"Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what “definite service” he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: ... he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation". Pope Benedict XVI, Hyde Park, September 2010
The Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has published its annual report on sisters and Brothers professing perpetual vows in the United States. The whole report can be accessed here.
Here are some of the major findings:
The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2012 is 39. The average age among women professing perpetual vows in 2012 is 40, while that for men is 39. Over two-thirds (69 percent) of responding religious identify as white, nearly one in six (15 percent) identifies as Asian, and almost one in ten (8 percent) identifies as Hispanic.Most responding religious (71 percent) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is Vietnam (8 percent). On average, the respondents who were born outside the United States were 28 years old when they first came to the United States and lived here for 12 years before perpetual profession.
More than eight in ten (85 percent) responding religious have been Catholic since birth. Almost eight in ten (78 percent) come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Among the 15 percent of respondents who became Catholic later in life, the average age at which they converted was 24. Almost all (96 percent) responding religious have at least one sibling and the most common number of siblings is two. Almost half (45 percent) of these responding religious have four or more siblings. The same proportions (29 percent) are either the oldest or the youngest sibling, with similar proportions for men and women.
Education, Work, and Ministry Experience
About four in ten responding religious (43 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is almost the same as that for all Catholic adults in the United States (42 percent). These respondents are more likely than other U.S. Catholics, however, to have attended a Catholic high school (36 percent of responding religious, compared to 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (33 percent of responding religious, compared to just 7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics).
The responding religious are highly educated. Twenty-two percent of responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute (including 37 percent of brothers, compared to 19 percent of sisters/nuns). Six in ten (60 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree or more (58 percent for women and 70 percent for men).
Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among those who did report educational debt, however, they averaged two years of delay while they paid down an average of $19,500 in educational debt. Several of the women, but none of the men, reported receiving assistance in paying down their debt.
Many responding religious were active in parish life before entering their religious institute. Almost half (45 percent) participated in youth ministry or youth group. One quarter (25 percent) participated in young adult ministry or group, Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center, and/or World Youth Day.
Almost nine in ten (88 percent) had ministry experience before entering their religious institute, most commonly in faith formation (46 percent). Women were more likely to participate in faith formation or liturgical ministries (except altar servers), while men more commonly reported hospital or prison ministries, altar server, or teaching in a Catholic school.
Nearly all (95 percent) responding religious regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. Three quarters (73 percent) joined in retreats (more common among women than men) and seven in ten (69 percent) participated in Eucharistic Adoration before entering. Three in ten (31 percent) participated in Lectio Divina prior to entering their religious institute.
Consideration of Religious Life and Choice of Community
On average, responding religious report that they were 20 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.
Eight in ten (82 percent) responding religious say they were encouraged to consider religious life by someone in their life. Just under half (47 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest. Sisters and nuns were less likely than brothers to say they were encouraged to consider religious life by a parish priest (44 percent among women compared to 58 percent among men). Brothers are also more likely to say they were encouraged by a parishioner, a friend, or a family member.
Almost three quarters (74 percent) of responding religious report that they were discouraged from considering a vocation by one or more persons. These respondents are most likely to report that they were discouraged by a family member other than a parent (29 percent) or by friends or classmates (25 percent). Women were more likely than men to say they were discouraged by a relative other than a parent (32 percent compared to 17 percent).
On average, these religious report that they knew the members of their religious institute for four years before they entered, but half knew them for two years or less. One in five (20 percent) were introduced to their institute through a sponsored institution or work of the institute. Women are less likely than men to say they were introduced to their institute through a sponsored institution or work of the institute (15 percent compared to 42 percent).
A great majority of the religious of the Profession Class of 2012 (88 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute. Most commonly, this was a “Come and See” experience (60 percent) or a vocation retreat (49 percent). Men were slightly less likely than women to have participated in a “Come and See” experience (54 percent and 61 percent, respectively) while women were slightly less likely to have participated in a vocation retreat (48 percent for women compared to 54 percent for men).