FOLLOW US  Click to go to Facebook.  Click to go to Twitter.  Click to go to YouTube.   TEXT SIZE Click to make text small. Click for medium-sized text. Click to make text large.  

Clergy and Religious

These facts are for 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Priests 1

  • There are 38,809 diocesan and religious-order priests in the United States.
  • 26,328 diocesan priests
  • 11,936 religious-order priests (Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, etc.)
  • 545 new priests ordained
  • 38,260 total number of priests in dioceses


  • There are 4,785 seminarians enrolled in the United States.
  • 3,629 enrolled in diocesan seminaries
  • 1,156 enrolled in religious-order seminaries

Permanent Deacons

  • There are 18,704 men who have been ordained as permanent deacons in the United States.

Vowed Religious

  • Sisters: 49,480
  • Brothers: 4,225

Facts about Ordinands to the Priesthood, the Class of 2015:2

  • The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
  • Two-thirds (69%) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  • Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, ordinands are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10% of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14%).
  • One-quarter (25%) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years.
  • Between 20 and 30% of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last 10 years were born outside of the United States.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7% became Catholic later in life.
  • 84% report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37%) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • 60% completed college before entering the seminary. One in 7 (15%) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in 3 (34%) report entering the seminary while in college.
  • The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20%), liberal arts (19%), and science (13%).
  • 51% of responding ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a higher rate than that of all Catholic adults in the United States.
  • Ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45%, compared to 7% among U.S. Catholic adults).
  • 6 in 10 ordinands (61%) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education.
  • 4% of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About 1 in 6 ordinands (16%) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • 8 in 10 (78%) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51%) reporting service as a lector. One in 7 (14%) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  • About 7 in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70%) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70%) before entering the seminary.
  • Almost half (48%) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.

Religious Retirement 3

  • As of 2014, 33,677 retired Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests past age 70 benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.
  • The National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) has over 900 religious institutes/orders in its database, including some small contemplative orders or new immigrant communities.
  • As a result of the 2014 Retirement Fund for Religious collection, the NRRO awarded $25 million in Direct Care Assistance to 395 religious communities, or an average of $1,310 for every member of an eligible Catholic religious community who is age 70 or older.
  • 48,269 Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests belong to religious communities that receive financial support and/or services from the Retirement Fund for Religious.
  • By 2025 it is estimated that religious sisters, brothers and religious order priests over 70 years of age will outnumber those under age 70 by nearly 4 to 1.
  • Traditionally, religious worked for modest stipends or maintenance that did not include pension benefits.
  • The average Social Security benefit for religious today is approximately $6,047.71; for other Americans, the average benefit is $15,936.
  • Since 1985, the percentage of religious institutes with a median age of 70 or higher has risen from 7% to 66% of the total institutes providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office.

  1. The Official Catholic Directory 2015, General Summary.
  2. Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, The Class of 2015, Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood. Executive Summary. 
  3. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Religious Retirement Office, 2015.

By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for, nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or sponsoring organizations.

cancel  continue