Tag Archives: priesthood

2011 Ordinations by the Numbers

This week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made public its annual survey of newly ordained priests, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Georgetown University-based research center. The Class of 2011: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood surveys the men being ordained priests for U.S. dioceses and religious communities this year.

“One important trend evident in this study is the importance of lifelong formation and engagement in the Catholic faith,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.  “The role of the family, parish priest, friends, and youth ministry are evident in the results.”

Most of the findings weren’t all that surprising or noteworthy to me. However, there are three things that caught my attention:

(1) The new priests are a little younger. The average age of this year’s ordinands is 34. Not only that, but two-thirds of all the ordinands are 34 or younger. The religious order priests raise the average a little bit, as they also typically go through their postulancy and novitiate before beginning their seminary studies.

(2) Vocations come from larger families. Families with at least three kids are now considered “large families.” Seventy-seven percent of the new priests come from families with three or more children. In fact, 37% come from families with five or more children. It’s by no means a “cause and effect” thing, but the numbers here do not lie: Large, intact, faithful Catholic families provide the best possible soil for priestly and religious vocations.

(3) Websites help. Twenty three percent of all respondents to the survey said that their discernment was influenced by websites. Even more, 37% of religious order priests were so influenced. I realize this is a little self-serving, but the survey nonetheless suggests that vocation websites and blogs can be most helpful tools in fostering vocations.

For the complete report, click here.

Spiritual Fatherhood

Today, as we celebrate Christ’s institution of the New Covenant priesthood at the Last Supper, I thought I would share with our readers this brief video on the spiritual fatherhood of priests by Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. C. Eugene Morris.

This is just one of a host of engaging, vocation-related videos at the For Your Vocation website, an initiative of the United States Conference of the Catholic Bishops.

For further reading on the subject of priests as “fathers,” check out Scott Hahn’s article “The Paternal Order of Priests.”

Priestly Vocations on the Rise

Last week the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, released some statistical data on the Catholic priesthood as of the end of 2009. The complete report is expected any day.

The principal finding is that there were 410,593 priests worldwide in 2009, up over 5,000 from the previous decade, an overall increase of 1.4%.

The news isn’t bright on all fronts, however. For one thing, while the overall number is up, there are now 5,000 fewer religious order priests than a decade ago, representing a decrease of 3.5%. Fortunately, the number of diocesan priests grew by 10,000, representing an increase of 4%.

Also, here in the United States, there was a 7% decrease in diocesan priests and a 21% decrease in religious order priests over the past ten years The numbers were similar for Europe. As has been the case for some time, the growth has primarily taken place in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

For more information, click here.

Signs of a Priestly Vocation

In To Save a Thousand Souls: Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood (Vianney Vocations, 2010), Fr. Brett Bannon devotes an entire chapter to the characteristics of a good candidate for priesthood. He identifies 20 “signs” of a possible vocation to diocesan priesthood, since that is the focus of the book. However, I think these particular signs could also point to a vocation to the priesthood as a member of a religious community.

Fr. Brannen, an experienced vocation director and vice-rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, gives two important caveats before diving into his list of signs.

First, the Lord can call anyone to serve as a priest. A potential candidate may not initially have all the qualities listed here, and that’s okay.

Second, the discernment of a priestly vocation should be a deliberate process involving one’s spiritual director, vocation director, and other sound spiritual guides. 

According to Fr. Brannen, a good candidate for priesthood should . . .

(1) Know and love Jesus Christ and experience a thirst to bring Jesus and His teachings to the world.

(2) Be a believing, practicing Catholic.

(3) Be striving to live a life of prayer.

(4) Live and desire a life of service to others.

(5) Have a desire to be a priest.

(6) In many cases, have his call validated by other people.

(7) Find his calling validated in Sacred Scripture.

(8) Be striving to live a virtuous life.

(9) Have good people skills.

(10) Have above-average intelligence (but those who struggle academically should not lose heart!).

(11) Be physically, emotionally, and psychologically stable.

(12) Be joyful and have a good sense of humor.

(13) Have a “priest’s heart.”

(14) Have self-possession and self-mastery.

(15) Show stability in lifestyle.

(16) Be a Christian gentleman.

(17) Have life experiences that point toward priesthood.

(18) Be able to accept both success and failure peacefully.

(19) Have a healthy psycho-sexual development and orientation. 

(20) Be truly open to the will of God for his life.

For an explanation of each of these possible signs, see pages 77-108 of Fr. Brannen’s excellent vocation resource.