April 24, 2015
WASHINGTON. The total number of men expected to be ordained priests across the United States this year is expected to increase 24.7 percent from last year.
According to “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” 595 men are expected to be ordained for dioceses and religious orders this year, compared to 477 in 2014. This year’s number also represents an increase of 19.7 percent from the 497 men ordained in 2013.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data collected for the survey gave reason for hope but also provided areas for further growth.
“It is encouraging to see the … increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) collects the data and publishes the results of the survey annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents included 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
The full report can be found online at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/index.cfm.
According to the survey, this year’s class of men ordained to the priesthood report that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent).
On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.
Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary,” he said. “Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”
Among the survey’s major findings were:
• The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
• Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
• One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last 10 years were born outside of the United States.
• Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
• More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
• Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of 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 (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
• Six in 10 ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
• Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
• About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
• Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.
Diocese prepares for ordinations Among the 595 men expected to be ordained to the priesthood this year in the United States are five seminarians from the Diocese of Nashville. They will be ordained at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 12, the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
The men to be ordained include: Deacons Eric Johansen and Ben Butler, both seminarians at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans; Deacons Andy Bulso and Austin Gilstrap, both seminarians living at the North American College in Rome; and Deacon Emmanuel Dirichukwu, a seminarian studying at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.
Another seminarian, Daniel Steiner, will be ordained a transitional deacon at 10 a.m. Friday, May 15, at the Cathedral. He is studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Since being ordained and installed as the Bishop of Nashville in February 2006, Bishop David Choby has ordained 21 men as priests, with at least one ordination every year.
The largest ordination in the siocese’s history was last year when nine men were ordained priests on Saturday, July 26. A 10th priest was ordained in September, when William Carmona was ordained on his deathbed in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He was originally expected to be ordained this year, but with his death imminent, Bishop Choby decided to ordain him early.
In 2016, two more men are expected to be ordained priests, with five more in 2017 and three in 2018.