As the Church prepares to celebrate the 60th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Sunday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a new survey on the incoming ordination class of 2023. The survey, conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), received responses from 334 of the 458 men who are to be ordained by the end of this year.
Overall, the data paints the average incoming ordinand as a 33-year-old who was born to the faith and raised in a Catholic household. The majority of them regularly took part in Eucharistic Adoration (75%), as well as frequently prayed the Holy Rosary (66%), before entering seminary.
Most seminarians (81%) were found to be studying to become diocesan priests, with only 10 respondents citing plans to enter a religious community. Of these, the Benedictines were most popular with six seminarians, and the Capuchin Franciscans followed them with four.
The majority of US seminarians (62%) are studying at a seminary in the South or Midwest, with seminaries in the Northeast and on the West Coast accounting for 30% of respondents.
A large portion of the incoming ordinands attended Catholic institutions for their education, with the highest rates (43%) attending Catholic primary school. A further 34% attended Catholic high school and 35% went to a Catholic college. More than one in 10 seminarians reported having been homeschooled, which is disproportionate to the national average of 2%.
Broken down by demographics, 64% of ordinands are white, 16% are Latino, 10% are Asian, and 6% are Black. One-quarter of the graduating class is foreign born, with the most common countries of origin being Mexico, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Colombia.
About one third of the incoming ordinands reported having a priest in their family, but the vast majority (84%) cited having two Catholic parents. Nearly two thirds reported their vocation being supported by family members, parish priests, and the community. Just about half, however, reported being discouraged in their vocation by some parties of the same groups.
In the USCCB report, Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV), commented on the findings of the survey:
“Surveys of recently professed men and women religious and men ordained to the priesthood show that families and encouragement from the parish priests alongside Catholic schools provide optimal environments for a vocational call to grow. On this day, let us thank God for continuing to call men and women to serve him and his Church as priests, religious, and consecrated persons. We pray that all families, teachers, and priests will continue their essential work of instilling the faith and love of Jesus in our children.”