WASHINGTON – The median age of men ordained to the priesthood in 2013 is 32, two-thirds are Caucasian, and 26 percent carry educational debt.
These figures stand out in The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, the annual national survey 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 be found at usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/
The report is the 17th annual survey of ordinands commissioned by the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). About 74 percent of an estimated 500 men to be ordained priests in the United States in 2013 responded to the survey.
On average, most of the ordination class were baptized as infants, but nine percent became Catholic later in life. Eight in ten report that both parents are Catholic, and more than a third have a relative who is a priest or religious.
On average, respondents report that they were nearly 17 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. Two in three (67 percent) say they were encouraged to consider a vocation to the priesthood by a parish priest. Others who encouraged them include friends (46 percent), parishioners (38 percent) and mothers (34 percent).
Two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the U.S. adult Catholic population, men to be ordained are more apt to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (15 percent). Compared to diocesan ordinands, new priests for religious orders are less likely to report race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
Three in 10 respondents (31 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Colombia, Poland, the Philippines and Nigeria. On average, respondents who were born in another country have lived in the United States for 14 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of respondents for the diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside the United States.
In other findings:
More than half of the Class of 2013 (52 percent) report having more than two siblings, while one in five (20 percent) report having five or more siblings. Ordinands are most likely to be the oldest in their family (40 percent).
Before entering the seminary, six in ten ordinands completed college (63 percent). Almost one quarter (23 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (29 percent) entered the seminary while in college.
Ordinands of the Class of 2013 have been active in parish ministries.Two-thirds indicated they served as an altar server and about half (47 percent) participated in a parish youth group. One-fifth (20 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
More than four in 10 of respondents (42 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate equal to that for all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, 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 (44 percent, compared to seven percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
Many ordinands specified some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education, accounting, finance or insurance. Four percent of ordinands indicated that they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces at some point.
The survey also found that new priests in dioceses and religious orders have educational debt. Just over a quarter (26 percent) carried debt at the time they entered seminary, averaging just a little over $20,000 in educational debt when they entered seminary.