New Priests Younger, Were Altar Servers, Lectors, Carry Debt

May 17, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—The average age of menordained to the priesthood in 2012 is trending younger with the median age forthe 2012 class at 31. Two-thirds of the class are between the ages of 25 and34. This is slightly younger than last year and follows the trend over the pastsix years.

These figures stand out in TheClass of 2012: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, an annual nationalsurvey of men being ordained priests for U.S. dioceses and religious communities.The study was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate(CARA), a Georgetown University-based research center. The entire report can befound at

The report is the16th annual survey of ordinands commissioned by the Secretariat forClergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops (USCCB). About 63 percent of an estimated 487 potential ordinands inthe United States responded to the survey.

Data show that onaverage, most of the ordination class have been Catholic from birth, but sixpercent became Catholic later in life. More than four in five report that bothparents are Catholic, and more than a third have a relative who is a priest orreligious.

Ordinands of theClass of 2012 have been active in parish ministries. Three-quarters indicatedthey served as an altar server and more than half (53 percent) participated ina parish youth group. One-fifth (22 percent) participated in a World Youth Daybefore entering the seminary.

The survey alsofound that new priests in dioceses and religious orders have educational debt.The debt is higher on average among men being ordained for the diocesanpriesthood.Diocesan ordinands averaged$19,614 in educational debt when they entered the seminary.Several reported that their educational debtis now paid, but those still with educational debt average $20,966 at the timeof ordination.

Religiousordinands averaged $29,364 in educational debt when they entered theirreligious institute.Among those whostill have educational debt, the average amount is $14,100 but the medianamount is $2,500.

In other findings:

• Seven in ten responding ordinands (71 percent) report theirprimary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to theU.S. adult Catholic population, ordinands are more likely to be of Asian orPacific Islander background (nine percent), but less likely to beHispanic/Latino (15 percent). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religiousordinands are less likely to report race or ethnicity as Caucasian/EuropeanAmerican/white.

• Almost three in ten ordinands were born outside the UnitedStates, with the largest numbers coming from Vietnam, Colombia, Mexico, Poland,and the Philippines. On average, responding ordinands who were born in anothercountry came to America in their early twenties.Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands forthe diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside theUnited States.

• More than half of the Class of 2012 (55 percent) report havingmore than two siblings, while nearly three in ten (28 percent) report havingfive or more siblings. One in three (33 percent) is the oldest child and one infive is the youngest child (22 percent) in the family.

• Before entering the seminary, six in ten ordinands completedcollege (61 percent). Sixteen percent entered the seminary with a graduatedegree. One in three (29 percent) entered the seminary while in college.

• Almost half of responding ordinands (47 percent) attended aCatholic elementary school, a rate slightly higher than that for all U.S.Catholic adults (42 percent). In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likelythan other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school andthey are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent,compared to seven percent among U.S. Catholic adults).

• Many ordinands specified some type of full-time work experienceprior to entering the seminary, most often in education or management. Sixpercent of ordinands indicated that they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces atsome point.

• On average, responding ordinands report that they were nearly 17when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood.


Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB,priests, seminary, student debt, Class of 2012, Center for Applied Research inthe Apostolate, CARA, Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations ,dioceses, religious orders

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MEDIA CONTACT ONLY:Sr. Mary Ann WalshO: 202-541-3200M: 301-325-7935Email