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Typical new US religious: 39-year-old who prays Rosary, comes from large family

January 25, 2013

The typical religious who professed perpetual vows in 2012 is a 39-year-old cradle Catholic who regularly prayed the Rosary and took part in Eucharistic adoration before entering religious life, according to a survey released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

508 (62%) of the major superiors of US religious institutes responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). These 508 superiors reported that 156 men and women professed perpetual vows in 2012. Of the 156, 24 newly-professed brothers and 108 newly-professed sisters responded to the survey.

81% of the institutes reported no professions, while 5% report two or more newly-professed religious.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 31% of newly-professed men and women religious came from families with five or more siblings; 30% have three or four siblings, 20% have two siblings, 15% have one sibling, and 4% have no siblings
  • 15% of the newly professed religious are converts, typically at age 24
  • 78% of the newly professed religious reported that both parents are Catholic, and 43% say they had a relative who was a priest or religious
  • 69% are white, while 15% are Asian and 8% are Hispanic
  • 71% were born in the US, while 8% are from Vietnam, 4% from the Philippines, and 4% from Latin America; the typical newly professed foreign-born religious entered the US in 2001
  • 43% attended a Catholic elementary school, while 36% attended a Catholic high school and 33% attended a Catholic college; 49% participated in parish religious education programs as a child
  • though the newly professed were educated at a time when fewer than 1% of Americans were home schooled, the survey found that “7% of responding religious report being home schooled at some time in their educational background,” for an average of five years
  • 22% of newly professed religious held graduate degrees when they entered religious life, while 60% held bachelor’s degrees
  • 7% of newly professed religious report that their entry into religious life was delayed by college debt
  • 25% participated in one of the World Youth Days, 9% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference as a high school student, and 7% took part in the Fellowship of Catholic University Students while in college
  • 45% took part in a youth ministry program, while 25% took part in a young adult ministry program; 46% served as parish religious education teachers, 43% as readers, and 39% in parish music programs; 50% of the newly-professed male religious, and 15% of the newly-professed women religious, had been altar servers
  • 73% of the newly professed had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 64% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 69% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration; 62% said they had received spiritual direction
  • the typical newly professed religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 20 and was familiar with his or her institute for four years before entering religious life
  • 14% reported that a priest or religious discouraged them from entering religious life; 23% report they were discouraged from entering religious life by their mother, 22% were discouraged from doing so by their father, and 29% were discouraged from doing so by another relative
  • 42% say they were encouraged by a religious to consider religious life, 42% by a friend, and 47% by a parish priest; 26% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and 19% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation


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