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Typical new US religious: 37-year-old cradle Catholic who regularly takes part in Eucharistic adoration

January 24, 2014

The typical religious who professed perpetual vows in 2013 is a 37-year-old cradle Catholic who has three or more siblings and 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.

460 (56%) 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 460 superiors reported that 107 men and women professed perpetual vows in 2013. Of the 107, 11 newly-professed brothers and 69 newly-professed sisters responded to the survey.

87% of the institutes reported no professions of perpetual vows, while 3% report two or more newly-professed religious.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 28% of newly-professed men and women religious came from families with five or more siblings; 19% have four siblings, 14% have three siblings, 24% have two siblings, 11% have one sibling, and 4% have no siblings
  • 42% are the eldest child in their family, while 17% are the youngest child
  • 18% of the newly professed religious are converts, typically at age 22
  • 77% of the newly professed religious reported that both parents are Catholic, and 46% say they have a relative who is a priest or religious
  • 74% are white, while 14% are Asian and 12% are Hispanic; 0% are African-American or Native American
  • 76% were born in the US, and Vietnam was the second-leading nation of origin; the typical newly professed foreign-born religious entered the US in 1997
  • 43% attended a Catholic elementary school, while 31% attended a Catholic high school and 30% attended a Catholic college; 51% participated in parish religious education programs as a child
  • though the newly professed were educated at a time when fewer than 1% of American children were home schooled, the survey found that “5% of responding religious report being home schooled at some time in their educational background,” for an average of ten years
  • 24% of newly professed religious held graduate degrees when they entered religious life, while 41% held bachelor’s degrees; 64% were employed full-time, and 25% part-time, before entering religious life
  • 10% of newly professed religious report that their entry into religious life was delayed by college debt
  • 24% participated in one of the World Youth Days, 9% took part in a National Catholic Youth Conference, and 6% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference as a high school student
  • 46% took part in a youth ministry program, while 25% took part in a young adult ministry program; 54% served as parish religious education teachers, 45% as readers, and 49% in parish music programs; 55% of the newly-professed male religious, and 16% of the newly-professed women religious, had been altar servers
  • 68% of the newly professed had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 59% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 70% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration; 54% said they had received spiritual direction
  • the typical newly professed religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 17 and was familiar with his or her institute for two years before entering religious life
  • 12% reported that a priest or religious discouraged them from entering religious life; 26% report they were discouraged from entering religious life by their mother, 21% were discouraged from doing so by their father, and 36% were discouraged from doing so by another relative
  • 46% say they were encouraged by a religious to consider religious life, 39% by a friend, and 39% by a parish priest; 29% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and 23% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation


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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jan. 24, 2014 9:53 PM ET USA

    Are female altar servers negatively affecting priestly vocations? A previous survey of newly ordained priests showed a fair percentage (I don't remember the number.) were altar servers. When you add those results to the present results it shows that serving at the altar has a much greater effect on male than female vocations. Priests need to more aggressively recruit altar boys.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jan. 24, 2014 1:11 PM ET USA

    With 43% attending Catholic elementary school, most boys were altar servers, well over half attended a retreat, prayed the Rosary, adoration and received spiritual direction highlights the importance of Catholic education at an early age. I taught my students to altar serve, we attended two retreats each year, prayed the rosary and went to parish adoration. I also had some students ask about becoming priests/nuns. This was until a principal stopped all of these things - too religious was why.