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Incoming priests cite strong family life in vocation survey


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J-P Mauro - published on 04/17/24

This annual look into the backgrounds and motivations of seminarians was commissioned by the USCCB, from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

A new study from CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, is examining the backgrounds of the incoming class of ordinands in 2024. The annual survey of seminarians is commissioned each year by the USCCB’s Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.

The data was gathered from about 400 respondents, out of a class of 475, which represents about 80% of ordinands. Of these, the majority (83%) will become diocesan priests while the remaining 17% will enter religious orders.

Family life

The data found that a strong family is still one of the greatest common factors among ordinands. Ninety-five percent of respondents reported being raised by their biological parents, while 88% of them were raised by parents who were married. This is an important point, because the average seminarian reported identifying their vocational calling at the age of 16, while still a child living with parents. Some 80% reported both parents being Catholic. 

Still, there was a large gap to be seen between when they identified their vocations and when they were ordained as priests. The average age of ordinands was found to be 34, which suggests that these men have been entertaining their vocations for almost half their lives. 

As far as demographics go, the majority of respondents (67%) were White/Caucasian, with the next largest group being Hispanic/Latino, at 18%. Asian/Pacific Islanders made up 11% of the 2024 class and Black/African American followed with 2%.

As many as 23% of ordinands were foreign born, with the most common countries of origin listed as Mexico (5%), Vietnam (4%), Colombia (3%), and the Philippines (2%).

Encouragement and exposure

Encouragement was found to be another factor that had a large influence on those following their vocation. A full 9 out of 10 respondents reported receiving encouragement from at least one person who was important to them, with many saying their parish priest’s encouragement helped the most. 

Being close to the action doesn’t seem to hurt either, as 71% of respondents said they were altar servers before entering seminary. A further 48% spent time as lectors, 41% as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and 32% as catechists.

Read more findings from CARA here.

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