This is the state of religious life in the United States: vocations, age, data, etc. - ZENIT - English

This is the state of religious life in the United States: vocations, age, data, etc. - ZENIT - English: The U.S. Episcopate releases the report of Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in its 2023 edition.



ZENIT News / Washington, 02.01.2023).-  Since 2010, the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to conduct a survey of women and men religious who profess perpetual vows each year in a religious congregation, province, or monastery based in the United States.

For this project, CARA was asked to gather information about the characteristics and experiences of these religious and report the findings to the Secretariat for use with the World Day of Consecrated Life in February. CARA then programmed the questionnaires into an online survey to give respondents the option of completing the survey either online or on paper. This report presents results of this survey of women and men religious of the Profession Class of 2022.

To obtain the names and contact information for these women and men, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) contacted all major superiors of men and women religious institutes in the United States that were identified by the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Each major superior was asked to provide contact information for every member of the institute who was scheduled to profess perpetual vows in 2022.

CARA then contacted these men and women religious by e-mail or mail to explain the project and ask them to complete a brief survey. After repeated follow-ups, CARA received a response from 484 of 737 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 66% among religious institutes. Three religious institutes were not interested in participating in the studies. In all, the major superiors provided contact information for 168 members (88 women and 80 men) who professed perpetual vows in religious life in 2022.

Of these 168 identified women and men religious, a total of 114 religious members, including 62 sisters and nuns and 52 brothers and priests, responded to the survey by January 14, 2022. This represents a response rate of 67% of the 168 potential members of the Profession Class of 2022 that were reported to CARA by major superiors of men and women religious The questionnaire asked these religious about their demographic and religious background, education and work experience, previous ministry or service and other formative experiences, encouragement and discouragement to consider religious life, initial acquaintance with their institutes, and vocation/discernment programs and experiences. This report presents analyses of each question from all responding religious.

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This report presents findings from a national survey of women and men religious who professed perpetual vows in 2022 in a religious institute, province, or monastery based in the United States. To obtain the names and contact information for these women and men, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) contacted all major superiors of men and women religious institutes in the United States that were identified by the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Each major superior was asked to provide contact information for every member of the institute who was scheduled to profess perpetual vows in 2022. CARA then contacted these men and women religious by e-mail or mail to explain the project and ask them to complete a brief survey. After repeated follow-ups, CARA received a response from 484 of 737 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 66% among religious institutes.

Three religious institutes were not interested in participating in the studies. In all, the major superiors provided contact information for 168 members (88 women and 80 men) who professed perpetual vows in religious life in 2022. Of these 168 identified women and men religious, a total of 114 religious members, including 62 sisters and nuns and 52 brothers and priests, responded to the survey by January 14, 2022. This represents a response rate of 67% of the 168 potential members of the Profession Class of 2022 that were reported to CARA by major superiors of men and women religious.

Major Findings Demographic Background

  • Eight in ten responding religious institutes (82%) had no one professing perpetual vows in religious life in 2022. One in ten institutes (10%) had one perpetual profession and about one in sixteen (8%) reported two or more. In total, the religious institutes report 168 newly perpetually professed members (88 women and 80 men) in 2022.
  • The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2022 is 33. Half of the responding religious are age 34 or younger. The youngest is 25 and the oldest is 75.
  • Four in five responding religious (78%) were born in the United States. On average, the respondents who were born outside the United States were 21 years old when they first came to the United States and lived here for 22 years before perpetual profession.
  • Two in three responding religious (66%) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian, European American, or white. One in six (16%) members of the Profession Class of 2022 identifies as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian. One in ten identifies as Hispanic/Latino(a). Four percent identifies as African/African American/black. And just three respondents identify as mixed race or other.
  • More than nine in ten responding religious (92%) have been Catholic since birth. Among those who became Catholic later in life, their average age at the time of their conversion was 11.

Family Background

  • Almost all respondents (95%) report that when they were children, they had at least one parent who was Catholic.More than four in five (84%) report that both parents were Catholic.
  • Almost all (95%) respondents were raised by their biological parents during the most formative part of their childhood. Besides, one in ten (12%) report being raised by their grandparents during the most formative part of their childhood.
  • During the most formative part of their childhood, nine in ten (91%) respondents were raised by a married couple, living together. One in twenty respondents were raised by one parent who was widowed. Three percent was raised by one parent who was either separated or divorced. Three percent was raised by an unmarried couple who lived together, or married couple living separately, or one parent either single or unmarried.
  • Almost all responding religious (97%) of the Profession Class of 2022 have at least one sibling. More than one in five (23%) have one brother or sister. Two in five (39%) report having two or three. A third (35%) have four or more siblings.
  • Two in five (40%) respondents are the eldest in their family. Two in five (37%) of respondents are somewhere in the middle of their family. Women are more likely than men religious to be someone in the middle of their family; meanwhile, men are more likely than women to be the eldest. One in five (18%) are the youngest. Just 4% is the only child in his or her family.
  • Three in ten (30%) report having a relative who is a priest or a religious.

Education, Work, and Ministry Experience

  • Just over one in ten (12%) responding religious report being home schooled at some time in their educational background. Among those who were home schooled, the average length of time they were home schooled was 11 years.
  • Nearly half of the responding religious (48%) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is higher than that for all Catholic adults in the United States (16%). These respondents are also more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (36% of responding religious, compared to 8% of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (36% of responding religious, compared to 5% of U.S. adult Catholics).
  • The Profession Class of 2022 is highly educated. Two in ten responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute. Three-fourths (75%) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Most responding religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among 6% of respondents who did report educational debt, however, they averaged about less than a year of delay while they paid down an average of $34,000 in educational debt. Friends, family members, and parish are the most common source of assistance for paying down educational debt.
  • More than four in five (84%) had work experience prior to entering their religious institute. More than a half (53%) were employed full-time and three in ten (31%) were employed part-time before entering their religious institute. Among those who report work experience, the main work fields are business, education, and healthcare.
  • More than eight in ten responding religious (84%) served in one or more specified ministries before entering their religious institute, either in a paid ministry position or as a volunteer. The most common ministry experience reported by respondents was service as an altar server (51%), followed by youth ministry/campus ministry (50%), faith formation, catechetical ministry, RCIA (48%), and lector (46%).
  • Nearly nine in ten (87%) participated in one or more religious programs or activities before entering their religious institute, with the most common ministry being the youth ministry or youth group (50%), with half participating in this ministry. Two-fifths of respondents (42%) participated in Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center. A third (35%) participated in young adult ministry or group before entering religious life.
  • Over nine in ten responding religious of the Profession Class of 2022 (94%) participated in one or more of these prayer practices or groups on a regular basis prior to entering their religious 4 institute. Nearly eight in ten (77%) participated in Eucharistic Adoration. Seven in ten respondents (70%) did rosary or had retreat (68%). Six in ten (58%) had spiritual direction before entering their religious institute.

Consideration of Religious Life and Choice of Religious Institute

  • On average, respondents report that they were 18 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, with half being 18 or younger when they first did so.
  • More than nine in ten (93%) responding religious report that someone encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life. Men are more likely than women to be encouraged by a parish priest, friend, mother, and parishioner; meanwhile, women are more likely than men to be encouraged by a religious sister or brother.
  • More than half (52%) report that they were discouraged from considering a vocation to religious life by one or more persons. Women are more likely than men to report being discouraged from discerning a religious vocation (64% compared with 37% of men religious).
  • On average, respondents report having known the members of their religious institute for three years before they entered. Three-tenths (28%) report being first acquainted with their institute through the recommendation of a priest or advisor. A quarter report being first acquainted with their institute in or through a sponsored institution or work of the institute (e.g., school, hospital) (26%) or through print or online promotional material published by the institute (24%).
  • Most (93%) had participated in at least one of these programs or experiences prior to entering their religious institute. Among the vocation programs and experiences about which they were asked, respondents are most likely to have participated in a “Come and See” experience. Threefourths (75%) report participating in this program before they entered their religious institute. Men are more likely than women to participate in this experience.

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