Ordination Class of 2018: CARA Report Gives Reasons for Hope and Areas for Growth

April 20, 2018 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—According to the Center for AppliedResearch in the Apostolate's (CARA) annual survey, in the Ordination Class of2018, almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as aninfant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the averageage of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) reportthat both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.

The total number of potential ordinands for the classof 2018, 430, is a lower number from 590 in 2017.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, Chairmanof the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, foundthat the data gives reason for hope as well as provides areas for futuregrowth.

"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower thisyear, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those tobe ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry forthe future. It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort toencourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assistthem in the discernment process."

Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat, cited thesignificance of encouraging vocations awareness: "One of the most encouragingstatistics to see in this study is that 86 percent of those to be ordained tothe priesthood this year were encouraged to do so by someone in their life(most frequently a parish priest, friend or another parishioner). Asimilar percentage was reported in February in the most recent survey of thosesolemnly professed. This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve toactively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to whatvocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response."

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in theApostolate gathered the data for "The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to thePriesthood." CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariatfor Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 78 percent of the 430potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 334 respondents include 252ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religiouspriesthood.

Among the survey's major findings:

Themajority of responding ordinands are Caucasian (seven in ten) and were bornin the United States (three in four). One in four is foreign-born. Bycomparison, since 1999, on average each year, 30 percent of respondingordinands were foreign-born.

The four most common countries of birth among theforeign-born are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. Onaverage, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the UnitedStates 12 years ago at the age of 23.

On average, responding ordinands first consideredpriesthood when they were 17 years old. Responding ordinands werescheduled for ordination on average 18 years later (at the age of 35).Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has fluctuated onlyslightly each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current averageage of 35.

Between 39 and 47 percent of all respondingordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of theirschooling. Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) participated in areligious education program in their parish for seven years, on average.

Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent)report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degreebefore entering the seminary. The most common fields of study are socialscience, theology or philosophy, business, or liberal arts.

Two in three responding ordinands (64 percent)reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One intwenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves.About one in eight responding ordinands (13 percent) reported that one orboth parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Almost all responding ordinands reported beingbaptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who becameCatholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in fiveresponding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents wereCatholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had arelative who is a priest or religious.

Regarding participation in parish ministriesbefore entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands(74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearlythree in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served asExtraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in threeserved as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry(35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).

In regard to participation in vocation programsbefore entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent)reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at the seminary or thereligious institute/society.

Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someonein their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or anotherparishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, fourindividuals encouraged their vocation.

One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent)indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood byone or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or afamily member (other than parents).

The full report can be found online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/class-of-2018/ordination-class-of-2018.cfm.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, ordination, class of 2018,Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, priesthood, ordinands, Centerfor Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Secretariat for Clergy,Consecrated Life and Vocations, diocesan priesthood, religious life

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Judy Keane
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