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Typical new US religious: 38-year-old cradle Catholic who regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration

January 27, 2021

The typical religious who professed perpetual vows in 2020 is a 38-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.

549 (73%) 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 549 superiors reported that 172 men and women professed perpetual vows in 2020. Of the 172, 57 newly-professed brothers and priests and 55 newly-professed sisters responded to the survey.

85% of the institutes reported no professions, while 6% report two or more newly-professed religious.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 24% of newly-professed men and women religious came from families with five or more siblings; 15% have four siblings, 12% have three siblings, 23% have two siblings, 25% have one sibling, and 1% have no siblings
  • 16% of the newly professed religious are converts, typically at age 20
  • 75% of the newly professed religious reported that both parents are Catholic, and 28% say they had a relative who was a priest or religious
  • 71% are white, while 13% identify themselves as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, 7% as African/African American/black, and 5% as Hispanic/Latino/Latina
  • 76% were born in the US, while 4% are from Vietnam and 20% from other nations; the typical newly professed foreign-born religious entered the US in 2007
  • 45% attended a Catholic elementary or middle school, while 38% attended a Catholic high school and 38% 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 2% of Americans were home schooled,10% of responding religious report being home schooled “at some time in their educational background,” for an average of nine years
  • 25% of newly professed religious held graduate degrees when they entered religious life, while 75% held bachelor’s degrees
  • 11% of newly professed religious report that their entry into religious life was delayed by college debt
  • 14% participated in one of the World Youth Days, 10% 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
  • 39% took part in a youth ministry program, while 35% took part in a young adult ministry program; 51% served as readers, 45% as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and 45% in youth or campus ministry. 64% of the newly-professed male religious, and 24% of the newly-professed women religious, had been altar servers
  • 80% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration before entering religious life, while 74% attended retreats and 69% regularly prayed the Rosary; 61% said they had received spiritual direction
  • the typical newly professed religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 19 and knew members of their institute for four years before entering religious life
  • 12% reported that a priest (or other clergy) discouraged them from entering religious life; 36% report they were discouraged from entering religious life by their mother, 53% were discouraged from doing so by their father, and 29% were discouraged from doing so by another relative
  • 40% say they were encouraged by a religious sister or brother to consider religious life, 41% by a friend, and 45% by a parish priest; 30% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and 18% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation


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  • Posted by: VICTORIA01 - Jan. 30, 2021 8:03 PM ET USA

    A am writing from outside the United States. A family member applied to join the seminary in our state but was not accepted because he was 33 years old.