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Typical new US priest: 32-year-old who prays Rosary, takes part in Eucharistic adoration

May 21, 2014

The typical member of the priestly ordination class of 2014 is a 32-year-old cradle Catholic who has three or more siblings, according to a survey of 365 of the 477 men slated to be ordained to the priesthood in the United States this year. The survey was conducted for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

The typical ordinand also regularly prayed the Rosary and took part in Eucharistic adoration before entering seminary, according to the survey.

31% of the ordinands are foreign born, with the most typical foreign countries of birth being Mexico (6%), Vietnam (4%), Colombia (2%), Poland (2%), and the Philippines (2%). On average, these foreign-born seminarians have lived in the United States for 13 years and arrived in the US at age 23.

A disproportionately high percentage of ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school (50%), Catholic high school (41%), or Catholic college (45%).

In addition, a disproportionately high percentage were home schooled: 5% were home schooled, typically for seven years, at a time when less than 2% of US children were educated at home. If one assumes that all of the homeschooled seminarians came from the United States, then 7% of US-born ordinands were home schooled.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • the median age of ordinands is 32; the mean age, 34
  • the typical diocesan ordinand lived in his diocese for 15 years before entering seminary, though 11% had lived in their diocese for less than a year before entering seminary
  • 67% of ordinands are white, 15% are Latino, 11% are Asian, and 3% are black
  • 9% are converts, with the average age of reception into the Church being 19
  • 36% have a relative who was a priest or religious
  • in 81% of cases, both parents were Catholic
  • 4% have served in the US Armed Forces; 15% had a parent who spent his career in the military
  • 68% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 70% regularly participated in Eucharistic adoration, before entering the seminary
  • ordinands typically first began to consider the priesthood at 17
  • 71% were encouraged by their parish priest to consider a vocation; 45% were encouraged by a friend, 43% by a parishioner, 38% by their mother, and 28% by their father
  • 5% were discouraged by a priest from considering a vocation; 12% were discouraged by their fathers, 11% by their mothers, and 22% by other family members
  • 20% have five or more siblings, 11% have four siblings, 21% have three siblings, 25% have two siblings, 20% have one sibling, and 3% have no siblings
  • 37% are the oldest children in their families; 31% are the youngest
  • 54% had earned their undergraduate degree before entering seminary, and 16% had earned a graduate degree
  • 60% worked full time before entering seminary
  • 49% took part in a parish youth group, 30% took part in Boy Scouts, and 26% took part in the Knights of Columbus
  • 26% took part in a World Youth Day, and 14% took part in a Franciscan University of Steubenville summer conference
  • 80% had served as altar servers, 52% as readers, and 42% as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion before entering seminary


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  • Posted by: Defender - May. 21, 2014 5:54 PM ET USA

    When I taught 5th grade and middle school, I included altar serving, basic tenets of our Faith, a Catholic novel to read, a visit to an abbey, Latin, etc, as part of the Religion program. I've had a handful of students tell me they were thinking about the priesthood, so I think there is a definite correlation. As for the short time I taught in a Jesuit HS, I can second normnuke's observation.

  • Posted by: normnuke - May. 21, 2014 3:46 PM ET USA

    The most significant item in that welter of stats is the last: 80% were altar servers. I was in a Jesuit parish for more than 20 years and never once saw an altar boy. When the Jesuits left , one lamented to me that in the 40 years the Jesuits served the parish there was not a single vocation.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 21, 2014 7:41 AM ET USA

    At last, some good news! The only negative I could find here -- I'm a pessimist by nature -- is that the total number of these ordinands was 477 and not 4770.