that experience in their parishes as Eucharistic ministers, altar servers, and lectors led them to further consider the priesthood.
Among this year's graduates are 32 year-old John Schweitzer, a Navy SEAL in training before entering seminary; Michael Wrigley, 47, a former sociology professor; Thinh Nguyen, 32, a refugee from Vietnam; 42 year-old Jesuit Christopher Lockard, a lawyer; Jose Alvarez, 42, a former actor; Steven Hurley, a 33 year-old former police officer, and Wojciech Jaskowiak, a missionary who lived in Siberia, Guam and Estonia.
Popular hobbies of the class of 2003 include running, cycling, hiking, reading, playing a musical instrument, and volunteering. Twenty-three percent of candidates fish in their free time. During his six years of seminary training, 26 year-old candidate Jonathan Meyer biked 14,000 miles in trips around the United States. Thirty-four year-old Lawrence Young hiked the entire 2,166 mile length of the Appalachian Trail.
The archdiocese of Chicago leads the nation's 195 dioceses and archdioceses in ordaining 16 men to the priesthood in 2003. Eleven graduates are from the diocese of Rockford; ten from the diocese of Cleveland; nine from the archdiocese of Boston; eight from the Society of the Divine Word, a religious order; eight each from the archdioceses of St. Louis and Newark, and the dioceses of Bridgeport and Sacramento; and seven men each from the archdioceses of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Baltimore, and the diocese of Austin.
Please see the enclosed list in order to contact the above members of the Ordination Class of 2003. For further information, call Father Edward J. Burns (202/541-3033). More information on vocations is also available at www.usccb.org/vocations.
The June meeting of the USCCB opens Thursday, June 19, and continues through Saturday, June 21, at the Hyatt Hotel at Union Station in St. Louis. Media seeking credentials can find information and a form at www.usccb.org/comm. Media applications should be submitted by June 1. For further assistance, contact the Department of Communications (202/541-3200).