WASHINGTON--The 2014 class of men ordained to the priesthood includes 15 percent Hispanic/Latino. This reflects a gradual increase of Hispanic/Latino priests in the U.S. church over decades, but is about half the percentage of Hispanics in the Catholic Church in the U.S. overall.
Catholic education stands out as a strong factor in the background of the new priests, with half having attended a Catholic elementary school, 41 percent a Catholic high school and 45 percent, a Catholic college.
The median age of the new priests is 32, with the youngest 25 and the oldest 70.
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the data for "The Class of 2014: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." CARA collected the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. About 77 percent of the estimated 477 potential ordinands in 2014 responded to the study.
Respondents were from 114 dioceses and archdioceses and 31 religious orders. The largest number of respondents came from the Archdiocese of Newark (11), Archdiocese of Chicago (10) and Archdiocese of Boston (9). Among religious orders, the largest number of respondents came from the Jesuits (18), Dominicans (10) and Benedictines (8).
The full report can be found at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, chair of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found the data encouraging and challenging.
"The number of new priests remains steady and the quality of the new priests is stellar. They have a solid educational background to minister in the contemporary U.S. church," he said. "However, we need more priests and we need them especially from the Hispanic community. The U.S. Bishops in general and the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations in particular continue to keep both these goals as top priorities. We encourage all the faithful to pray for these special intentions."
Among the survey's major findings:
- The median age of ordinands is 32. Eight in ten are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2013, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties. Five men are being ordained to the priesthood after age 60.
- Two thirds (67 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Eleven percent are Asian or Pacific Islanders and 15 percent, Hispanic/Latino.
- Three of ten of the new priests (31 percent) were born outside the U.S., with the largest numbers from Mexico, Vietnam, Colombia, Poland and the Philippines. Mexico and Vietnam are the most frequently mentioned countries of birth among ordinands born outside the U.S. The class identified 33 different countries of origin. The number of ordinands who are foreign-born increased from 22 percent in 1999 to 38 percent in 2003, but has declined since then and is now 31 percent.
- Most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, although 9 percent became Catholic later in life. Among the latter, their average age of conversion was about 19.
Most converts are from a Protestant tradition (e.g., Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist or Anglican). One ordinand was formerly Coptic Orthodox, one converted from Judaism, and another came from a family with both Jewish and Protestant religious affiliation. Eight were raised without a faith tradition.
- More than half completed college (54 percent) before entering the seminary. One in six (16 percent) entered with a graduate degree. Twenty-two percent completed only high school before entering the seminary. A quarter (23 percent) attended some college or a technical school before entering the seminary. Most responding ordinands (54 percent) completed college before entering the seminary. New priests for religious orders are more likely than priests for dioceses to have a graduate degree before entering the seminary (22 percent compared to 14 percent).
- Over a quarter (26 percent) carried educational debt when they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $21,000.
- Six in ten ordinands (60 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education.
- Ordinands have been active in parish ministries, with eight in ten (80 percent) indicating they served as an altar server and about half (52 percent) report being a lector.
- About seven in ten ordinands report regularly praying the rosary (68 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
- On average, responding ordinands report that they were about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. Seven in ten (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest. Other frequent encouragers include friends (45 percent), parishioners (43 percent) and mothers (38 percent).
- A third of ordinands first considered a vocation to priesthood in elementary school. About a quarter first considered a vocation in high school. One in five first considered this in college. Diocesan ordinands are more likely to have considered priesthood in high school, while religious ordinands are slightly more likely to have first considered this during their college years.