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Typical new US religious: 36-year-old cradle Catholic devoted to Rosary, Eucharistic adoration

January 19, 2024

The typical religious who professed perpetual vows in 2023 is a 36-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 made public by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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

508 of the 737 major superiors of US religious institutes responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. These 508 superiors provided contact information for 76 men and 68 women who professed perpetual vows in 2023. Of the 144, 48 newly-professed brothers and priests and 53 newly-professed sisters responded to the survey.

87% of the institutes reported no professions of perpetual vows, while 4% reported two or more newly-professed religious.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 23% of newly-professed men and women religious came from families with five or more siblings; 9% have four siblings, 21% have three siblings, 21% have two siblings, 23% have one sibling, and 3% have no siblings
  • 26% are the eldest child in their family, while 29% are the youngest child
  • 10% of the newly professed religious are converts, typically at age 24
  • 86% of the newly professed religious reported that both parents were Catholic during their childhood
  • 88% were raised by a married couple who lived together (7% by grandparents); 5% were raised by a separated or divorced parent, and 3% by a single parent
  • 34% say they have a relative who is a priest or religious
  • 67% are white, while 12% are Asian-American, 9% are Hispanic, and 7% are black
  • 76% were born in the US; the median year of entry into the US of newly professed foreign-born religious was 2014
  • 51% attended a Catholic elementary school (over triple the rate of the Catholic adult population in the US)
  • 46% attended a Catholic high school, and 43% attended a Catholic college
  • 14% were home schooled, for an average of nine years—at a time when only 2% of American children were home schooled
  • 56% participated in parish religious education programs as a child
  • 20% of newly professed religious had earned a graduate degree before they entered religious life, while an additional 62% had earned an undergraduate degree
  • 55% had been employed full-time, and 27% part-time, before entering religious life
  • 9% of newly professed religious report that their entry into religious life was delayed by college debt
  • 15% participated in one of the World Youth Days, 8% took part in a National Catholic Youth Conference, 12% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville high school conference, and 13% were involved in FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students)
  • 45% took part in a youth ministry program, while 35% took part in a young adult ministry program; 37% served as faith formation teachers, 55% as readers, and 34% in parish music programs
  • 83% of the newly-professed male religious, and 26% of the newly-professed women religious, had been altar servers
  • 72% of the newly professed had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 72% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 82% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration; 69% said they had received spiritual direction, and 48% took part in a faith-sharing or Bible study group
  • the typical newly professed religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 18 and was familiar with his or her institute for three years before entering religious life
  • 13% reported that a priest, deacon, or religious discouraged them from entering religious life; 17% reported they were discouraged from entering religious life by their mother, 19% were discouraged from doing so by their father, and 27% were discouraged from doing so by another relative
  • 44% say they were encouraged by a religious to consider religious life, 41% by a friend, and 45% by a parish priest; 26% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and 23% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation; 8% say a bishop encouraged them

 


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