Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics

This is is the report of a survey, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Georgetown University)

It was released September 2012.

Although many speak of priest shortages and steep declines in the number of men and women religious, the survey reveals that there is no shortage of individuals who seriously consider these vocations among never-married Catholics in the United States. Three percent of men say they have “very seriously” considered becoming a priest or religious brother and 2 percent of women indicate they have “very seriously” considered becoming a religious sister. This is equivalent to 352,800 never-married men and 254,800 never-married women. Millions of never-married Catholics are estimated to have considered these vocations at least “a little seriously” based on the survey results

This study identifies subgroups in the never-married Catholic population—including teens and adults—and compares those who have considered a vocation at least “a little seriously” to those who say they have not considered this or who say they did so, but not seriously. Overall, 12 percent of male respondents say they considered becoming a priest or brother at least a little seriously. Ten percent of female respondents say they considered becoming a religious sister at least a little seriously. .

Some of the sub-groups which are more likely to have persons considering vocations are obvious, such as attending Mass weekly. Others are more intriguing, such as parents who talk about religion at least once per week or participate in group devotion.

The same factors seem to predict male interest in vocations as well as female interest in vocations.

It has been said that 1 out of every 6 young people have a vocation to the religious life. Unfortunately, many miss their calling and go on to “plan B” in their lives.

For those young men considering a vocation to the religious life, watch the following videos:

The Catholic Priesthood

A Week in the Life of a Priest

Why Become a Priest? Powerful Reasons, Great Answers!

A Day in the Life of a Seminarian

Catholic Vocation to the Priesthood (FSSP) (1/3)

Catholic Vocation to the Priesthood (FSSP) (2/3)

Catholic Vocation to the Priesthood (FSSP) (3/3)

The implication, then, is that the Church has failed to cultivate vocations.

Perhaps in some cases. But I think the problem is far deeper than that. Vocations come from the faithful, who in our day, live in a culture of death. Most Catholics in our culture have about a 2nd grade education in the faith, and most don’t even attend Sunday Mass, which is a basic. So, the real pool of available young men is fairly small compared to the number of folks claiming to be Catholic. What’s needed is for us to double up on catechesis, not just of the young people, but of adults, too!

This observation raises questions: Why do most Catholics in our culture have about a 2nd grade education in the faith? Was there a time when most Catholics had more advanced education in the faith? Have Priests failed to provide education in the faith for parishoners or have parishioners failed to listen? Regarding failure to attend Mass, do you mean that attendance at Mass will provide education in the faith? The complaint of poor education is often heard, but explanations why are not.

Because the Faith is not taught, or if it is, the teaching methods have become so poor as to be ineffective.

CCD in most parishes in the U.S. now stands for “Cut, Color, and Draw” rather than really learning the faith. Parents, who are supposed to be the main teachers of children, also don’t know the faith because the problem is now generational. You cannot give what you do not have.

We don’t learn the faith in a spiritual vacuum. We must practice what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivandi. As we pray, so shall we believe, so shall we live. That works both ways, forward and backward. Our beliefs and practices and the way we live are tied together.

This is a good point. Catholic priests are unmarried, for the most part, and the priesthood is not hereditary; it’s not a family business passed down from father to son. Each generation must draw its own priests from among its own young people. If it has not raised those young people in a Catholic culture, it will be hard for them to think of being Catholic priests. You might say that each generation gets the priests it deserves, since each generation makes its own supply of priests.

Still I am quite hopeful, at least with regard to the future of the priesthood. Perhaps my diocese is a bubble of orthodoxy in a cauldron of secularism. But I’ve met a lot of seminarians, and a lot of new priests. I’d compare them favorably with the priests and seminarians of my own generation. I think they are better. Better catechized. Better motivated. Better prayer life. They make me hopeful.

Here is another factor that must be considered. Religious orders and seminaries expect anyone interested in entering to have a spiritual director. They aren’t so easy to come by. I know. I tried, but was never able to find one. That’s one reason why I’m a married oblate now! There is really a need for these people too, along with faithful families & good catechesis, if we want more priests and religious.

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