Numbers talk: great potential for religious vocations

| September 11, 2014

NienstedtBlThis Archdiocese has been very blessed with the number of priestly vocations we have had of late. Last year, I was privileged to ordain 10 new priests; this year, six new priests and, God willing, seven new priests for next year. I do not know how many dioceses or archdioceses can make such a boast! We also begin this academic year with 62 seminarians studying for the Archdiocese, 12 of whom are entering first-year college! God has truly been good to us!

A recent national survey by the U.S. Center for Applied Research (CARA) revealed that there really should be no shortage of Catholics who are seriously considering a religious vocation.

In a national Catholic poll of never-married Catholics, ages 14 and older, CARA asked if each respondent had ever considered becoming a Catholic priest, brother or sister. Among never-married male Catholics, 13 percent reported that they had considered becoming a priest or brother. The response among women was similar at 10 percent. Of these, 4 percent of both men and women had “somewhat considered” becoming a priest, brother or sister, and another 3 percent of men and 2 percent of women said they had “seriously considered” such a life. While this percentage may at first appear small, the actual number of individuals represented is quite large, especially in comparison to the current number of priests, brothers and sisters.

For example, there are about 43,000 priests and brothers in the U.S. today, but there are 350,000 never-married Catholic men who have given serious consideration to becoming a priest or brother. Of that number, only 1,000 men enter the seminary or religious life each year, which is only a fraction of the total number of Catholic men seriously considering priesthood or religious life.

Of the 250,000 never-married Catholic women who have given serious consideration to becoming a sister, about 200 enter a religious institute each year, which again is only a fraction of 1 percent of those who say they are seriously interested.

This research tells us that there is great potential here for a dramatic increase in the number of candidates entering seminaries and novitiates. Perhaps all they need is to be asked or have the suggestion made in order for them to act on their impulse.

In a 2012 survey of seminarians and recently ordained priests, CARA learned that college friends and professors who were priests, sisters or brothers had the greatest influence on an individual’s positive discernment. Campus ministries at both Catholic and non-Catholic colleges also were a significant influence.

In addition, a CARA survey in 2013 indicated that Catholic men and women who volunteer after college with a service group, such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Maryknoll Lay Missionaries or Lasallian Volunteers, are more likely to experience an encouraging environment for considering a religious vocation. When asked if they had considered such a calling, 37 percent of volunteer alumni from these service groups replied in the affirmative. Thus, the research suggests that volunteering for a year of service in a faith-based volunteer service may often be the next step in a young adult’s discernment process.

I find this data to be both exciting and challenging. The excitement stems from the fact that there is so much potential here for future religious vocations. We know that God does not fail to provide the vocations needed for the Church. At the same time, the challenge lies in our being evermore intentional in encouraging young adults to consider a religious vocation.

This is the responsibility of everyone in the Church community: bishop and pastor, consecrated religious and parents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. We need to look for the signs and then act when those signs appear. Indeed, we must never fail in our prayer, as well, to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard.

God bless you!


Los números hablan: un gran potencial para las vocaciones religiosas

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Category: Only Jesus

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