Survey: New priests are young and involved in their community


The incoming class of seminarians who will be ordained in 2024 is young and involved in their community, an annual survey released April 15 found.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned the Center for Applied Research (CARA) at Georgetown University for an annual survey.

From January to March of this year, CARA surveyed almost 400 seminarians who are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in 2024.

Survey findings

More than 80 percent of respondents were to be ordained diocesan priests, while almost 20 percent were from a religious order. The largest group of respondents, 80 percent, were studying at seminaries in the Midwest.

The survey found that half of the graduating 2024 seminarians, “ordinands,” will be ordained at 31 years or younger — younger than the recent average. Since 1999, ordinands were on average in their mid-30s, trending slightly younger.

This year’s ordinands were involved in their local communities growing up.

As many as 51 percent had attended parish youth groups, while 33 percent were involved in Catholic campus ministry.

A significant number (28 percent) of the ordinands were Boy Scouts, while 24  percent reported that they had participated in the Knights of Columbus or Knights of Peter Claver.

Involvement in parish ministry was also a key commonality for this year’s ordinands.

Surveyors found that 70 percent of ordinands were altar servers before attending seminary.

Another 48 percent often read at Mass, while 41 percent distributed Communion as extraordinary ministers.

In addition, just over 30 percent taught as catechists.

The path to priesthood

Most seminarians first considered the priesthood when they were as young as 16 years old, according to the survey. But the process of affirming that vocation and studying to be a priest takes, on average, 18 years.

Encouragement helps make a priest, according to the CARA survey.

Almost 90 percent of ordinands said that someone (most often a parish priest, friend, or parishioner) encouraged them to consider becoming priests.

Discerning the priesthood is not always an easy path, and 45 percent of ordinands said they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by someone in their life.

That person was most often a friend, classmate at school, mother, father, or other family member.

The survey also found that most ordinands had Catholic parents and were baptized Catholic as infants.

Eighty-two percent of ordinands reported that both their parents were Catholic when they were children, while 92 percent of ordinands were baptized Catholic as an infant.

Of those who became Catholic later in life, most converted at age 23. Read more

  • Kate Quiñones is a staff writer for Catholic News Agency and a fellow of the College Fix.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , ,