Clergy and Religious

These facts are for 2018 unless otherwise noted.


  • There are 37,302 diocesan and religious-order priests in the United States.
  • 25,706 diocesan priests
  • 11,596 religious-order priests (Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, etc.)
  • 523 new priests ordained
  • 37,302 total number of priests in dioceses


  • There are 4,856 seminarians enrolled in the United States.
  • 3,596 enrolled in diocesan seminaries
  • 1,260 enrolled in religious-order seminaries

Permanent Deacons

  • There are 18,977 men who have been ordained as permanent deacons in the United States.

Vowed Religious

  • Sisters: 45,100
  • Brothers: 3,953

Facts about Ordinands to the Priesthood, the Class of 20182

  • The average age for the Class of 2018 is 35. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 34. Half of responding ordinands (51%) are 33 years or younger at the time of the survey.  One in ten (10%) is over 50 years old and nine responding ordinands are over 60 years old.  This distribution is slightly older than the 2017 survey, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
  • Two in three (65%) of responding ordinands report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white, with 20% reporting their primary race as Hispanic/Latino and 11% as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian.
  • Of those surveyed, 30% were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico (6%), Vietnam (5%), Columbia (3%), and the Philippines (2%).  On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years.
  • Since 2000, between 20 and 30% of ordinands to the diocesan priesthood were born outside of the United States.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 10% became Catholic later in life.
  • 83% report that both of their parents are Catholic and 35% have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • Two in five (45%) report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary, and 16% entered the seminary with a graduate degree.  Diocesan ordinands are more likely than religious to report that they entered seminary either before or during college.
  • The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (18%), business (14%), liberal arts (14%) and engineering (13%).
  • Compared to the overall U.S. Catholic population, responding ordinands are 9 percentage points more likely to have attended a Catholic elementary school, 23 percentage points more likely to have attended a Catholic high school, and 29 percentage points more likely to have attended a Catholic college.
  • Two in three (64%) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, with the most common work experience (18%) being in business.  Responding ordinands for religious institutes are more likely than responding diocesan ordinands to have prior work experience (71% compared to 62%). Religious ordinands are more likely than diocesan ordinands to have prior work experience in education (30% compared to 17%).
  • 4% of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Among those with military service, 36% served in the Air Force. About one in eight (13%) report that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Nearly three-fourths (74%) indicate they served as an altar server and over half (57%) report service as a lector. One in six (18%) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  • More than 7 in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (72%) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (73%) before entering the seminary.
  • Half (51%) of responding ordinands indicate that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons.  Discouragement was reported as coming most often from friends/classmates (30%) or a family member other than parent (21%).

Religious Retirement3

  • 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 2018, General Summary.
  2. Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.
  3. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Religious Retirement Office, 2015.