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Catholic World News

Typical new US religious: 37-year-old cradle Catholic with 3 or more siblings

February 12, 2015

Vision Book Cover Prints

The typical religious who professed perpetual vows in 2014 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 recently released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A disproportionately high number attended Catholic schools or were home schooled.

454 (57%) 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 454 superiors reported that 190 men and women professed perpetual vows in 2014. Of the 190, 41 newly-professed brothers (many of whom may become priests) and 77 newly-professed sisters responded to the survey.

86% of the institutes reported no professions of perpetual vows, while 6% report two or more newly-professed religious.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 21% of newly-professed men and women religious came from families with five or more siblings; 15% have four siblings, 20% have three siblings, 24% have two siblings, 12% have one sibling, and 8% have no siblings
  • 32% are the eldest child in their family, while 25% are the youngest child
  • 14% of the newly professed religious are converts, typically at age 24
  • 83% of the newly professed religious reported that both parents are Catholic, and 31% say they have a relative who is a priest or religious
  • 67% are white, while 14% are Asian and 15% are Hispanic; 3% are African-American, and 1% are Native American
  • 76% were born in the US; the typical newly professed foreign-born religious entered the US in 2002
  • 42% attended a Catholic elementary school, while 31% attended a Catholic high school and 34% attended a Catholic college; 59% 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 “6% of responding religious report being home schooled at some time in their educational background,” for an average of eight years. 2% of male religious, and approximately 13% of women religious, were homeschooled.
  • 18% of newly professed religious held graduate degrees when they entered religious life, while 50% held bachelor’s degrees; 61% had been employed full-time, and 27% part-time, before entering religious life
  • 7% of newly professed religious report that their entry into religious life was delayed by college debt
  • 21% participated in one of the World Youth Days, 5% took part in a National Catholic Youth Conference, and 16% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference as a high school student
  • 42% took part in a youth ministry program, while 20% took part in a young adult ministry program; 47% served as parish religious education teachers, 50% as readers, and 42% in parish music programs; 73% of the newly-professed male religious, and 14% of the newly-professed women religious, had been altar servers
  • 62% of the newly professed had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 72% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 73% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration; 59% said they had received spiritual direction
  • the typical newly professed religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 19 and was familiar with his or her institute for two years before entering religious life
  • 14% reported that a priest or religious discouraged them from entering religious life; 25% reported they were discouraged from entering religious life by their mother, 15% were discouraged from doing so by their father, and 36% were discouraged from doing so by another relative
  • 47% say they were encouraged by a religious to consider religious life, 44% by a friend, and 49% by a parish priest; 25% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and 15% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation


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