Strong Prayer Life Influences Choice to Become Nun, Brother, Suggests CARA Study

February 2, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—Nearly all of thereligious men and women who professed perpetual vows in 2016 had a strongprayer life prior to entering their religious institute, according to a surveyon men and women religious conducted by the Center for Applied Research in theApostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The survey results were releasedFebruary 2, to coincide with the annual celebration of World Day forConsecrated Life.

The U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops' (USCCB) Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV)commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) toconduct the annual survey of the religious profession class of 2016.

The large percentage of newly professed religious whoresponded to the survey is the result of the generous cooperation of religiousinstitutes across the United States. "The participation in the survey byreligious communities is remarkable," said Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., ofNewark, chair of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, andVocations. "The Church is grateful for those women and men who have given theirlives to Jesus Christ through the profession of final vows. Their participationin this survey and the information gained from it, helps the Church's work toencourage all to listen for God's call."

The survey polled women and menreligious who professed perpetual vows in 2016 in a religious congregation,province, or monastery based in the U.S. CARA received a response from 610 of759 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 80 percent among religiousinstitutes.

Of these 216 identified women andmen religious, a total of 81 sisters and nuns and 96 brothers and priestsresponded to the survey. These 96 men may include some brothers who intend topursue studies leading to priestly ordination. This represents a response rateof 82 percent of the 216 potential members of the Profession Class of 2016 thatwere reported to CARA by major superiors. 

Some of the major findings of thereport are:

·        Nearly nine in ten or 86 percent ofresponding religious regularly participated in some type of private prayeractivity before they entered their religious institute. About two-thirdsparticipated in Eucharistic Adoration, prayed the rosary, or attended retreatsbefore entering. Nearly six in ten participated in spiritual direction beforeentering.

·        Mostreligious did not report that educational debt delayed their application forentrance to their institute. Among the 4 percent who did report havingeducational debt, however, they averaged about 4 years of delay while they paiddown an average of $29,100 in educational debt. 

·        Theaverage age of responding religious is 39. Half of the responding religious are age 36 or younger. The youngest is 26 and the oldest is 86.

·        Two-thirdsof responding religious (66 percent) identify as white, more than one in six(16 percent) identifies as Asian, and more than one in ten (11 percent)identifies as Hispanic.

·        Mostresponding religious (67 percent) were born in the U.S. Of those born outside the United States, themost common country of origin is Vietnam. 

·        Amongthose identifying as Hispanic/Latino six in ten (58 percent) are U.S. born.Those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian (96 percent) arepredominantly foreign born. Nearly allidentifying as Caucasian/white (91 percent) are U.S. born.

·        Almosthalf of responding religious (46 percent) attended a Catholic elementaryschool, which is about the same as that for all Catholic adults in the UnitedStates (39 percent). These respondents are more likely than other U.S.Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (38 percent of respondents,compared to 19 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to haveattended a Catholic college (37 percent of responding religious, compared tojust 10 percent of U.S. adult Catholics). Responding women religious are less likely than brothers to haveattended a Catholic college (31 percent for women compared to 42 percent formen).

·        Onaverage, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when theyfirst considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger whenthey first did so.

·        One-halfsay that a parish priest (53 percent) encouraged their vocation.

·        Fourin ten report being encouraged to consider a vocation by a religious sister orbrother. Women religious were morelikely than men religious to do so.

·        Overfour in ten report that they were encouraged to consider a vocation by theirfriends.

Thesurvey and more information on the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life andVocations can be found at


Keywords:Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA, Class of 2016, religious life,CCLV, Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, USCCB, CMSM, LCWR, CMSWR, U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Day for Consecrated Life

# # #

MEDIA CONTACT:Norma Montenegro FlynnO: 202-541-3202